Navigating immigration processes can be stressful at any time. During a global pandemic, the situation can become even more complicated. For instance, what do you do if you’re in the United States and at risk for overstaying your visa?
Overstaying your visa can come with a cost. In the worst-case scenario, you may be prevented from entering the United States or from applying for another visa. If you overstay your visa from between 6 months to a year, you may be banned for at least three years. If you overstay longer than a year, you can be barred for ten years.
Given the travel restrictions, it’s difficult to just book yourself a flight to your home country. So what do you do? The USCIS has issued a set of guidelines. If your case is complicated, you will want the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.
If you intend to remain in the United States, then you can apply for an extension of your visa or apply for another visa. Many applications can be filed online and, although their offices are closed, USCIS is still processing applications. You will generally not accrue unlawful presence if your extension is applied for before your visa expires, according to the USCIS. If you haven’t filed in time, the USCIS said it would consider delays caused by the pandemic when deciding whether to excuse delays.
If you’ve had the misfortune of being laid off from your job while in the country on a work visa, then you should consider the 60-day rule. You have 60 days from the date your employment ends to find a new job, or you are considered to be overstaying your visa. You should use the time to find a new employer who can file for a visa extension on your behalf. If your visa simply expires, you ordinarily have ten days to leave the country. USCIS hasn’t signaled any flexibility in this time period. If you haven’t been able to leave and are coming to the end of your visa, you should contact an immigration attorney.
The Visa Waiver Program allows visitors from 39 countries to come to the United States for business or tourism for up to 90 days. Because it is not technically a visa, there is no mechanism for extending your stay. However, there is a process in emergencies where the USCIS can grant a 30-day extension in its discretion.
If you are coming to the end of your visa term and want to know what steps you should take, contact an experienced immigration attorney. At Serving Immigrants, Inc., we have the experience and the knowledge to guide you through the process. Contact us online or call us at (305) 907-6151 to schedule a strategy session.