Few things are likely to be scarier than facing removal proceedings. After all, if lawyers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have a case against you, a judge may order your removal from the country. Even worse, you might face a multi-year ban from returning.
From cancellation of removal to adjustment of status or even asylum, you may have some options for gaining legal status and remaining in the U.S. On the other hand, you might not have any legitimate basis for arguing you should continue to be in the country.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, voluntary departure allows you to leave the U.S. on your own and at your own expense. That is, immigration officials do not take you into custody and transport you to your home country. If the judge allows you to depart voluntarily, you also do not have a removal order.
There are two types of voluntary departure: pre-conclusion and post-conclusion.
With pre-conclusion voluntary departure, you request voluntary departure early in the removal process. Post-conclusion voluntary departure comes at the end of the process, so it is typically much more difficult to request successfully.
Consequently, if you think pursuing voluntary departure might be in your future, you may want to think about doing so early.
The most significant benefit to accepting voluntary departure is keeping a deportation order off your immigration record. This can make things easier on you, should you ever decide to come back to the U.S. again.
Likewise, unlike a removal order, voluntary departure has no automatic bar to reentering the country. Ultimately, if you do not have a legitimate deportation defense, accepting voluntary departure can turn a bad situation into a better one.