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Returning after a visa ban - ten years on is it safe to enter the United States?

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A US visa
"My issue concerns my younger brother who lives in Ireland.  In March of 2000 he entered the U.S. on a visitor’s visa.  He stayed in the country until November of the same year, thus overstaying his visa by roughly six months. A year later when trying to re-enter the U.S. he was apprehended at immigration at JFK Airport and sent back to Dublin. (It was a particularly harrowing experience involving handcuffs and the like which left a sour taste).

“Since this incident he has not attempted to return here because he is afraid to.  To my knowledge his passport was not stamped with anything at the time, but I will ask him again.

“Fast forward 10 years and the poor fella is still apprehensive about making the trip! What are his options?  He would like to return. Should he speak with someone at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin?”


Your brother arrived in March of 2000 and remained until November of that year, and you say he arrived on a visitor visa. 

Perhaps he did make use of a B-2 tourist visa, but as citizens of Ireland are eligible to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days using the visa waiver program it is more likely that he came here using that process.  Those who travel to the U.S. using a B visa are also usually given a longer amount of time to stay, up to six months, which means his overstay would have been only two months.

Either way, though, it doesn’t make much of a difference.  He overstayed his allotted time by “x” amount of months, attempted to return in 2001 and was prevented from doing so. 

And it sounds like he went through hell at JFK.  It’s truly unfortunate that happened given that he’s hardly a violent criminal, but it’s not the first time and won’t be the last.

From the information you’ve provided, it sounds like your brother was given a three-year bar from re-entering the U.S. because of the overstay in 2000.  Those who overstay visas (or their 90 days on the visa waiver program), leave the U.S. and attempt to return are subject to bans of three years if the overstay is six to 12 months, and 10 years if the overstay is a year or more.  The ban kicks in from the date of attempted re-entry to the country, so your brother’s ban would have ended sometime in 2004.

So he’s more than eligible for a return visit to the U.S. But there are some extra steps he’ll have to take in order to make this happen.

First, he won’t be able to use the visa waiver program for entry.  Those who have been refused admission to the U.S. in the past must apply for a visa to return to the country. 

Therefore, he’ll have to apply for a B-2 visitor visa at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. We touched upon this subject in last week’s column; here’s the link that will provide your brother with all the information he’ll need to get going: http://dublin.usembassy.gov/how_to_apply.html.

He’ll likely be subject to questioning about the prior bar, but he shouldn’t worry.  He did his time, so to speak, and therefore he is fully eligible to come back here.   Many, many thousands have been issued with a bar in the past and have gone on to return without problem.

That will hold true for your brother in the future, too, as long as he departs the country during the allotted time he’s permitted to be here.

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