How To Avoid Becoming a TNT in the US

This explosive issue could be defused before time runs out.  And especially if a bill criminalizing overstaying becomes law – H.R. 2631, Visa Overstay Enforcement Act of 2013.

Your legal time (called “lawful presence”) begins once you are allowed admission into the US (after being inspected at a port of entry).  You could be given an initial lawful presence period of 6 months.  Before this period of authorized stay expires, you must submit your application to either (1) extend your stay in your current status or (2) change your status to another nonimmigrant category

Otherwise you cross-over to the illegal threshold where there is no turning back (there’s still a solution, limited as they are, below)

Currently, a TNT or overstayer in the US will be subject to the 3 or 10 year bar once deported or removed for having accrued unlawful presence of 180 days or more (3-year bar) or 1 year and above (10-year bar) in the United States.  The bar kicks in from the actual date or physical removal or deportation.

Once a TNT, the dreaded 3-letter word only has a 3-letter acronym solution; AAA – Amnesty, Asylum or Asawa.  The last one requires evidence of genuine relationship. Given the current immigration tantrum of Republicans, Amnesty and Asylum are extremely difficult to come by.

How Not to Become a TNT

Generally, a person who has been admitted into the US on a valid nonimmigrant visa e.g., B-1, B-2;  Student (F-1 or M-1); Working (H-1B, H-2B) Trainee (H-3), Exchange Visitor (J-1),  Trader or Investor (E-1 and E-2);  Intracompany Transferee (L-1),  Outstanding Alien, Artists, Performer Individual or Group (O and P) must submit an application to extend his or her stay in the current status, or apply for Change of Status from one Nonimmigrant category to another.

For example, an individual who was admitted as a tourist, say B-2 visa may apply for change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 Academic Student before the expiration of the date of the initial authorized stay given by a DHS officer Customs and Border Protection) of at the port of entry. The application (done on Form I-539) must be received by the appropriate USCIS office/center before the expiration date of the initial authorized stay.

The good news is filing the I-539 Form could be done online.  You will receive acknowledgment and instructions as to the next steps.

Applying for Extension of Stay and Change of Status

All Form I-539s filed with a principal's Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, (which includes a request for change of status or extension of stay),  MUST be sent to the USCIS California or the USCIS Vermont Service Centers.  

This includes dependents filing with the principal. However, Dependents filing Form I-539 for a change of status or extension of stay  separately from the principal's application, and whose principal's application is pending or approved, should file at the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility

Where to File the Application.

If you (the principal applicant) is in residing or in any of the states below, then you must send your I-539 to this address: USCIS California Service Center , P.O. Box 10539 , Laguna Niguel, CA  92607-1053

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Commonwealth of , Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

For others or those who are in any of the States below, then the I-539 Application for Extension of Stay must be sent to this address:  USCIS Vermont Service Center , ATTN: I-539 , 75 Lower Welden Street , St. Albans, VT 05479

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands and West Virginia.

To get the latest and appropriate forms and instructions, as well as filing fees COPY and PASTE the weblink or, click here - http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=94d12c1a6855d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD

Back to the issue of the bill criminalizing overstaying.

If for whatever and however manner, the deported, fined, detained and deported TNT-overstayer manages to get back to the US and was subsequently arrested, detained, fined and convicted, the bill sets the penalty to be permanent bar from the US as well as non-issuance of a US visa forever.

Oh, did we mention, it’s on the House?

Got a question? Let us know - we're here to help.

About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.


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