May 11, 2020

Unlawful presence after visa expires can bar readmission

In immigration discussions among Michigan residents, those who enter the country without going through the legal channels often garner the most attention. However, some statistics show that the greater number of those who are unlawfully present belongs to those who have overstayed their visas. Unlawful presence following the expiration of a visa can have the same long-term effects as entering the country without authorization.

Upon entering the country through one of the visa programs, a foreign national receives a Form I-94, which names the date upon which the holder must leave the country. Once that date passes, the foreign national begins accruing unlawful presence, and each additional day is important. Remaining unlawfully between 180 days and one year can result in a ban of three years on readmittance to the United States. Staying longer than one year means facing a ban of reentry for 10 years.

This can be devastating if one has family here or if a foreign national has a career path or other plans in this country. Certain factors may exempt one from the accrual of unlawful presence. For example, someone who remains in the country formally seeking asylum, qualifies for Family Unity benefits, or is the victim of abuse or human trafficking may seek an exception. Minors are also exempt until they reach 18.

Those in Michigan whose visas are nearing expiration or have already expired have an uncertain future in the United States. In these uncertain times, it may be wise to seek the guidance and advocacy of a legal professional. A skilled attorney will understand the intricate elements of unlawful presence and the most appropriate steps to take to minimize the negative consequences.