Our lead attorney, Mana Yegani, was recently interviewed by the Houston Chronicle for a news report on people who entered the country legally on a visa, and then stayed in the country after the visa had expired.
Even though these individuals could technically be deported, many are able to continue living their lives in the U.S., so long as they stay out of trouble with the law.
Working and paying taxes is usually possible by getting an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. However, they are unable to renew their driver's licenses, open bank accounts or have access to social security.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement simply does not have the ability to find everyone who has overstayed their visas and deport them. But living in the shadow of the law isn't something that everyone is comfortable doing, and many wonder what they can do to remain in the country legally.
Two options for someone who has overstayed a visa:
By working with an immigration lawyer, it may be possible to fix a visa overstay and remain in the country legally.
Option 1: Have an immediate relative who is a U.S. citizen file a petition for legal status. This is the most popular option and it can give the person legal residency. The immediate relative can be a spouse, a child over the age of 21, or a parent (if the child is over the age of 21).
For example, our firm assisted a client who came to Texas on a visa in 1992. She had a son and remained in Texas after her visa expired. She lived without legal status for 21 years until her son was old enough to petition for legal status on her behalf.
Option 2: Leave the U.S. and apply for a new visa to get back in. However, this is not a very popular option.
If the overstay was for more than six months, the person is not permitted to return to the U.S. for three years. If the overstay was for a year or more, the person cannot return to the U.S. for 10 years. Even if the overstay was less than six months, the new visa may not be granted.
If a visa is granted, the person may still be denied entry into the country if airport security sees that the person has been leaving and returning to the country using back-to-back visas.
Meet with an immigration attorney near you to discuss these options and any other options that might be available in your situation.