What Happens If You Overstay A Tourist Visa?

You may know the concept of a border run, that quick hop across an international border to reset a visa, but what happens when you overstay your tourist visa? The answer is that it depends on several key factors, the passport you’re carrying, the country in question, and how long you’ve overstayed your visa. For most travelers with a US, Canadian, or European Union (EU) passport, it can be easy to overstay a tourist visa without realizing it, since most countries don’t require a visa application from you prior to entry. In fact, if you’re on an RTW, it’s easy to lose track, and here’s some information on what happens and what you can do.

passport stamps

Poof! Nothing Happens Right Away

It’s not that storm troopers are going to bust down your hotel door the second you’re visa expires or stop you in parking lot. In fact, in most cases nothing will happen for a long time. Technically speaking, overstaying a tourist visa for more that 180 days in the US is grounds for deportation and inside the Schengen area is not permitted. While it is never good to overstay a visa, generally you won’t run into problems until you leave and try to reenter that particular country.

  • It’s at passport control where your overstay is most likely to be a problem
  • If you’re headed to Europe you’ll want to read up on the Schengen Agreement.
  • Each country has different penalties for those that overstay their tourist visas.

cultures of bordersCultures of Border Control: Schengen and the Evolution of European Frontiers

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Once you’ve overstayed a tourist visa you lose your credibility at the border and can be denied entry based on the fact you’ve overstayed a previous tourist visa.

baby holding passportYour Nationality Is Important

Many US citizens frequently overstay their European visas (since they don’t realize you can only be in the Schengen area for 90 days out of each 180) and are allowed reentry. US passports aren’t carefully scrutinized in Europe and in the US your results may vary. With a return ticket and valid reason for entry (for those who’ve overstayed a previous visa) generally most EU citizens won’t have trouble reentering the US. Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, and a few other nationals also likely won’t face difficulties reentering assuming the initial overstay wasn’t too long.

  • If you had to apply for a visa prior to your visit, you’re more likely to encounter problems when reapplying.

Generally speaking, countries aren’t worried about an influx of tourists, they’re more worried about people coming on a tourist visa and never leaving. Typically this type of overstay isn’t associated with EU, US, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealand nationals.

How Long Did You Overstay?

That’s an important factor the person checking your passport upon reentry will be looking for. Did you overstay your tourist visa for a few days or months? They may ask you the reason for your overstay or why you want to reenter the country. The shorter the overstay the better but not overstaying at all is best.

Reentry Is The Issue

Even if you overstay a visa and are admitted on your next trip to the same country, on your third time there you may still be denied entry based on the fact you did overstay one of your visas. That’s up to the passport control officer (or embassy issuing visas) to determine. It all depends on how closely your passport stamps are inspected. That can vary based on the time of day you enter (late at night officers tend to be less diligent), the person in front of you (what passport did they have and if it took a long time), along with your passport and what you look like.

You’re best bet is to never overstay a tourist visa and find out the requirements that apply to you by checking out the specific country’s embassy website. That’s the only way to guarantee you won’t be denied entry with another valid tourist visa or encounter problems based on your previous negligence at the border.

[photos by: jaaron (passport stamps), t0msk (baby holding passport)]

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  1. I’ve over-stayed in Singapore once (not on Visa, but passport expiration), and upon leaving Singapore for Malaysia, the SG custom officer was so nice to advise me to better don’t leave the country, but to get my passport renewed first at the Malaysian embassy in Singapore. I know this is different scenario from your post, but still I really appreciate the officer’s goodwill. I really didn’t know that my passport has expired, not that I’m on purpose… :)

  2. daniel says:

    I enter india with student visa in july 2008. My visa runs out when i finish my study in 2010. it has been almost a year since my visa expires. Now i want to leave india as soon as possible. what should i do and what is the penalty for my crime?

  3. raja says:

    i have marred a girl from bangaldesh one who came in tourist visa for one mounth and after i married she did not went back now its more then 1 year what will happen

  4. Christina says:

    I am having a problem I am an American citizen and I am married to a Germany Citizen and we got married in Germany.I was in america for 3 months visiting my parents and then I went back to Germany and I got there in March. Well my husband didn’t registered me in the three months that I was there and now they told me I had to leave Germany because I was there over the 90-day period and now I am back in America and I was wondering if I could go back not having a problem since I am married over there?

  5. Xavier says:


    I overstayed my American tourist visa in EU by about 20 days. I am flying from Warsaw to Riga and then to Istanbul, where I live now and have residency. What is likely to happen? If I have a fine, how much would it be? is it likely that I will be banned from the EU for three years? I am frantic over this and don’t want a ban. Or even a fine. Please advise

    • Anil P. says:

      Check the immigration website of the EU country you’ll be leaving from, it is likely to have specifics on fines and potential bans. You’re almost certainly subject to both but I can’t say as far as the likelihood of ether happening. Good luck!

