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What happens if I overstay my visa?

If you entered the United States through one of the dozens of temporary visa programs, you likely had a particular reason for coming to this country. Such visas cover professions such as athletes, religious workers, students, skilled laborers and those with extraordinary talent in a variety of industries. Because of the limited number of visas offered each year, you can consider yourself fortunate to have obtained your permit to come to Kentucky and work.

The terms of your visa also included an expiration date, and immigration law demands that you leave the country on or before that date. Missing the deadline results in severe penalties. If you know you will not be leaving the United States before your visa expires, it is important that you take the appropriate steps to avoid these penalties.

Penalties and options

The longer you stay in the country past your visa expiration, the more serious your trouble may be. If your plans include the possibility of returning to the U.S. at any time in the future, overstaying your visa will complicate this. Staying here 180 days to one year past the expiration of your visa prohibits you from receiving future visas for three years. Staying longer than a year bars you from reentry for 10 years.

If immigration officials send you a final order to leave, and you remain, you face fines and imprisonment. The only way to avoid these serious penalties is if one of the following circumstances exists:

  • You were younger than 18 after your visa expired.
  • You are awaiting a decision from immigration authorities regarding a legitimate asylum application.
  • Your application for an extension or adjustment of status is pending.
  • You are in the country under a family unity program.
  • You can prove your overstay is the result of an abusive situation in your home.
  • You obtain lawful status in the United States.

If none of these situations applies to you, your best course of action is to seek an extension of your temporary visa before its expiration. Of course, you must be eligible for an extension, including having no felony convictions and having a lawful status in the country. Just as with your original visa application, a request for an extension requires the completion of the appropriate forms.

You may also decide to stay in the country by changing your status. Since this is a lengthy process, completing your application in a timely manner before your visa expires is crucial. You may find it helpful to have legal assistance for any matters concerning your status in this country.

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