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Visitors to the United States come to the US for a variety of reasons such as to work, to explore, to visit family or to get married. Many non-citizens wish to remain in the US beyond their visa time limit, but rather than take the proper legal steps or leave and return to the US, they will take the riskier step of overstaying their visa and staying below the radar of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (formerly the INS). However, no matter what the reason, if you are here under a visa and overstay your authorized time, the consequences may be severe.
Overstaying your visa is never a reasonable option and should be avoided if at all possible. It is best to seek the advice of an immigration law attorney if you wish to extend your stay or if you have overstayed your visa. An attorney can properly advise you on the best path to avoid expulsion from the country and other severe repercussions. For example, if you were planning to overstay your visa to find a job and found an employer to sponsor you during your overstay, in the end you would still almost certainly be deported.
Typically, if you overstay your visa for more than 180 days you will face removal proceedings to be deported from the United States. Additionally, if you overstay for more than 180 days but less than one year then you will be inadmissible to the US for three years beyond that time and if you overstay for one year or greater you will be inadmissible for ten years. If you overstay but not more than 180 days you must leave the US but you can apply for a visa to return immediately. There are a few exceptions but they are found in only a small number of extreme situations.
Filing for an Extension of My Stay
If you would like to extend your stay in the US, filing should begin a substantial amount of time before your stay expires. If your stay has already expired, exceptions for filing will be allowed only if you can prove that:
The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control;
The length of the delay was reasonable;
You have not done anything else to violate your nonimmigrant status (such as work without USCIS approval);
You are still a nonimmigrant (meaning you are not trying to become a permanent resident of the United States, but there are some exceptions); and
You are not in formal proceedings to be removed from the country.
The most ideal situation would be to enter the United States, stay for your allowed number of days and leave. If you would like to extend that stay, begin proceedings with substantial time to complete the process before your authorized stay expires. Consult an immigration attorney before any major decisions or actions are made so he can advise you of any repercussions that may result from those actions.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified immigration lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local immigration attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.