Green Card Review Is Strict; It is Self-Reinforcing Through Lack of Transparency into Visa Overstay Statistics
Visa overstay is one of the more common immigration violations in the United States. The idea for this post came from an article by Mike "Mish" Shedlock Millions of Foreign Visitors Overstay Visas: Precisely How many? No One Seems to Know; Does Obama Care? The Mish's discussion was a commentary on the NY Times article, U.S. Doesn’t Know How Many Foreign Visitors Overstay Visas.
The U.S. immigration system is flawed, and millions of “overstays” is just another manifestation of it. Unlike the rest of the world, the screening of visitors to the U.S. appears to be front loaded. It is heavily skewed towards the visa/immigration status issuance and entry, while there is virtually no tracking when a foreigner departs the country.
While on a visa, on numerous occasions I traveled outside the United States mostly by planes; and only on an occasion or two by car. In most U.S. airports offering international flights, you do not go through any passport control beyond the basic verification of your identify by your airline representative. The agent is supposed to remove from your passport the Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94/I-94W). And that record should be used for tracking departures.
However, this procedure is hardly perfect because airline agents typically don’t treat this as their priority – certainly not as important as making sure the traveler is indeed booked on the given flight, and/or ensuring that the traveler has appropriate entry documents into the destination country. On more than one occasion, the airline agent simply forgot to remove my I-94 form from my passport. When driving into Canada, I recall my documents were not reviewed by the U.S. officials at all: You just drive out and Canadian border patrol greets you to ensure you have appropriate Canada entry documents. No one removed the I-94 from my passport.
The rest of the world checks visitors both during the entry and exit. It is more cumbersome and more expensive, but one may argue that it creates a more robust immigration and security management system as it guarantees more accurate departure records. For example, if a visitor receives a visa, enters a country and ends up overstaying it, the border officials firmly identify who is overstaying by comparing entries and departure records. Furthermore, they can follow up with those individuals because they have their address, phone and/or email which was collected on the Arrival/Departure Record. This becomes a monitoring process - not enforcement.
Absence of this two-point check system creates a perverse incentive for visitors to overstay: It allows for no ongoing short-term burden of checking on the visitor, while deferring into indefinite future the potentially much harsher punishment (e.g., being banned from entering the United States for 10 years) for breaking immigration laws. This, in turn, creates even higher threshold for foreign visitors to prove one’s intentions to leave the U.S. while applying for an entry visa. This also makes immigration or green card review process more stringent as the burden of proof that the application has not broken any immigration laws remains with the applicant.
It is not unheard off that overstaying one’s visa can, in certain situations, be remedied through marriage to a U.S. citizen and formally “coming clean” with the USCIS through a change of status application. One should consider hiring an immigration attorney for that. Here is a dramatization video about one couple whose husband overstayed his visa.
How to Remedy Visa Overstay via Green Card Through Marriage
Please visit www.doityourselfgreencard.com/blog for further discussion of immigration and green card issues.