  6. brett says:

    I hope you can help. My passport says I came into zurich on 20/04/2011. I am still in europe. I did go to romania for a week, and now I am in ITaly. I’m a US citizen. I wish to stay in europe for another 90 days or so, but obviously I’m over the first 90 days. I’m thinking of applying for a german student visa and actually do want to go to Berlin next week. I’m willing to do anything though to keep staying here in europe for at least another 90 days. any recommendations on what type of application and/or what is the easiest country to accomplish this in?

    Thanks for your help!!

    • Anil P. says:

      It really depends on your particular situation. Best bet is to simply get an extended travel visa, though it will be a bit more difficult if you’re already overstayed.

  7. Victoria says:

    Hi Anid,
    I am an American who came to Spain to open a business with a spanish partner. I came on with my passport only. I came in June and in Sept my 90 days are up!
    My question are the following:
    1). Can I leave Spain to go back to USA and reenter Spain? How long do I need to stay in the USA?
    2). On my return to Spain will they question why i Am coming so soon?
    3). Would it be better to leave and come back or ask for an extension? Have not passed the 90 days yet!
    4). If having established a company in Spain help me in any way to ask for residency?

    Please help, thanks!

    • Anil P. says:

      1. Yes, but only after 90 days.
      2. You’re only allowed 90 days out of every 180.
      3. Depends on your intentions. You can apply for a longer travel visa.
      4. I’m not sure.

      Hope this helps :)

  8. Amberly says:

    Hello Anil, I originally applied for a student visa in the US for 10 months, but they gave me a 3-month temporary visa and (very nonchalantly) told me to go to the Spanish immigration center to extend it for the remaining 7 months. My visa expired on Nov. 25 and a week before I went to the office in order to renew it only to find out I needed a TON of materials and an appointment that would not occur until next June! The problem is that I have decided to leave for good back to the US in December (One month overstay, and wanted to know if I’ll have any problem getting back home. Thanks!

    • Anil P. says:

      Getting home won’t be a problem, but you could face a fine or be banned from re-entry for a period. How likely either or both will happen, I can’t say; but the shorter the overstay the better.

  9. cristina says:

    I’m mexican and I just got married to a u.s. citizen. My tourist visa expires in less than a month and we are going to apply for the green card but I don’t know if I will have trouble since my visa will expire in the middle of that process… I will get a I-94 this week which will let me stay legally in the States for six months but still, my visa expires soon, am I going to get in trouble?

    • Anil P. says:

      The I-94 should have details on whether you can continue the process from inside the country or not. I’m not exactly sure to be honest; best bet is to check the INS website.

  10. Christian Recinos says:

    Hey Anil,

    So I’m planning on going back to San Francisco, for 3 weeks to apply for a student/au pair visa so I can come back to Paris and live here.. and I’d be flying back the 15 of Nov and my tourist visa expires the 21 of Nov..

    My question is, will it be a problem really actually attaining a visa since I already stayed 3 months basically here? I read that once you’ve been in the Schengen area you have to be outside of it for 3 months before entering again, but I guess it would be ok to come back with a visa before that time right? I would be buying a roundtrip ticket too so I don’t know if it’ll be an issue. I tried looking on the embassy, but I didn’t find much at all

    Thanks so much,

    • Christian Recinos says:

      Also, if I left the day my tourist visa expires, would that cause any issues at all? It actually technically expires the 23rd since that’s when I entered France..

      • Anil P. says:

        The Schengen visa is typically 90 days out of every 180. So long as you’re not overstaying you won’t be complicating the visa process. If you get a visa to enter though even beyond that time you can go whenever that’s valid.

  11. steven moore says:

    hi there i have a problem , i came to the usa on januray to be married and we split up before we got married she is an American and came on a tourist visa from the uk my return was in may and i have no money for a return flight i have $400 left and i will be homeless this friday 27th 08 2011 now i have a huge problem i have no money and no family to help me get back to the uk i have over stayed my visa by nearly 4 months and i dont know what to do is there any one out there got any idear what i can do i live in eau cliare W.I i havent sleept in weks worrying about this … i just some luck and a ticket back to the uk .. thanks for listening … i need to get back to scotland and i dont know how or what to do thanks

  12. Ashley says:

    HELP – (my own stupidity I know) I am 21 years old traveling from Canada to Spain to be an au pair. I booked a return ticket for next september and I leave next week – total of ten months. I do not have any sort of visa. I was told by a few girls who did the same thing they did not get one and had no problem who also were au pairs. I assumed I did not need a visa and did not know the consequences. I don’t have time to get a visa, and I don’t even understand how to do it! What are your suggestions? Should I go on my scheduled date… Will I have problems getting there? I am traveling alone and I am pretty scared. What will they do to me if they notice when I am trying to get back to Canada? How much trouble could I get in… Does everyone get caught?

