Federal officials are closing a little-known loophole in immigration law which allows millions of foreigners to dodge penalties for overstaying their student or seasonal-work visas.
The prior 1997 rules did not start counting the length of a person’s overstay until a federal enforcement agency first formally recognized that the person had not gone home on time.
The new rules clearly say the overstay clock will start when a foreign student’s course is complete, or when a foreign employee’s seasonal work-permit expires.
The new policy is important because it shows foreigners the penalty they will get for breaking the overstay rules — and it provides a clear mechanism for immigration officials to prove the penalty is proper.
Under current law, once the overstay count reaches 180 days, the overstaying person is punished by getting locked out of the United States for the subsequent three years or ten years, or permanently. The penalties are written into federal law, making them easy to impose, easy to enforce and very difficult to avoid — and very painful for people who want to keep ties to business or family in the United States.