The visa waiver program makes it possible for citizens of 37 participating countries to travel to the U.S. without obtaining a U.S. visa. Tourists and business travellers can travel to the U.S. for a period of 90 days or less. But what happens when you overstay the 90 day period? The issue of overstaying on a non immigrant visa is no longer overlooked as essentially, you will be breaking the U.S. law.
Earlier, people who overstayed a visa did not have to face huge consequences; though overstays were deportable and considered to be without a legal status, they could still receive some immigration benefits. For example, visa overstays could adjust their status upon payment of a penalty and were also eligible to apply for asylum or suspension of departure; they could even depart and re-enter the U.S.
But now, the consequences can be pretty harsh, as the laws relating to overstays have drastically changed over the years. Foreign nationals who were eligible for further benefits such as employment based immigrant visa are denied all such opportunities now as a result of overstaying their visa in the U.S. In keeping with the new law, an automated system along with the use of machine readable passports maintains entry and departure of all people entering the U.S. In case of an overstay, the consequences can be serious, from having to get a new visa to return to facing a ten year ban from re entering the country.
Consequences of overstaying on your holiday visa waiver
If you have stayed past the 90 day period, you will no longer be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, but may also find it difficult to obtain a U.S. visa in the future. If you remain in the U.S., after your authorized period of stay, you will not able to extend your stay or change your status to another non immigrant status. In most cases, you may even be barred from adjusting your status from that of a non immigrant to an immigrant.
Another consequence of overstaying your period of stay is that your visa will be automatically voided. As immigration is quite strict in its interpretation, even overstaying by a day will void your existing visa. If you want to visit the U.S. again, then you will need to apply for a B-2 tourist visa, paying the applicable fees. You may even be denied entry to the U.S. for a period of 3 to 10 years, depending on the period of your overstay. If you remain in the U.S. after your authorized stay has expired for more than 180 days but less than one year, you will be barred from re entering the U.S. for 3 years from the date of departure. However if you remain in the U.S. after your authorized stay has expired for more than one year, then you will be barred from entering the U.S. for 10 years from the date of departure.
Even if you have no intention of returning to the U.S., having this on your record may severely affect your travel or immigration to other countries also in the future. If you have overstayed your period of authorized stay in the U.S., you must return to your country of nationality to obtain a new visa. You will not be allowed to apply at a Consulate that is more convenient to you.
Good news is that there are some exceptions to this rule. In case of a medical emergency or if you fear persecution in your home country, you can request a longer stay or even apply for asylum. If you become the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen by marriage, you may be able to apply for a green card while in the U.S. on a visa waiver program. If you have not overstayed for more than 180 days, then you will not be subject to a time bar on entering the U.S. However, you need to make sure you have proof of your date of departure such as your plane ticket or a passport stamp.
How to avoid the consequences of overstaying a visa
A good way to avoid the possibility of overstaying your visa is to make sure you check the expiration date on your I-94 form. You must leave the U.S. on or before the expiry of the authorized period of stay granted to you. Be sure to document your departure. Save your airline tickets, boarding passes and travel itinerary and get your passport stamped when you enter another country. However, when you look at the consequences of overstaying your holiday visa waiver, you will realize that it is just not worth taking the risk, as it could affect your future visas too.