San Antonio, TX – Foreign citizens entering US territory on a valid visa are allowed to stay in the country for a limited time. If you overstay your visa you risk being deported and barred from reentering the country for up to 10 years. However, there are certain situations when you can apply for visa overstay forgiveness, a procedure that basically makes all your problems disappear. If you are in Texas and you’ve already overstayed your visa, you need to talk to an experienced San Antonio immigration lawyer right away. Don’t wait till authorities catch up with you!
What’s the difference between visa expiration date and overstay?
No matter what type of visa you used to enter the US, it has an expiration date on it. The expiration date refers to the last day you can use that visa to enter the country.
Overstay refers to the actual time your presence on US soil is legal. The actual time you are allowed to stay is determined by the date on your I-94 form, which was issued to you the moment you crossed the border.
The problem is that foreigners arriving in the US by air are no longer issued a physical I-94 form, although those arriving by land can still get one. For air travelers, the I-94 only exists in digital form so many may be unaware of the date their presence in the country becomes unlawful.
Quick example – Let’s say you have a 10-year multiple-entry visa. Maybe it’s the first time you’re using that visa and you’re happy it will be valid for many years to come. However, the moment your flight landed in Texas, border control issued you an I-94 form that says you can remain in the state for 6 months. When those six months are up, your presence becomes unlawful, although your 10-year visa is still valid.
Unlawful presence and visa overstay forgiveness
The first day after your allowed stay in the country terminates, you start accruing “unlawful presence”. You become an illegal alien, basically. To avoid this, you must apply for an extension or a change of status immediately.
If you accumulate 180 days of unlawful presence but less than one year during a single stay, immigration officials can bar you from admission for three years, if you were not placed in removal proceedings.
If you accrue more than 1 year of unlawful presence or you are placed in removal proceedings, you won’t be able to return to the US legally for 10 years.
How to obtain visa overstay forgiveness
There are special circumstances you can use to apply for forgiveness. Here are some valid reasons for overstaying your visa:
- Were a minor (under the age of 18)
- Had an asylum application pending with USCIS
- Were the beneficiary of the Family Unity Program
- Had an application pending for an adjustment of Green Card, change of status, or extension of status
- Entered on a non-immigrant visa and were the victim of domestic abuse or a battered child, and you can prove a connection between the period of overstay and the abuse
- Overstayed due to being a victim of human trafficking
- Received Temporary Protect Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), Deferred Action or Withholding of Removal under the Convention Against Torture
What happens if I had a student visa?
When you enter the country on a Student Visa your presence is lawful for the duration of your studies. After that, your overstay period begins. However, students do not accrue unlawful presence unless an immigration official makes such a determination.
If you’ve already overstayed your visa or you know you won’t be able to leave the country when your time’s up, get in touch with a seasoned immigration lawyer at the Law Office of J. Joseph Cohen, servicing the San Antonio area. They will help you find the best way to obtain overstay forgiveness so you don’t get barred from reentering the country.
San Antonio, TX
206 East Locust Street
San Antonio, TX 78212
Phone: (210) 769-3273
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