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Penalties for Overstaying a Visa: What Every Visa Holder Should Know

Posted by Gutierrez Law Firm on May 15, 2013

The 1996 reform of U.S. immigration policy drastically increased the consequences for overstaying a non-immigrant visa. This is true for all visa categories, including F-1 student, B-2 visitor and H-4 spouse visas. The regulations that govern non-immigrant visits to the United States are extensive and complicated. A qualified immigration lawyer possesses the knowledge and experience necessary to help foreign nationals comply with U.S. immigration law.

Major Immigration Reform in 1996

The 1996 immigration reforms not only added serious penalties for overstaying a visa, they also reduced the benefits that are available to anyone who lacks legal status in the United States. Visitors who overstay the expiration date on a visa can no longer pay a civil penalty and adjust their legal status. Moreover, only those with legal status in the U.S. can apply for asylum status or suspension of deportation proceedings. Some of the harsh consequences that may result from overstaying a visa are as follows:

  • The existing visa is automatically voided
  • The individual is prohibited from entering the United States for three or 10 years
  • Restrictions are placed on change of status and extension of status requests
  • New visa applications must be filed in the visitor’s country of origin

It is possible to return to the United States after removal, but it isn’t easy. Foreign nationals who leave voluntarily after overstaying their visa for more than six months but less than one year can be barred from reentering the country for three years. Anyone who overstays their visa for a period of more than one year and leaves the country before removal proceedings are instituted can be prohibited from reentering the United States for 10 years. If a visitor with a current visa requests a change or adjustment in status prior to the prescribed departure date, the visa will remain in good standing until a final decision is rendered by immigration officials.

Obtaining a New Visa

Anyone that overstays a visa must return to their home country to apply for a new visa. This rule may be waived if there are extraordinary circumstances, and another nation agrees to participate in the application process.

The 1996 immigration reforms do not allow for a waiver of a three- or 10-year ban from the United States. However, it is possible for an immigrant to pursue a general waiver. The applicant must demonstrate that his or her absence is causing extreme hardship for a parent or spouse in the U.S.

If you need help applying for an adjustment of status or a visa extension, talk to an attorney at the Gutierrez Law Firm by calling 210.225.7114.

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