FAQ - Immigration

What Happens if I Overstay My Departure Date?

When an individual enters the US with a nonimmigrant visa or as part of the Visa Waiver Program, he or she is provided with an Arrival-Departure Record, more commonly referred to as the I-94 card. An official from the US Department of Homeland Security will stamp the departure date on the I-94 card. This is the date by which the individual must leave the US in order to comply with US immigration laws.

In some instances, the US official will stamp D/S rather than an actual departure date. D/S means the individual is authorized to remain in the US for the duration of status. This usually applies to foreign students, temporary workers and exchange visitors. Depending on the type of nonimmigrant visa, individuals are provided a limited amount of time to depart the country once their duration of status expires. For example, academic students are given 60 days to leave the US once their studies are completed.

The visa expiration date and the I-94 departure date are two different things. A visa allows an individual to travel to the US and seek admission at a port of entry. Visas may only be valid for a certain period of time. If the individual does not use the visa to travel to the US before the expiration date, then the visa is no longer valid and the individual must apply for a new one. The I-94 card is given once the individual is permitted to enter the US and states the amount of time the individual is authorized to remain in the country.

If an individual fails to leave the US by the departure date, he or she falls out of status. This means he or she is no longer legally in the US and may be subject to certain penalties, including being forcibly returned to his or her home country (deportation), accessed fines and precluded from future immigration benefits. Additionally, overstaying the departure date automatically invalidates the individual's visa. Those in the Visa Waiver Program who fail to leave by their departure date may never be able to participate in the program again, and also may have difficulty securing a US visa in the future.

In order to avoid falling out of status, it is imperative that individuals leave by their departure date. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will make limited exceptions for those who fail to leave by their departure date due to unforeseen circumstances out of their control. However, these exceptions are rare. If an individual accidently overstays the departure date, he or she should leave the country as soon as possible to minimize any negative consequences.

For those desiring to stay in the US longer or those eligible to change to a different nonimmigrant or immigrant classification, they should submit the appropriate paperwork to extend their stay or change their status well in advance of their departure date. Both of these applications should be submitted to the USCIS. To be eligible for either, the individual must have remained in good status during their stay in the US, which includes not overstaying his or her departure date.

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