You Could Land up in Prison for Overstaying by few Minutes in the US

Picture this ; you are a travelling overseas to the US and on the last day of your Visa validity you plan to cross over to America’s neighbor, Canada. You are driving through upstate New York to cross over to the Canadian borders. Your car breaks down and the usual seven hour car drive you planned for takes you double the time to get to the US-Canada border. By the time you get through the Canada officials, the time is 01:30 am and they realize that your US Visa expired at midnight. So then they turn you over to the US border patrol on grounds of overstaying  in the US for an extra 90 minutes and the US border control puts you in handcuffs and escorts you straight to a prison.

Scary, isin’t it …..

US Border Patrol

This is exactly what happened recently to a 26 year old Australian national, Baxter Reid where he was denied entry into Canada for overstaying in the US by an hour and a half. Reid was visiting his girlfriend in the US and his five year visa permitted him to stay in the US for a maximum of 180 days only. His girlfriend stated that the Canadian police feared that Mr Reid’s visa would get rejected when he would try returning to the US and that would make him Canada’s “problem”.

The US Customs and Border Patrol have said in a media statement that Reid inflicted this situation upon himself. “The proper procedure for requesting an extension of stay while in the US is to file an application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before the individual’s authorized stay expires.” They also mentioned that the standard action process for any individual found without valid travel or immigration documents is that they are “detained and held by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations until they appear before an immigration judge.”

The man is currently detained in the prison at the Buffalo Federal Detention Centre and there is a high possibility that he could be six months in jail even before his case is heard by a judge. The sad thing is that if Mr Reid is criminally charged, he would face deportation to Australia and be barred from re-entering the US.

Would you say that will be making a criminal out of an innocent man? When is the last time an hour of delay landed you up in massive trouble?


  1. So this story has been reported a bit sensationally.

    The man had a visitors’ visa, which as the story noted requires leaving the US to reactivate. The man also had an American partner, and was likely attempting to merely pop over to Canada and back to ‘re-set’ his tourist visa.

    The US has the right to restrict entry to those on valid visas if they consider there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is entering the US for a reason other than the reason authorised by the visa (in this case, tourism). People entering on tourist visas for the purpose of maintaining a realtionship with an American partner is very common, and not a valid purpose for a tourist visa.

    In this instance, the Canadian authorities (who are well aware of the US entry requirements) surmised that the man in question was attempting to pull a quicky extension to his tourist visa to stay with his girlfriend, and restricted entry to Canada. The reason they restricted entry was because they expected (perhaps rightly so) that the man would not be allowed entry back into the united states and then would become ‘Canada’s problem’ (i.e. the costs of remanding the man back to Australia would have to be borne by Canada).

    In the circumstances, I do not think it was unreasonable for the Canadian border to restrict entry to this guy, nor do I think he was totally innocent in this endeavour, as he was attempting to use a tourist visa to continue living in the US.

    All that being said, Australia (where I reside) has provisions for non-married people in committed domestic relationships to sponsor their partners for a visa, and it would be good if the US implemented a similar scheme so that situations like this guy’s don’t happen.

  2. Fake News

    They arrived at the Canadian border in upstate New York about 10 p.m. on April 23 — two hours before his visa was set to expire. Canadian officials, however, started giving them a “hard time,” Kancso wrote on the GoFundMe page.

    “They spent hours asking us remedial questions and giving us the run around, with hours of dead time in between,” Kancso said.

    You want to make this the USA’s problem (like we hate Australian’s, right?) but he was refused entry by Canada.

  3. Any other country would do the same, wouldn’t they? A deadline is a deadline. I wouldn’t have waited until the last day of my visa validity for just this reason.

    That said, I would think the judge will, or should, take the overall situation into consideration in deciding guilt…and if found guilty, the magnitude of the punishment should be commensurate with the magnitude of the violation which is minor.

  4. Wow, sensationalist much? This guy seems to have wanted to go around having to get a valid long term visa by visiting Canada for a few days before his 6 months were up, then re-entering the US. Probably thought he was clever, too. He brought this upon himself, as it seems border agents saw right through his ploy. Sure, he may be Australian, but he doesn’t deserve any special treatment for being from am allied country.

    The point? Don’t feel entitled and actually do these things properly

  5. Prior Proper Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance

    I do a lot of international travel and I am always keenly aware of the limitations on my visas. If I overstay and get denied reentry, I lose my job.

    No mention of whether this person had a multiple entry/180 days/max per visit or 180 days total over 5 years. It makes a difference. As the Canadians noted.

    So I do not feel sorry for this guy one bit.

  6. I feel really bad for this man, and my heart goes out to him. However, to say that he is “innocent” is not technically true. He did overstay his visa, even if only for an hour and a half. How many hours or days of overstaying a visa would it require to make one illegal? The U.S. Immigration could allow for a grace period, but they simply don’t. The man should not have left crossing the border for the last moment. If I have a flat tire on my way to the airport and don’t allow for it, thus missing my flight, I cannot blame the airline. This man had a delay and thus missed his deadline for leaving the country. Nobody can blame the U.S. Immigration officers for that.

  7. Sounds like waiting til the last possible minute can have grave unforeseen consequences. Maybe all people on visas should plan to leave the day BEFORE their visas expire, similar to how we are told to get to the airport 2 (or more) hours before a domestic flight. I am also a procrastinator, but try to start firm deadline things early enough to give myself some wiggle room, in case a problem arises.

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