What to do When You Overstay Your Visa

According to the Department of Homeland Security, nearly 629,000 individuals overstayed their visa in 2016; This is an increase from approximately 500,000 in 2015. These overstays include individuals in the US on tourist, business, or student visas. Most individuals who stay are from countries that are not part of the visa-waiver program. The penalties for overstaying a visa can be significant and it is important for individuals to address the issue of an overstay as soon as possible.

The Penalty for Unlawful Presence

Overstaying a visa can lead to a ban on reentering the US for a period of time. This period varies depending on the severity of the overstay. For individuals who overstay their visa by more than 180 days but less than 1 year, they can be barred from reentering for a period of 3 years. For those who stay longer than 1 year, the ban can last for 10 years. Those who attempt to illegally enter the US during these periods can receive a permanent ban.

Those Not Subject to Bans on Reentry

Individuals won’t be subject to bans on reentry if they meet certain criteria. For example, they were under the age of 18, had filed an asylum application, had a pending application for adjustment of status or an extension of status, etc. Bans on reentry are also not assessed to beneficiaries of family unity programs or those who are in the US with Temporary Protected Status. Others who are also exempt from reentry bans include victims of human trafficking and those who can demonstrate that domestic violence from a partner prevented them from leaving the US prior to the expiration date on their visa.

Securing Waivers

There are certain circumstances that allow for the issuance of waivers to deportation or bans. These include circumstances that would create extreme financial or medical hardship on dependents. This can be difficult to establish and the USCIS won’t issue waivers for common hardships such as the severing of community relationships, loss of employment, loss of career opportunities, or cultural adjustment.

A Chicago immigration lawyer can help individuals explain the reasons for the visa overstay and demonstrate the negative impacts that a deportation or visa ban would have on the individual and their family. Because the penalties can be severe, and because waivers can be difficult to secure, it is crucial not to delay in contacting an immigration attorney for assistance.