There’s nothing worse than when a guest outstays their welcome. A warm reception on arrival can quickly plummet into a cold dose of resentment.
But what happens when it is you that overstays your time, and you find yourself abroad with an expired travel visa?
Maybe it is an honest mistake and you made a miscalculation or didn’t understand the rules fully. Or perhaps you’ve overstayed on purpose, hoping officials would turn a blind eye and you’d get away with prolonging your holiday scot-free.
Regardless of the reason, staying in a country without the correct authorisation is a serious offence. Overstaying your visa could land you in hot water, particularly if you don’t take quick action once you realise your paperwork has expired.
Below you can see some examples of what could happen if you allow your travel authorisation to expire:
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Why do people overstay their visas?
For a variety of reasons. Often not for the ones that you might think.
Maybe you made a mistake, or found yourself in an emergency situation.
Some travellers inadvertently overstay their visa. For example, because they are unclear how long they’re permitted to remain in the Schengen Zone (you can stay 90 days in the entire Zone, not 90 days in each country).
Or they might have inaccurate information. It is important to be clear on the restrictions of your paperwork before travelling and get your facts from a reliable source.
Then there is the immigration factor.
People who enter a country legally on a tourist, student or work visa and then stay past the expiry date are often overlooked in conversations about illegal immigration.
However, data from the Migration Data portal shows that 45% of illegal migrants do enter with a valid visa and overstay.
Similarly, research from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory reveals that most people who are in Britain illegally entered legally and stayed after their visa expired.
What happens if you overstay your visa?
Each country has different rules and regulations on the consequences of overstaying your visa.
In our infographic above, you can see some of the potential outcomes of staying in a country longer than your travel authorisation permits.
These range from having to fork out for a fine to jail time in some instances.
In Chile, if you overstay your visa, you have to pay the fine by making a complaint against yourself (an autodenuncia)! You must pay your dues before you depart the country.
Overstaying a visa in the US could lead you to be banned from returning to the States for either 3 or 10 years depending on how long you’ve overstayed.
If you get caught ‘Down Under’ without a valid visa, you could be detained by immigration officials and removed from the country.
To avoid this, if you discover that your Australian visa has expired you should apply for a Bridging visa E (BVE) right away. The BVE is a short-term travel authorisation that lets you stay lawfully in the country while you make arrangements for your departure,
Remember, if you travel to a destination as part of a visa waiver program, make sure you’re clear on how long you can stay in the country visa-free. You could find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you don’t! No one wants a trip to paradise to turn into a trip to prison.
Which countries are the strictest?
How strict the penalty is depends on a number of factors including how long you’ve overstayed your paperwork.
If it is a shorter overstay, the authorities in some countries may be more lenient. But this is not guaranteed. While you are travelling to another country you must always respect the local law and it is your responsibility to do the research.
Countries that are less well established as tourist destinations may relax their visa policy to attract tourists. Strict fines for overstaying can put potential international visitors off.
For example, Oman reduced the fine for overstaying their eVisa so as not to discourage tourists from visiting the country.
On the other end of the spectrum, Germany is known to have the strictest immigration laws in the EU. Staying in Germany without a residence title directly breaches the German Residence Act and penalties range from a fine to a 1-year prison sentence.
Stayed longer than you should sunning it up on the Greek islands? Your mistake could cost you dearly. Fines for overstaying the 90-day visa-free period in Greece range from €600 up to €1,200!
What are valid reasons for overstaying a visa?
In every country, there are certain exceptional circumstances where the government might forgive an overstay.
The authorities may be more forgiving if your visa overstay was only a short one. Spouses of citizens who have overstayed their visa may get off more lightly too.
In some situations, you may be eligible for an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS).
But remember, these things are reviewed by immigration officials on a case by case basis. Whenever possible, make sure you always have the correct paperwork!
There are also unforeseen circumstances where governments must adapt. Global crises and pandemics create unanticipated challenges where agility and flexibility are required.
The number of new visas and residence permits issued by OECD countries fell by 46% in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Governments around the world are looking into how processes can be digitalised to make them more agile in their ability to respond to changes in the world’s circumstances.
Extending your visa
Ever gone on holiday and wished you could stay forever? You’re not alone.
Maybe you fell in love with the country (or with a local!), or something else cropped up that caused you to change your plans.
If you’re on holiday and want to extend your tourist visa, you should pay a visit to the embassy or a police station to find out what you need to do.
It may be possible to extend your visa based on your reasons for the extension, your nationality, and the initial purposes of your visit. In some cases, you may even be able to apply for a short term residence permit.
This isn’t guaranteed, however, and depends on the local immigration rules which you should read up on in advance.
Make sure that while you’re trying to renew or extend your paperwork, you don’t overstay your current travel authorisation. Violation of immigration laws can lead to heavy fines or other penalties.
Get organised so your trip doesn’t cost more than you bargained for
The safest option to avoid fines, being banned from the destination, or even jail time is to make sure you have the correct travel authorisation.
The introduction of eVisas has made it easier than ever to keep track of how long you can stay in the country. If you apply for an eVisa with Byevisa then you can check how many days are remaining on your pass at any time. We also have countless pages dedicated to the visa requirements of different countries. Everything is broken down into simple steps so you won’t be befuddled.
Remember, overstaying your visa for any amount of time jeopardises your chances of getting a visa in the future. Plan ahead and think of future you too!