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Overstaying Your Visa Can Mean Getting Yourself in Trouble

Hundreds of thousands of visitors to the U.S. stay in the country beyond the time allowed by their non-immigrant visas. This group of people are the country’s largest source of undocumented immigrants, accounting for more people than those who cross the border illegally. If you’re in Kentucky and you think you will be over-staying your visa or you already have done so, contact our office.

About 629,000 visitors to the U.S., or slightly more than 1% of all travelers, stayed in the country after their visas expired, according to a report released in May by the Department of Homeland Security, reports the New York Times. They could have entered the country as students, workers or tourists and chose to stay. The vast majority of the estimated fifty million people visiting from other countries complied with their visa restrictions and left the U.S. on time.

The report looked at overstays by those from nations where a visa is needed, along with about three dozen countries participating in a visa-waiver program which permits citizens to visit the U.S. for ninety days or less without a visa.

The statistics in the report don’t provide the whole story on the issue.

  • The data used covers those arriving in the U.S. on planes or ships, though more people enter the country by land.
  • The country lacks a comprehensive biometric exit system at the country’s ports of departure to gather information on nonimmigrant visitors leaving the U.S.
  • Instead, the federal government relies on data from commercial airlines and shipping manifests to confirm that someone left the country, which may not be accurate or complete.

The countries of origin with the greatest share of people staying illegally are in areas with some of the most severe problems, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa. European countries had some of the lowest rates of overstays.

The majority of immigrants staying in the U.S. without authorization enter the country legally, reports NBC News. The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) reports that about two-thirds of those joining the country’s undocumented population did so by entering with a valid visa and then overstaying their period of admission.

  • The overstays have been greater than the number of those entering illegally every year since 2007. There have been an estimated half-million more overstays than illegal entries since 2007.
  • CMS estimates that, in 2014, 42% of all undocumented persons in the country were “overstays”; and of those who joined the undocumented population in 2014, 66% were overstays.

The key issue for a visa holder is whether or not the person accrues “unlawful presence.” If so, he may be barred from re-entering the country for a period of three years to a lifelong ban. There are many circumstances where presence would be lawful, and an attorney may be able to help avoid harsh penalties that can come with overstaying a non-immigrant visa.

If you live in Kentucky and may overstay your visa or already have done so, and you have questions about your status and want advice as to what you should do next, contact our office so we can discuss the immigration process, the applicable law and how we can help.