In 1996, immigration reform laws brought about many sweeping new changes. Serious sanctions for overstaying one’s visa in the U.S., even if only for a little while, were included in these changes. It is important for immigrants and foreign nationals to know the repercussions of overstaying a visa so that they can avoid doing so.
What Does It Mean to ‘Overstay a Visa’?
To overstay simply means to remain in a country beyond the time that is allowed. Individuals in any category of visitor can overstay regardless of whether they have immigrant or non-immigrant status. The time spent inside the United States is now carefully monitored, and new technology along with machine readable passports have made keeping track of immigrants easier than ever.
Possible Penalties of Overstaying a Visa
The penalties for overstaying a visa are steep and can include:
- Being barred from returning for either three or ten years
- Denied an extension of stay
- Voiding current visa
- Inability to obtain new visa
- Denied change of status or inability to adjust status
Obtaining a New Visa
Those who have overstayed their visa may not apply for a new one by visiting a consulate. Instead, these immigrants must return to their home country in order to apply for one. Should it not be possible to obtain a visa there, applicants can go to a third country designated by the Secretary of State instead.
There is one exception to this restriction. Whenever “extraordinary circumstances” exist in that country, application for a new visa can be made at a consulate instead. A waiver must be obtained first before an appointment to fill out a new application will be granted by a consulate.
Waiver Against Three or Ten-Year Ban
A non-immigrant can apply for a general waiver to the three or ten-year ban for those who have been declared inadmissible to the United States. Waivers are available in many circumstances; however, applicants must usually meet certain criteria in order to be approved. Foreign nationals who are the child or spouse of a U.S. citizen are also eligible to apply for a waiver. These individuals need to show that their removal from the country will cause an extreme hardship to their family members.
Avoiding an Overstay
Certain measures are recommended in order to prevent an overstay including:
- Being certain of a visa’s expiration date
- Applying for extensions in a timely manner
- Carefully documenting all departures
For those who are accused of overstaying their visas, the procedures involved in rectifying this situation can be overwhelming.
Those who have questions about overstaying a visa can contact immigration attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.