I know this question was asked many times, and I read most of the answers, only my quest centers on the time that has passed since my overstay.

Briefly, my story is I visited the US as a tourist from Argentina in 1993, and being there I wanted to try the experience to live there for a while, rented an appartment, could get a basic job as a driver doing deliveries, and ended up living for about one and a half years. After that, and realizing living as an illegal was a deadend with no promisory future, I just picked my things, bought a plane ticket and departed in 1994 never to return.

Long story short, after almost 25 years, now I´m a professional, have a good situation and would just like to make a short vacation there.

Here´s my main doubt; I´m not sure if it´s convenient or relevant to mention my overstay when applying for a visa, considering after such a long time they may not have record of that; or do Customs keep records for that long, and could backfire me here at the Consulate, or upon arrival at the airport?

I add additional information To make things more interesting, I also have an italian passport. Since I am of italian descent I own the double citizenship. This passport grants me VWP, but that doesn´t guarantee automatic entrance, that´s why I chose to go with the argentinian one which needs a visa. I assume that having a visa makes entrance more likely since you underwent a previous official scrutiny; or does it not? Besides using a different passport could seem an obvious way to dodge that scrutiny and make it even harder.

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    I´m not sure if it´s convenient or relevant to mention my overstay when applying for a visa, considering after such a long time they may not have record of that Nobody here is going to tell you to lie to US immigration because the question is explicit on the application form. Aug 22, 2018 at 19:37
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    Absolutely; you all told me what I need to know. Now it´s up to me to decide on a more firm ground if I give a try.
    – user83262
    Aug 22, 2018 at 20:39
  • "I just bought a plane ticket and departed in 1994". But did INS question you at the airport? Did they tell you you'd overstayed? When you arrived in 1993, what was the original departure date on your return ticket?
    – smci
    Aug 23, 2018 at 21:54
  • smci, I´ve been trying to remember these things myself since it´s been so long. Is it possible I could enter the country without a return ticket back then? My arrival was at LAX and I remember being quite easy with customs. What I do remember is that in my return nobody asked me or said anything. Too bad that passport is long gone and I can´t check with it.
    – user83262
    Aug 24, 2018 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


When applying for the US visa, there is a question asking whether you have been to the USA, and how long. Thus you have no means "not to mention" it, the only option available is to lie about it.

And this is certainly not recommended. The Customs might or might not keep the records that long, and they might or might not check them when you arrive, or when you depart - but you probably don't want to spend your whole vacation worrying about whether at any point you'd get arrested/detained/turned back. Not to mention that lying in the US visa application, if caught, could get you banned for life.

On the other hand, your overstay happened long time ago, and it looks like you can easily make a case that you have changed and would not overstay again.

Another issue, which might pop up since you worked illegally, is whether you have paid taxes from your US income. If you paid, and have proof of that, bring it with you.

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    and it looks like you can easily make a case that you have changed and would not overstay again. You must be joking right? You are not aware how immigration has changed in the past year and half? Aug 22, 2018 at 19:36
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    Thanks for your insight George; left me thinking about the tax thing you say might pop up. Wouldn´t want to mess with Customs and IRS at the same time. Better go to Canada (joke)
    – user83262
    Aug 22, 2018 at 21:23
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    @GeorgeY. The folks at immigration do not only deal with people trying to immigrate. They deal with all people visiting the USA in whatever status. I am sure you know that. Aug 23, 2018 at 4:42
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    @MusoniusRufus It's unclear whether your original use of the word "immigration" referred to people coming to live long-term in the US or to US Customs and Border Patrol. Aug 23, 2018 at 14:03
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    @GeorgeY. There is no statute of limitations on unfiled taxes.
    – Joe
    Aug 23, 2018 at 14:32

It may not be "convenient", but if the form asks about your previous stay, you must answer it honestly, or else you would be lying, and lying to US immigration is a very bad thing and will trigger a permanent ban.

  • Thanks for your answer, and I agree with what you say; worst scenario would be a denial of the visa, or my honesty would pay back and they grant me it. In the latter case, the consulate giving me the visa would guarantee no problems at airport customs? In any case I am curious though about this records being held for life or discarded after long.
    – user83262
    Aug 22, 2018 at 21:34
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    @DiegoR: No, having a visa does not guarantee that you will be let in.
    – user102008
    Aug 22, 2018 at 21:36
  • I see. And based on what the customs official might deny entry? Does it help to provide the same doccuments than to the consulate(property title, bank account, etc)
    – user83262
    Aug 22, 2018 at 21:40
  • Lying about previous refusals or overstay about which they have information will not trigger a permanent ban. However, it will result in a visa denial because it will damage the OP's credibility.
    – user58558
    Aug 24, 2018 at 15:04
  • I understand that it´s best to say the truth of the overstay; it´s just that if there is not record of it I´d be triggering a complication unnecessarily. It is truth or dare.
    – user83262
    Aug 24, 2018 at 17:42

My experience with the border force and Homeland security in the last year is that they are not reasonable.

If you didn't get caught when staying there illegally and they have no record of your leaving time, then you can say you were there but don't mentioned you overstayed. If you get asked to step aside for questioning on arival, get a lawyer (have one ready to dial when you go).

If you got caught, don't bother with the application. It'll end badly. And you will have to state you got turned down for a US visa when applying else where. That really sucks.

Background: (I'm white, have a job in Europe, didn't overstay my visa, had a ticket to leave the US within the time my ESTA allowed me to stay, but because arriving by private boat after a short sail in the Bahamas (from Florida), I was fined 1000s of US and threatened with deportation) Others have had similar experiences. (turns out private boats are excluded from the ESTA. (Even the embassy didn't know, nor did the first agent.))

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    I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience but even Wikipedia knows that you must enter the US by land or by an approved commercial air or sea carrier in order to use the Visa Waiver Program: "VWP does not apply at all (i.e. a visa is required) if a passenger is arriving via air or sea on an unapproved carrier." Aug 24, 2018 at 13:03
  • ic_fl2, what you ask me here is the Gordian knot of my question. As I recall I left the country as I entered, without any hassle, but that doesn´t mean that my exit could not be recorded. I don´t know how computerized was the system back then, or if they keep thorough files for that long.
    – user83262
    Aug 24, 2018 at 18:05
  • And by the way, the situation you refer here shows how different things are. And that makes me uneasy to go trough this uncertainty for a 10 day vacation.
    – user83262
    Aug 24, 2018 at 18:10
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    @DiegoR Thus to summarize: If no record, don't mention pray you get visa. If any doubts that they have records, don't apply for visa, don't go.
    – ic_fl2
    Aug 25, 2018 at 17:56
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    @DavidRicherby after "a short sail in the Bahamas (from Florida)," the traveler would be exempt from the requirement to arrive by signatory carrier thanks to 8 CFR 217.3(b).
    – phoog
    Jan 22, 2020 at 2:23

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