Overstayed my US visa for over 9 years, never got deported, can I return as a tourist?
I have a particular situation here, In March of 1997 I travelled to the US as a tourist and lived there illegally for almost 9 years. I was never arrested, or had any trouble with the law, I was never deported. I paid my taxed (had a TFN) had a job, bank account bought a house, etc. About 9 years ago I decided to leave as I was tired of living like that, not able to be legal, in fear of deportation and loosing everything. I also got married (to a person in the exact situation as me) we were able to legally migrate to Australia and now we are Australian citizens. We never returned our I-94s and in 2005 left through Mexico (walked through the border) so there are no records of us ever leaving. We have lived here in Australia for over 9 years.
OK so my question is... We have been thinking we would like to visit our friends and family back in the US now that we have a little girl. Is there any chance they won't let us in because they know we overstayed? We would be travelling with our Australian passports.
Of course there's a chance. Isn't there always? But, applying common sense, it seems it's not likely. Can't you simply claim you're not the same person as the one that lived in the US for nine years? (Also, I'm amazed that an illegal alien can pay taxes in the US.)
Australian passports do show your town of birth (hence one can assume you are Australian by naturalisation), and yes we paid taxes, my husband had a social security (arrived pre 1994), I applied for a TFN (all illegal immigrants can get one of this) and we filed taxes, got refunds every year.
It's immigration roulette time. Unique circumstances. Does a statute of limitations come into play? I doubt the internet, even the vaunted authorities in Stack Exchange will give you anything other than a guess. What if the consensus says NO. Will you be satisfied? You'll need a consultation with a US lawyer. Or alternatively play immigration roulette at the border and see what happens. Emphatically recommend avoiding anything the implicates you further, like making up a story.
@MastaBaba Since when do governments want to make it hard to give them money? The fact that you're not legally allowed to work in the US doesn't mean you aren't obligated to pay tax on that income, and the IRS certainly isn't in the business of stopping you from doing that.
@cpast: I suppose your basic premise is correct. That said, I don't think you'd be able to get away with a situation like that in most European countries. Systems like those are linked.
@MastaBaba Didn't know that about Europe. In the US, those databases are specifically *not* linked -- federal law and IRS confidentiality rules specifically say that IRS returns are not to be shared with other government agencies except in specific circumstances, because the government wants to encourage people to pay taxes regardless of whether they broke any laws.
@AngieN If you can remember, if you do make the effort and make the trip, come back and submit your own answer showing what you did and what was said.
How old were you during the period of this overstay? Did you guys get an I-94 with a date on it (this would be the case e.g. if you guys entered with tourist visa, but not if you guys entered on student visa)?
@user102008, I was 17 turned 18 shortly after on a B1/B2 visa valid for 10 years. I arrived as tourist and my passport was stolen with the i-94 within the first week, but yes I-94 had a date with a 6 month expiry from memory...and no I did not report the theft, my family was clueless on what do do.
I know somebody in a similar situation to you: she lived illegally in the US for some years, and many years later she wanted to return as a tourist. Although she would otherwise have been eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, her local US Consulate recommended that she apply for a visa because of her history. She got a visa and visited the US without any problems.
When applying for the visa you will be asked whether you have ever overstayed in the past; you can answer yes to this and still get a visa, but if you lie and get found out you almost certainly won't.