What Could Happen if You Overstay Your Visa
The Department of Homeland Security warns visa recipients to carefully consider the dates of their authorized stay and be sure they are following correct procedures.
If you came to the US on a nonimmigrant visa and want to extend your stay, you must apply with US Citizenship & Immigration Services before the authorized stay expires.
Overstaying your visa by failing to extend your stay or failing to leave the US by the right date will cause you to be out of status. This may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future.
Consequences of Overstaying Your Visa
Prior to the passage of 1996 US immigration reforms, there were no major consequences for immigrants who overstayed their visas. Although they could be deported for being in the US illegally, they could qualify for other benefits, such as suspension of deportation and voluntary departure.
The 1996 reforms ushered in harsher consequences for people who overstay their visas. Today, those who overstay their visas may be barred from returning to the US for 3 to 10 years depending on the length of time overstayed. They could also be barred from obtaining a new visa or from adjusting status in the US.
ICE Crackdowns on Immigrants Who Overstay
In 2003, US Immigration & Customs Enforcement created a special unit to track down immigrants who overstayed their visas. Investigators examine records of potential violators by looking through government databases that track students, tourists and other people who enter the US legally.
However, nearly half of undocumented immigrants in the US came on legal visas and then overstayed, according to a 2006 NPR report. Most individuals who overstay are students who settle for lower wages.
ICE has said that it would revamp its efforts to identify immigrants who have overstayed their visas by running overstayed-visa files through multiple security, immigration and law enforcement databases.
Despite these efforts, ICE has admitted that it does not have the resources or personnel to find and arrest many people who overstay their visas. Because they cannot deport everyone, the agency focuses more on border enforcement.
Some politicians say that the US would benefit from allowing those with expired visas to move into qualified jobs. Others say legalizing the status of foreigners with expired visas would hurt American workers.
To deal with the problem, some states have passed legislation to beef up worksite enforcement by requiring employers to check potential employees in the federal E-Verify database for employment authorization.
No matter where you fall on the issue, making sure you watch the dates of your authorized stay and don’t overstay your visa is an important step for international visitors who wish to stay on the right side of US law.