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What You Need to Know About Expired Visas

Have you overstayed your visa? You may feel nervous about the potential consequences if your visa has expired and you are still in the United States. You may want to limit the impact of this situation. You may even be confused about what your rights are when this happens.

At our Texas firm, we provide immigration lawyers for expired visas and know a great deal about this situation. Here’s what you need to know about your expired visa, how it could impact you and why you should take action as soon as possible.

Visa Expiration Dates

It is important to understand the difference between a visa and an I-94 expiration date.  A visa, which is affixed in one’s passport, states the period of time during which one may attempt to enter the U.S.  It does not automatically confer any legal status.  You are not in legal status unless you are permitted to enter in the status named on your visa.

When you enter the United States from another country, you will be given a date by which you must leave in most situations.  The expiration date is contained on your I-94 record.  You may look up your I-94 records at any time.  In some situations, you may ask for an extension of your stay, prior to the I-94 expiration date, or a change or adjustment of status.

However, where you have sought an extension and do not receive an approval, you will be deemed to have “overstayed” if you have remained in the U.S., and you may be barred from reentering the country for some period of time.

What Is Tolling?

The length of time you are barred from reentry depends on how long you have been accruing unlawful presence in the U.S.  The accrual of unlawful presence days can be “tolled” or paused under special circumstances, such as:

  • Having an application for extension or change of visa pending
  • Being under the age of 18 during the overstay
  • Being part of a family unity program
  • Being a victim of domestic violence or trafficking and meeting certain other conditions

It is important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney who can determine how much time you may have accrued toward unlawful presence in order to discover what penalties you could face.

What Are the Penalties for Overstaying a Visa?

The U.S. government has put penalties in place to try to discourage overstaying. If you overstay your permitted time in the U.S. for more than 180 days and less than one year, and you then depart the U.S., you may not re-enter the U.S. for three years starting from the date you physically departed the U.S.   If you overstay by a year or more, and then depart the U.S., the penalty increases to 10 years.

In some cases, people facing the three or ten year bar on re-entry can apply for a waiver and re-enter the U.S. again without having to wait for the three or ten years outside of the U.S.  For example, if you are married to a U.S. citizen and face the ten year bar, because you departed the U.S. having overstayed your allotted time, and if you are seeking residency based on your marriage, you can seek an I-601 waiver.  If you demonstrate that your spouse is or will experience extreme hardship should your visa be denied, you will become eligible to receive a visa and immediately re-enter the U.S.

Get Advice From a Texas Immigration Attorney If You have Overstayed

The smartest course of action if you have stayed in the U.S. unlawfully is to speak with an immigration attorney. They can advise you on the best strategy to help you navigate this complicated legal area. You should have a lawyer who can assist with getting the details of your case hammered out, and if you are eligible, gain legal status again.

Morales & Sparks can assist you in this situation. We have staff members who speak Spanish and an attorney can speak with you about your case. We have experience guiding many people in Texas and beyond through what happens when you have accrued unlawful presence. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general information and is not to be constituted as legal advice. If you need help with a specific issue, please seek the advice of an attorney. Morales & Sparks does not condone the use of violence at protests.