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Visa overstays

Non-citizens who visit or work in Arizona sometimes have concerns about overstaying their visas. In general, there can be severe legal consequences for not departing the United States before the visa has expired. There are some circumstances under which overstaying a visa may incur minor penalties.

When someone from another country comes to the United States, he or she is issued a visa. Unless a person has been granted permanent residency, the visa will expire at some point. Those who remain in the U.S. after their visa expires have "overstayed" their visa.

Individuals who overstay a visa for more than 180 days, but less than a year, can be barred from receiving a new visa to enter the U.S. for three years. Those who overstay for a year or more can be barred for 10 years. In addition, ignoring a deportation order can result in criminal charges and civil penalties.

However, there are ways to avoid the negative consequences of overstaying a visa. The first is to apply for an extension. It is possible to "stop the clock" on the time calculated toward an overstay penalty so that a person who has overstayed past 180 days may not have to wait three years before reapplying for a visa. This process, called "tolling," applies in cases where a person may have had good reason to be in the U.S., including waiting for an asylum application or being under the age of 18 when brought to the country.

Individuals who are concerned about their visa status may benefit from speaking with an experienced U.S. immigration law attorney. The lawyer may be able to review the client's case and make recommendations regarding strategies for extending or renewing a visa. The attorney might also help defend a non-citizen who has overstayed their visa during deportation proceedings.

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