  13. leo says:

    Heres’ a complicated one for you. I want to move to the US permanently. I’m a UK citizen & never been to the states. Under some new ‘Freindly Partners’ rule, I can stay in the US for 3 months & have to return. I uderstand from the US Imig. Websites that I need a 6 month visa & an I-94 to work there. (I have work offered but not with a corporation). My goal is to travel to the US, work, save up & stay (Residency)…So, will they ick me out after 6 months? If they do, will they refuse me re-entry? I have heard so many stories of illegals living in the States & being granted citizenship, without being deported!! How?
    Do I need to preove to the US authorities that I have any savings? If so how much?
    There is more to my ‘wanting’ to go there (Girlfriend is US Citizen), but doesn’t seem relevent to my immediate needs! Thank you for your help.

    • Anil P. says:

      I’m not completely sure but if you want to stay in the US long-term, get the proper visa. If you are deported for whatever reason, getting back in or a visa is going to be very difficult.

  14. rani says:

    hi Anil, i would appreciate if u can enlighten me with this, my friend was in the USA on a visitor’s visa, but overstayed there because of health problem – she went through surgeries, then had to do follow ups. she had a 10 year visa which will expire later this year, can she return to the USA?

    • Anil P. says:

      I’m not sure, depends on the specific type of visa. If returning to the US is essential (for work or otherwise) best to talk to an immigration lawyer for certainty.

  15. Sage says:

    Hi Anil.. I am currently in Australia on a holiday working visa that expires the 31st of this month. I cant afford a plane ticket back to Canada until around the 3rd.. What I am wondering is I now have an Australian boyfriend that he and I will be applying for a defacto relationship in December.. Will those 3 days cause a hassle with my reenty or application in the future? Also I tried to get a tourist visa in the country and also outside (I just got back from Auckland) Stupidly I told the one in country I wanted to stay to be with my boyfriend and then switch over to the defacto.. Even though it wasnt processed, the old dragon sold me upstream.. What is your opinion?

    Thanks so much

    • Anil P. says:

      Hi Sage, the Australian immigration site will likely have information about what happens if you overstay. I’d avoid doing so it at all possible.

  16. sy says:

    hai.. firstly i hope i am writing in the correct box, secondly Here’s my dilemma.
    I am a British citezen, and i decided to go to holland to be with my partner… I am defonatly not a bright person and did not completley know about the whole only being aloud to stay 3 months, i was told it was okay to go without a visa because england is a EU country.. I actually didnt plan to stay there yet but i did want to live there infact i just wanted to move away from england completly.
    But after so long we finaly decided that i was to live here [ in Holland] perminantly for atleast a couple of years till me and my partner could move to a english speaking country like ireland or something.
    So me not being the brightest person asked my partners mother to help out with all the legal stuff, this was a couple of months after i arrived in holland allready having overstayed not knowingly, anyway she said there were 2 ways for me to stay one was the whole visa thing the other was something else to do with my partnet being able to look after me and im actually not sure exactly what it is but then apparently its okay for me to work here
    and after a year i got some papers and some kind of insurance number.

    i did ask when i received the official paper does this mean i can work here, they said yes. and to get it they did take my passport away for a week but i have no idea if they scanned it because i didn’t get a stamp when i arrived in Holland they just scanned it into a computer.. and i have not once returned to England
    its almost been 2 years since i arrived now and finding a job isn’t that easy and the language is hard for me, as i said before i’m not the smartest person :/

    and my partner is struggling to pay for me and himself and we’ve come to the conclusion that if i don’t find work by July to Halloween then i am to go back to England and just live there and we would have to manage a long distance relationship… and i was watching shows like locked up abroad.. and there was a guy who had to pay a fine for overstaying 2 days allot of money :/ and then i started thinking i was here over a year before i got permission to work here does that mean i overstayed too
    and looking up this 3 month issue it seems i did actually overstay by allot…
    and now i’m terrified >..<

    i hate being such a stupid person and im so sorry for what i've done. :(

    i know i have written allot but to sumerise

    English girl
    Went to Holland april 2010
    stayed living with partner and or his family.
    July 2011 got a UITREKSEL GBA
    which has a BSN number on it. it also has my new address to which im registered and a big stamp.
    Haven't found work so might need to return to England.
    Can not afford to pay any fines will i go to prison…?

    this is stressing me out even more so because time is going fast and its my birthday soon

  17. Chris says:

    Hey I am in the USA currently I have not yet overstayed my 3 month tourist visa period but have unfinished business that will take an extra 12weeks can I go to Mexico for a day and come back into the USA with an extra 3months?