Overstaying in the US is a common problem, and while some people do this on purpose, there are many instances where people accidentally overstay their visas or permitted periods of stay by accident. In this blog post, we will walk you through exactly how the visa system works and offer you advice on how you can successfully apply for your Green Card if you have overstayed your visa.
Overstaying is the term used when someone stays in the country beyond their permitted allowance. However, this isn’t necessarily linked to your visa. In fact, your visa only defines the period in which you are allowed to enter and reenter the country, not how long you are allowed to stay in the country. For this, you will need to check your I-94 record that should have an “admit until date”. In some cases, your “admit until date” may not correspond with your visa date, so you should always check this to make sure you’re not accidentally overstaying your admitted entry to the US.
Barred Entry to the US
Back in 1996, Congress passed a law that stated certain people could be barred from entering the US for a period of 3 or 10 years due to accumulated “unlawful presence”. This law applies if you have:
- Come to the US without inspection or lawful admission
- Stayed in the US once your lawful status of residency or immigration has been revoked or expired.
Whether you get a 3 or 10-year bar from entering the US depends on how long you spent unlawfully present in the US.
Forgiving People Who Overstay Their Visa
This system might all sound a bit harsh, but there are certainly times when overstays are forgiven. For example, if the offender can prove that there was a good reason for their overstay, such as a mistake in their documentation or a flight to leave the country gets canceled, the border force will likely overlook these small discrepancies.
Adjusting Stay after an Overstay
If you have overstayed in the US, there are some other options. You can, for example, return to your home country to apply for a Green Card through consular proceedings. In this instance, you may still find yourself in trouble and possibly barred from returning, which will, in most cases, require a lawyer to correct. However, if you have immediate family in the US, you may be eligible to adjust your status to permanent residence depending on your visa status. You will need to fill out the I-485 form to do this, as well as an Application to Adjust Status and some other forms that the USCIS can advise on.
Securing a Green Card in the US is difficult at the best of times, but overstaying your visa can make it even more difficult. However, if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you may still be able to secure your Green Card despite having overstayed. In these situations, you’ll certainly want to get yourself an immigration lawyer that can help with proceedings. If you’re in a situation where you’ve overstayed and want to secure a Green Card, give us a call here at Voloshen Law Firm. Our team of dedicated lawyers are experts at securing Green Cards against all the odds, and we’re confident we can help you remain in the country you love.