4 Mistakes U.S. Visa Holders Make & How to Avoid Them

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedOct 19, 2017
4 minute read

Anyone who has gone through the U.S. visa process can tell you it’s no walk in the park. However, those difficulties don’t end after your visa has been approved. All visas have conditions that the visa holder must meet in order to stay in compliance with the law. If those conditions are violated, then the visa holder can face deportation, denial of entry (if they leave and try to return to the U.S.) and detention, not to mention that visa violations (like the examples below) stay on your immigration record permanently.

Concerned About Your U.S. Visa Standing?

Visa violations on your immigration record mean that if you’re looking to apply for a different visa in the future, change visa status or try to become a U.S. citizen, then the process becomes infinitely trickier, if not impossible. That’s because those looking to apply for citizenship must satisfy the five-year good moral character requirement. If you’re worried about visa violations affecting your immigration status, call 303-688-0944 for a case assessment. Si gustarÍa hablar con nosotros en español, por favor llámenos al 720-359-2442.

U.S. Visa Violations You Should Avoid

Your best bet is to read your visa’s fine print, always err on the side of caution and don’t commit any of the common mistakes below.

1. Overstaying Your Visa

Whether you are in the U.S. on an employment visa, travel visa, student visa or family visa, your visa has an expiration date. If you stay past that date, without submitting new application, then you are considered Out of Status and the federal government sees you as residing in the U.S. illegally. This violation can have resounding impacts for noncitizen immigrants.

Note: There are usually two expiration dates a visa holder must adhere to, and what’s more is, they don’t often correlate. The other date to be aware of is the authorized duration of stay date. This is provided to the visa holder at the port of entry by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). If the dates aren’t the same, always adhere to the date that is provided to you by CBP.

Those who stay beyond this date become “inadmissible,” meaning, they will not be allowed back into the country for a period of time. The length of time correlates to how long you overstayed your visa.

180 days – 365 overstay = 3 year bar
365 days or more overstay = 10 year bar

Additionally, an overstay remains indefinitely on your immigration record. If you ever decide to apply for another visa, or green card or try to apply for citizenship, this violation can make that process extremely difficult as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will be wary to trust you.

It is important to contact an attorney prior to leaving the U.S., if someone has overstayed a visa and has accrued that unlawful presence in the U.S.. An immigration attorney can preemptively ask for a waiver prior to leaving the country and make the visa holder aware of any potential bars they may be facing. They may also help the visa holder avoid a permanent bar upon reentry.

2. Getting a DUI

Unfortunately, holding a green card or visa doesn’t protect you from being deported from the U.S. – especially for those with a DUI on their record. A DUI can pertain to alcohol, but it also includes drugs, both legal and illegal. While a single DUI with no “aggravating factors” is usually not enough grounds for deportation, having it on your record could make it difficult to apply for citizenship.

Examples of aggravating factors: driving with a child in the car; found to be in the possession of illegal drugs; driving without a license; or caused bodily harm to another person.

If you do have a DUI with any aggravating factors, have multiple DUIs, or have a DUI with other traffic/criminal violations on your record, then the Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement may decide to start the deportation process by serving the visa holder with a Notice to Appear (NTA). An NTA may come in the mail, or may be served in person. It will require the visa holder to appear in an immigration court.

This will be the one and only opportunity to fight deportation. If you have received a NTA, or believe you may receive one, then we recommend that you immediately seek the help of an immigration attorney.

3. Consuming/Handling Marijuana

Even though it’s legal to consume marijuana recreationally in Colorado if you are 21 years of age or older, noncitizen immigrants who consume marijuana could face detention, deportation, denial of entry into the country and problems trying to obtain citizenship down the road. That’s because your immigration status is a federal matter and the federal government still finds the use of marijuana illegal.

Those convicted of personal possession of 30 grams or less are usually not departed. However, having this on your record can make it extremely difficult to renew or change your visa, or apply for citizenship. For those who hold valid green cards and have a medical marijuana license, the federal government could deport you, citing “drug abuse or addiction”.

Those who travel outside the country and return to the U.S. also face potential issues. Even if you don’t have a criminal record of possession, the immigration officer only needs “reason to believe” you have used, or otherwise handled marijuana to bar you entry into the U.S.

Thus not only consuming marijuana can get you into trouble, but also involvement in the marijuana industry- whether as a business owner, an employee, or even a dispensary visitor can get a visa holder in trouble. We recommend staying away from anything marijuana related while you hold a visa or green card.

4. Working More Hours Than Allowed

Most student visas allow nonresidents to work up to a certain amount of time while they study. However, if you go beyond those hours, you may be found in violation of the terms of your visa, which is grounds for deportation and visa termination.

Whether you are allowed to work and how many hours depends on the type of visa you hold. F-I visa holders (which is the most common form of student visa) can work up to 20 hours a week on campus. Students wishing to work longer hours or off-campus hours must gain prior authorization from USCIS. This can be achieved by submitting USCIS form I-20, however, the student must show emergent circumstances apply (emergency situations).

Those holding F-2 and M-visas are not allowed to work and must secure an appropriate work visa if seeking employment. J-2 visa holders may request work authorization from USCIS by submitting form I-765.

Get Legal Help if You Have Visa Violations

If you have violated the terms of your visa, it’s recommended that you talk to an immigration attorney as soon as possible. Immigration attorneys, like those at Robinson & Henry, P.C. know the regulations, the evidence your case needs for a successful outcome, and can represent you in front of an immigration judge. Call 303-688-0944 to begin your case assessment. Si gustarÍa hablar con nosotros en español, por favor llámenos al 720-359-2442.

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