Visa Overstay? Tread with Caution!
US Department of Homeland Security has recently announced that it is implementing broader security checks for foreign nationals who have overstayed the period of authorized stay (frequently called “overstaying your visa”). DHS officials state that the new measure is designed to ferret out terrorists, and is part of a program called for after the 9/11 attacks. Historically, government officials had to manually check multiple databases to conduct a background check on a particular foreign national. DHS indicates that they now have the framework in place to automate checking multiple databases at once. Officials also say that the priority will be on those foreign nationals who have overstayed their visa and are likely terrorist threats.
What Does This Mean?
For the everyday American, this is likely another welcome measure to protect our safety and security. However, for foreign nationals who have overstayed the terms of their entry, and have heretofore lived and perhaps even worked in relative obscurity, they face an increased risk of deportation. Why, you ask, if they are not terrorists?
- They may have erroneously been entered on a terrorist watch list.
- They may have the same or similar name as someone on a terrorist watch list.
- They may not be involved in terrorism, but may be innocently associated with someone who is, and be detected through association.
What Can You Do?
Step number one is to not overstay the terms of your entry. If you have entered the US on a visa, you must make every effort to leave before the date your stay expires, or change or extend your status. If you have already overstayed, you may still have options to protect yourself from a stressful, expensive deportation experience, and possible long-term separation from your family. For example, a person who enters with a visa, overstays the period of authorized stay, and marries a US citizen for love may be eligible to apply for permanent residence even though he/she is not currently in valid immigration status. Only an experienced immigration attorney can assess your specific situation and help you create the best immigration strategy. Take the first step to protect yourself and your family today by setting an appointment with an immigration attorney.