Can a US Visa Overstay Be Forgiven?

January 20, 2020

Action Immigration

If you're currently asking the question "I overstayed my visa in USA, can I return?", you're not alone. According to the most recent estimates, a staggering 667,000 people overstayed their US visa last year.

This means that we get a lot of questions from people wondering if they have ruined their chances of being able to legally enter the country again.

Overstaying a visa in the United States is a serious offense, one which carries a number of penalties that may bar you from re-entry.

However, a visa overstay does not automatically mean you cannot re-enter. It all depends on the situation. Read on to find out if your visa overstay can be forgiven. 

1. What is a Visa Overstay and What Does it Mean? 

First off, it's worth clarifying what it actually means to overstay visa limits. It is a term used to describe someone who has entered the country legally on a valid visa, but has not left the country while that temporary visa is still valid.

For example, if you are in the United States on a standard 90-day visitor visa, but stay in the country for 91 days after entry, you have overstayed.

Doing so means you are in the country illegally and that you have not obeyed US immigration law. Essentially, you have committed a crime. 

2. If You Overstayed for Less Than 180 Days 

However, it's worth noting that the US can be more forgiving if your visa overstay was only a short one. If you overstay visa less than 180 days, you are not exempted from re-entry at a later date.

You are fully able to apply for another visa and can even apply for a green card. However, you will be made ineligible for the US Visa Waiver Program, no matter where you are from.

You will need to apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate, and you will need to explain the reason for your overstay to a US immigration official.

You may also be subject to questioning once you land in the US. You may be refused a visa, but that is entirely up to the official deciding your case. 

3. If You Overstayed for More Than 180 Days

Many people overstay their visa for much longer, with many having overstayed visa for 10 years. If this applies to you, then the situation becomes more complicated.

If you overstay for 180 days but for less than one year, you will be barred from re-entry to the United States for three years.

If you stay unlawfully in the US for more than one year, you will be deemed inadmissible and barred from re-entry for 10 years.

If you stay for over a year and have to be forcibly removed by immigration services, you can be barred from the country for life, with no chance of re-entry. 

4. Cases When a Visa Overstay is Forgiven 

Before you start to panic, it's worth noting that even the longest overstays can be forgiven. This entails the US noting the reason for your overstay and forgiving the offense. This may happen if: 

  • You have a valid asylum application currently pending in the United States.
  • You were under the age of 18 during the overstay.
  • A visa overstay adjustment of status decision is pending. This means that, if you are applying for an adjustment of status (i.e. to a green card) during your overstay, you will be forgiven.
  • You are a beneficiary of the Family Unity Program. 
  • You are a victim of trafficking. 
  • You are a victim of domestic abuse who entered the US on a visitor visa and can show a connection between the abuse and your overstay. 

Learn More 

Even if you think you are eligible for visa overstay forgiveness, remember that immigration law in the US is fast-changing. Make sure to consult our immigration news and resources to find out the latest changes in the legal landscape that may affect you, or give us a call to find out more. 

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