The immigration authorities you spoke with throughout the long process of obtaining your visa likely reminded you of the expiration date printed on the front of your document. They may have impressed upon you the serious penalties of staying in the U.S. beyond the deadline. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, you are still in the country despite the passing of the expiration date.
While there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for why you overstayed your visa, the fact is that under immigration law, you are now unlawfully present. The longer you stay without properly dealing with your status, the more difficult your situation may become.
Penalties for overstaying
As soon as your visa expires, the days you overstay begin to accrue. One of the most dreaded penalties of overstaying a visa is your inadmissibility to return to the U.S. when you depart. The more days you accrue, the longer your inadmissibility. The consequences for overstaying a visa include the following:
- Three-year ban from re-entry if you stay between 180 days and 364 days past your visa expiration
- Ten-year ban if you stay longer than one year past your visa
- Civil fines of up to $2,000, depending on the circumstances
- Up to four years in prison if you fail or refuse to take steps to depart after receiving final notice from immigration authorities
There may be extenuating circumstances that prevented you from leaving when your visa expired, and those circumstances may qualify you for tolling. Tolling is when the days of your overstay cease to accumulate. This could prevent you from facing a lengthy ban of readmittance that could separate you from family and loved ones for up to a decade.
Alternatives to deportation
Immigration authorities offer numerous possible ways to avoid deportation and other consequences of overstaying your visa. For example, you may apply to have your visa extended if it has not yet expired. You may also be able to change your visa status. There are dozens of visa programs, and you may be eligible for more than one. For example, if you are here on a visitor visa, you might be able to try to obtain a work visa.
Of course, there may be factors that disqualify you from any exceptions, such as a criminal record. However, if you have other reasons that you believe may qualify you for tolling, or if you want to seek more information about your options, the assistance of a Nebraska attorney with experience in immigration law could prove invaluable.