US Immigration: How to Avoid Overstaying Your Visa and What to Do If You Have
The Trump administration has taken a widely publicized stance on illegal immigration. While more than 54 million non-residents enter the United States legally in 2016, nearly 630,000 did not return to their home country. Thus, overstaying a visa – not jumping the border wall – is now one of the biggest problems in illegal immigration.
Overstaying a visa can have harsh repercussions. Fans of the 2011 film “Like Crazy” will recall the British college student who fell in love with an American, only to be separated from him after overstaying her visa and being banned from the U.S. Before you or a loved one visits the U.S., you should understand the consequences of overstaying, how to avoid overstaying and what to do if you have overstayed your visa.
Consequences of overstaying
Anyone who was lawfully admitted to the United States for an authorized period but stays or remains in the United States beyond his or her lawful admission period is overstaying a visa. In the absence of an extension and proper paperwork, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has the authority to remove anyone who has overstayed the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). In addition, three penalties are typically meted out against those who overstay their visa.
First, the visitor’s visa is automatically revoked and voided starting the day after their visa expires. Second, the visitor is automatically restricted to applying for a new visa to the consulate in his or her home country. Third, just like in that romantic film, the person who overstays may be barred from returning to the U.S. for a number of years – either three or ten, depending on the length of their overstay.
Certainly, there is one great piece of advice to avoid those consequences: Don’t overstay. More profoundly, you should carefully document the expiration date displayed on your I-94. Also, make sure that your departure is clearly documented. Keeping documentation such as a clearly stamped passport, airline ticket, boarding pass or travel itinerary is helpful to prove that you left the country before your visa expired.
If you wish to stay beyond the expiration of your visa, you must file for an extension. DHS recommends applying at least 45 days before the authorized stay expires. You must meet the following conditions before you may file a request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the Form I-539:
-Anyone lawfully admitted into the United States with a non-immigrant visa
-A person whose non-immigrant visa status is still valid
-A visitor that has not committed any crimes that make him/her ineligible for a visa
-A visitor must not have violated the conditions of their admission
-A visitor’s passport is valid and will remain valid for the duration of his/her stay
What to do if you have overstayed
That said, there are a few exceptions that allow the overstay to be “forgiven.” These can involve a lot of legalities (and complications), and they depend on the length of the overstay and what immigration benefits the visitor is seeking. Due to the numerous, harsh consequences associated with overstaying a visa, you should consult an immigration attorney before making any other decisions. An attorney can advise on the best path of action to take, as well as the repercussions that may result from those actions.