The US has a bit of an international reputation for being hard on visa overstayers. This isn’t entirely unearned, though it’s also not quite as bad as it’s often made out to be.
If you overstay your visa waiver program you my not have access to it again in the future, for example.
Visits can and often are extended, requiring little more than a little paperwork on your behalf.
First Steps if You Might Overstay Your USA Visa
Your first port of call should be the Citizen and Immigration Service, which can provide special extensions even after your visa or travel authorization has expired. In particular, what you’ll want to try to get is a “period of satisfactory departure”.
These are often granted to travelers in situations like flights that have been delayed for more than 24 hours, medical emergencies and other run-of-the-mill traveler woes.
They can also be issued in circumstances like being the victim of a crime, or just not being able to reach the airport due to bad weather. Whatever your reason, make sure to bring as much evidence as possible.
This can include a medical certificate, police report, or even just a news clipping proving something like bad weather.
If you’re granted a period of satisfactory departure, you’ll basically be given up to 30 days to leave the country. If you do this, then there are absolutely no further repercussions or penalties. You’re off, Scot-free!
Fines for Overstaying a USA Visa
If for some reason you don’t get a period of satisfactory departure, then the penalties can rack up quickly. Sometimes overstays of one or two days can be almost entirely ignored, though you shouldn’t rely on this.
Nonetheless, the first 180 days overall are fairly mild. If you come to the US under the visa waiver program and overstay for less than 180 days, you’ll probably be forced to apply for an actual visa next time you come.
You might also have trouble generally obtaining any US visa, and can expect a little extra scrutiny whether you interact with the Citizenship and Immigration Service.
In particular, you’ll probably have a lot of hassle trying to get a work visa, or something similar.
This is because the onus will basically be on you to convince US officials that you won’t overstay again.
Things start to get really dire after 180 days. At this point, you’ll almost certainly be hit with a three year travel ban. Once you overstay for 12 months, you can then expect a 10 year ban.
You might also be forcibly deported, which is not a fun experience. Finally, overstays exceeding a year can result in a permanent travel ban. Ouch!
The lesson here is to contact the Citizenship and Immigration Service the moment you suspect you might need to overstay. Get an extension, and leave in the required period. If you don’t, your predicament will only get worse over time.
Further Reading: The best Destinations and things to do in USA