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By What Means Can the U.S. Tell if I Overstay My Visa?

According to statistics compiled by the Center for Migration Studies, a nonprofit research institute that provides policy guidance, a significant number of undocumented migrants in the United States have overstayed the visas that were lawfully granted to them. We’re talking about foreigners who came here with the stated intentions of engaging in tourism, business, work, and education but who ended up staying in the country past the dates on which their visas expired. In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security counted 676,422 of these cases, but this should be considered an estimate instead of a precise number.

Travel Records

It’s pretty easy for foreigners in the U.S. to know if they’ve overstayed their visas. All they need to do is look at their I-94 arrival and departure cards, which clearly state how long they can stay. Let’s say a Polish actress traveled from Warsaw to Los Angeles to work on a film and her O-1 visa for performers expires on April 30th. If for some reason this actress is still in the U.S. on May 1st, she would know she has overstayed simply by looking at her I-94 card. Should this actress board a flight back to Warsaw at LAX a few days later, the airline will mark the date of her departure, and this is one way Homeland Security and other U.S. government agencies would become aware of this visa overstay situation.

Renewal Applications

If, in the future, the actress happens to land another role in a Hollywood film production, she would likely need to renew her O-1 visa. When U.S. embassy personnel review her application, they’ll have access to a few records that would reveal a visa overstay. First of all, Customs and Border Patrol keeps a digital I-94 archive that can be cross-referenced with data from airlines. Second, an O-1 visa requirement could be to furnish a certified copy of Polish immigration entry and exit logs. Finally, passport stamps can be checked against the I-94 record.

Passports & I-94 Forms

Foreigners in the U.S. are expected to always carry their passports along with the attached I-94 forms, and this is another method immigration enforcement agencies can use to track down those who overstay their visas. However, there would need to be a trigger situation. In our example of a Polish actress who overstays her O-1 visa, she could be arrested in a jurisdiction where police departments share information with CBP. The opposite of these jurisdictions would be “sanctuary cities,” where local law enforcement agencies don’t cooperate with CBP or Homeland Security in this fashion. California is an example of a sanctuary state. In many cases, visa extensions are easier to obtain with the assistance of trusted San Diego immigration attorneys.

An interesting aspect of the U.S. immigration system is that the valid terms of visas are largely checked by biographical information that doesn’t take into account exiting the country through unguarded border points, which include small ports where you can sail away without getting a passport stamp as well as remote sections of the borders with Mexico and Canada.

Whether you need general information on immigration or want to find out the requirements for obtaining an EB-5 visa, San Diego immigration lawyers from KS Visa Law are here to help. Give us a call today at 858-874-0711 to schedule an appointment.

October 2023