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Help! The U.S. government is threatening to deport me.

You work hard. You made a life for yourself and maybe your family, as well, here in the United States. Then, when you least expect it, the government informs you that it wants to deport (or remove) you. Before you pack your bags, you should understand your rights and options. You could benefit from some form of relief during the removal proceedings.

What kinds of relief are available during the removal proceedings?

You must prove that you deserve one of the following types of relief:

  1. Cancellation of removal: The most common method of relief requires you to file a petition for cancellation of removal for submission to the immigration judge presiding over your case. Whether you currently reside in the country as a resident or non-resident, you might qualify for this type of relief. If the judge approves your petition, your status would change from "deportable" to "lawfully admitted for permanent residence."
  2. Adjustment of status: If eligible, you could apply for a change in your status. Upon approval, your status would change to permanent resident. First, you must qualify for an available visa. If you qualify, your spouse, employer or other family member files a petition on your behalf. Some circumstances might disqualify you for an adjustment in status.
  3. Asylum: In order to receive asylum, you must show that returning to your home country would endanger your life in some way. You should apply for asylum as soon as you possibly can after entering the country, but you must apply within one year.
  4. Voluntary departure: As a last resort, you could agree to removability and leave the country voluntarily, which would keep your record from indicating that you were deported (or removed). This might help you reenter the country later. However, you must leave within the time limit given to you. Otherwise, you could face additional consequences.

What do I do if the judge still orders me to be deported?

You could appeal the decision of the immigration judge to the Board of Immigration Appeals. This administrative body interprets the United States' immigration laws. Your appeal must reach the BIA no later than 30 days after the judge issued his or her decision regarding your removal. If the BIA fails to rule in your favor, you could file an appeal with the Federal Courts of Appeal within 30 days of the ruling of the BIA.

Even though no requirement of retaining legal counsel exists in removal proceedings, you would more than likely benefit from involving an attorney as soon as the government informs you that you might be deported. A Georgia immigration attorney understands these proceedings and the evidence required. He or she could explain the process to you, listen to your circumstances and devise the best strategy to keep you from having to leave the country.

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