Living in the United States on a temporary visa has likely provided you with many positive opportunities. You may have come here to work or study with the understanding that your stay in the U.S. would eventually come to an end. However, when the deadline approached for your visa to expire, for whatever reason, you did not return to your native country. Now your status in the U.S. is "unlawfully present."
While overstaying your visa can present many complications for you, there may be valid reasons for missing the deadline of your departure from this country. If this is the case, seeking legal assistance may help you avoid further penalties. However, even if you do qualify for any of these exceptions, the longer you stay in the country without taking the appropriate steps, the more far-reaching the consequences.
The consequences for overstaying your visa
If you missed the deadline for departing, immigration officials automatically consider you unlawfully present and may take steps to remove you from the country at any time. While removal may be an expected consequence of overstaying, you also face the added penalty of being ineligible for returning to the U.S. based on the following:
- If you stay between 180 days and one year past your visa, U.S. immigration authorities will bar you from re-entry for three years.
- If you stay longer than a year, your ban will last for 10 years.
- If you stay after receiving a final order of removal, you risk imprisonment and civil penalties, including fines.
If you have family or other loved ones in the United States, ineligibility for re-entry may be devastating to you. However, the accrual of time past your overstay can be stopped, or tolled, if certain conditions exist, for example:
- You were younger than 18 when your visa expired.
- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is considering your application for asylum.
- Your unlawful presence is the result of being a victim of human trafficking.
- You are involved in a family unity program.
- Your overstay is the result of abuse from a family member.
- Your application for a status adjustment or extension is pending.
The seriousness of overstaying your visa is not something to leave to chance. Your circumstances may justify missing your deadline for departure, but to avoid the penalties and consequences, you would benefit from seeking legal assistance from a Mississippi attorney who has experience and knowledge in immigration law. The climate in the U.S. is not always favorable to immigrants, and having an advocate may be to your advantage.