A statistic many people have heard is that there are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. A related fact you may not know is that about 40 percent of undocumented immigrants entered the country legally. These foreigners came to the U.S. on a valid visa — such as a tourist, student or work visa — but overstayed the visa’s term.
Overstaying a visa is a violation of the law, and it can have serious consequences. A 1996 law called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act imposes serious penalties on those who overstay their visas. Some of these penalties will take effect if you overstay your visa by even one day.
These are some examples of the potential consequences:
- You may be prohibited from entering the U.S. for as long as 10 years, depending on the length of your overstay.
- Your current visa may be voided.
- You may not be able to apply for a visa extension or change of status.
- You may be barred from applying for an adjustment of status from the U.S.
- You may have to return to your home country to obtain a new visa.
U.S. officials are now using new technology to track travel in and out of the country. This technology has made it easier to identify people who have overstayed their visas. In light of the harsh penalties and increased enforcement, overstaying your visa is a risk you should not take. If your U.S. visa is close to expiration, speak to an immigration lawyer about your status. You may be eligible for a work visa or an extension on your current visa. In immigration law, getting the right advice at the right time can make a world of difference.