How Long Does It Take to Deport an Illegal Alien?


The length of time it takes to deport an illegal alien depends on a number of factors and can vary significantly from case to case. Factors such as the individual’s location within the United States, length of time spent in the country, criminal background, and prior deportation cases can heavily influence the process. Cases that qualify for the expedited process can result in a removal order within 2 weeks, while normal cases that don’t qualify for the expedited process can take 2 – 3 years or more to reach a final decision through the courts.

Furthermore, a removal order doesn’t necessarily mean that the illegal alien will be deported right away. Once a removal order is issued, the deportation timeline hinges on the receiving country’s deportation laws. Countries like Mexico that have a strong relationship with the United States may allow immediate deportation, while others have a lengthy process that can take up to 90 days. There are even a handful of countries that do not accept deported immigrants, in which case the illegal alien may not be deported at all.

The Deportation Process

The deportation process typically begins when the illegal alien is arrested by local police for another crime. Whether the crime is a serious offense or a minor traffic citation, the police may share the arrest information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Police can hold an illegal alien for up to 48 hours before transferring them to ICE custody, but they are not required to do so.

If ICE decides to pursue the case and deport the illegal alien, the deportation process is as follows:

  1. Expedited removal assessment – ICE will determine whether the illegal alien qualifies for the expedited removal process based on their proximity to the nearest border and their time spent in the United States. If the individual qualifies for expedited removal, he or she will likely be deported within 2 weeks.
  2. Notice to appear – assuming the illegal alien did not qualify for expedited removal, the agency will serve a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings. The agency is required to serve notice in person or by certified mail and must provide at least 10 days’ notice to appear in court.
  3. Detainment – if ICE has not already detained the illegal alien, the agency will likely arrest and detain them at this point.
  4. Bond hearing – ICE will assess whether the illegal alien requires a bond or may be released based on their own recognizance. If a bond is required, there will be a bond hearing in immigration court to determine the appropriate amount. As long as they pay the bond, he or she may be released. If they cannot pay the bond, they will remain at the ICE detention facility.
  5. Master calendar hearing – this is a short hearing conducted by a federal immigration judge to determine how the case will proceed. The charges will be listed, and the illegal alien must admit or deny each charge. The judge will schedule the next hearing and decide what defense against deportation will be considered.
  6. Merits hearing – at the merits hearing, the individual can present their arguments for defense against deportation (known as “relief”). A merit hearing may take hours or days to complete depending on the case. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will decide if the individual can be granted relief.
  7. Order of removal – if the judge rules against the illegal alien and declines to grant relief, the court will issue a removal order.
  8. Appealing the court’s decision – after receiving a removal order, an illegal alien has 30 days to appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. The appeals process may take months or years depending on the complexity of the case.
  9. Deportation – assuming the appeal is denied, the illegal alien will be deported as soon as the receiving country approves the transfer and proper travel documents are acquired. 

Factors That Affect the Deportation Timeline

Throughout the deportation process, there are a number of factors that can expedite the case or slow it down. Following is a brief discussion of some of the most common factors that can influence how long it takes to deport someone: 

  • Length of time in the United States – in the past, only illegal aliens who had been in the country for less than 14 days were eligible for expedited removal. Currently, illegal aliens who have been in the country for up to two years may qualify for expedited removal.  
  • Distance from the border – to qualify for expedited removal, the illegal alien must be arrested or detained within 100 miles of the border.
  • Criminal background – ICE has established that its priority is to remove illegal aliens with a criminal background. Individuals who are of good moral character and have not committed a crime are unlikely to be detained or deported. 
  • Prior removal order – if immigration court issued a removal order in a previous case and the individual returned to the United States after being deported, he or she will likely be deported immediately.
  • Credible fear of persecution – individuals who have a credible fear of persecution or torture regarding the return to their country of origin may have a valid case for withholding of removal, asylum, or Convention Against Torture relief before a judge in immigration court.   
  • Voluntary departure – under certain conditions, a detained illegal alien may be permitted to depart the country voluntarily. Doing so may allow the individual to return to the United States at a later date under legal means. 
  • Family ties to US citizens and legal residents – illegal aliens who are married to a US citizen or have immediate family members who are US citizens or legal residents may qualify for a green card or cancellation of removal.

What To Do If You Are Reported as an Illegal Alien

If you have been reported as an illegal alien and you do not have a criminal background, chances are pretty good that ICE will not act on the tip. It’s certainly possible, but the reality is that deportation requires a significant amount of manpower and paperwork, and if you don’t pose a threat to society (i.e. you don’t have a criminal record) then you won’t be a high priority for ICE. 

That said, if you’re aware of an ICE report it’s a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible. It’s always better to be proactive, and you may be able to find a solution to legitimize your residency in the United States and take the fear of deportation off the table completely. 

Call our Immigration team at(480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.

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