Immigrant criteria for cancellation of removal

If you have received a notice for removal (also known as deportation) proceedings from the Department of Homeland Security, the immediate thought for many is that you will be sent back to the country of your origin. You may be a student who overstayed a visa, entered the country to work or as a tourist, but now you fear that you will be sent back to a country where you no longer live, perhaps being torn away from family in the process.

Cancellation of removal is a type of discretionary relief that is available to qualifying permanent residents and qualifying non-permanent residents – it is also one of the most common defenses against notice of removal. Legal residents with a green card and an undocumented immigrant alike may apply for a cancellation of removal if they fit criteria below. This is a brief list. For more details, go to the Department of Justice website.

Lawful residents

• Has been a lawful permanent resident for at least 7 years.

• Has continuously lived in the U.S. for 7 years after being lawfully admitted.

• Has not been convicted of an aggravated felony, including trafficking drugs or firearms, murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor.

Non-permanent residents

• Has maintained ongoing residence in the U.S. for 10 years.

• Is a person of good moral character during their time here. They have not engaged in any of the illegal activities listed above or been in involved in other activities, including being a habitual drunkard.

• Can prove that removal would demonstrate exceptional or extreme hardship on immediate family (spouse, parent, or child) who are legal residents or U.S. citizens.

What you can do
Each person’s case is unique, but the above criteria offer some general guidelines of where to begin. If you receive a Notice to Appear (Form I-862), the best move is to speak with a lawyer with experience in immigration law because the paperwork and procedures are quite difficult to understand. Deadlines for this are unforgiving, so it’s best to act quickly. An attorney can help ensure the best possible result, which ideally is a cancellation of removal.