A Rundown of the U.S. Deportation Process: What You Need to Know
A Rundown of the U.S. Deportation Process: What You Need to Know

A Rundown of the U.S. Deportation Process: What You Need to Know

In 2020, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE deported 185,844 individuals out of the country. While that number may seem high, it’s actually 30% lower than the previous year, mainly due to COVID-19.

While the United States still appeals to many as the land of the free, statistics like that can be alarming. The immigration process can be long and arduous, and for many, the result isn’t guaranteed.

If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one facing deportation, having an understanding of what the deportation process looks like can you help better navigate it—if it comes to that.

So what can you expect to happen?

Keep reading to learn about what the U.S. deportation removal process looks like.

Be Clear on U.S. Immigration Laws

Immigration laws can be difficult for even the brightest of people to understand. This is because aside from being complex, they also often change under different presidential administrations.

For example, the Trump Administration had notoriously strict policies that aimed to deter immigrants from entering the country. These made it difficult for people to enter.

Take the time to try to understand all of the immigration laws and stipulations beforehand. You don’t want to realize later on that you’re violating some new ICE policy you weren’t aware of.

If you do find yourself caught in the crosshairs of deportation or some other undesirable situation, know that you have options. You can always find an attorney to help try to fight for your rights.


If you do face deportation, the process usually beings with an arrest. This can happen under several different organizations.

If you’re attempting to enter the country without the right paperwork or visa, U.S. Border Patrol agents can arrest you at your point of entry. Most of the time, this means at an airport or a border.

If you’re already in the country, ICE can request that local police arrest and hold you for crimes and violations. While serious crimes can be the reason given for the arrest, something as simple as a traffic citation can as well.

In other instances, ICE agents themselves are the ones who make arrests. This can occur at your home, work, or outside places like a school.

Expedited Removal

If law enforcement agents discover that you entered the country illegally or that your visa has expired, they might decide to pursue an expedited removal.

Unlike the standard deportation process, you can’t request to appeal an expedited removal. That being said, you can claim that agents shouldn’t have issued you one. The government will then reexamine your case.

In the past, expedited removals only happened within 100 miles of the border. They also only targeted immigrants that had been in the United States for less than two weeks.

However, the Trump Administration expanded this policy. It can now target individuals anywhere in the United States who have been in the country for less than two years.

A Rundown of the U.S. Deportation Process: What You Need to Know
A Rundown of the U.S. Deportation Process: What You Need to Know

The Traditional Process Begins

If ICE doesn’t decide to pursue an expedited removal, then the traditional process beings.

Let’s take a look at the different deportation process steps.

Notice to Appear

The process begins with the individual receiving a Notice to Appear from ICE. This lists out the reasons why the U.S. government believes that the individual is here illegally, as well as why they need to go.

This can either come in the mail or through delivery via an immigration officer. Regardless of how it gets to you, it will give you a minimum of a 10-day warning. After that, you can expect to go to court.


The first hearing that most immigrants will go through is a bond hearing. Here, a judge decides whether someone should qualify for bond or not.

To do that, they look at factors like your family ties, how long you’ve spent in the U.S., your criminal record, and whether or not you’d be able to pay the bond they decide on.

If you can afford to pay, agents will release you. If not, the case moves on to a Master Calendar Hearing and a Merits Hearing.

In these hearings, government attorneys list out the crimes that they accuse you of committing. You can either confirm or deny them, as well as express why you deserve to stay in the country.


If deportation appears on the horizon, you can appeal the removal order to a federal court or the Supreme Court. However, this is by no means a straightforward process.

Appeal requests can take months, and the decision at the end isn’t guaranteed. Many individuals also remain incarcerated for the duration of the process, regardless of whether they qualify for a bond.


If an individual entered the country from Mexico, the government flies them down to the border. They then either walk across or take a bus.

If someone came in from a Latin American country farther south, ICE Air Operations or IAO will transport them back to their home country. ICE policy mandates that these flights be direct.

Understand the Deportation Process

Deportation can be an uprooting and life-changing process. Immigration laws change frequently, so make sure that you always stay aware of them.

Use this guide as a resource to help you understand the different steps of the deportation process. If you or a loved one faces the threat of deportation, make sure that you find a reputable

Do you now have a better understanding of what the deportation process timeline looks like? If so, spend some time checking out the rest of our site for more legal explanations, guides, and tips.