It was high season, Christmas time, and my visa got expired on 30th Dec and I left on 12th Jan. Should I answer "yes" to the question, "Have you ever been unlawfully present, overstayed the amount of time granted by an immigration official or otherwise violated the terms of a U.S. visa?" in DS160? Is my reason good enough and also considering the short overstay, will the Consul not make it a big issue? Please suggest if I should explicitly mention this detail since it is not mentioned anywhere else. Since this seems a short overstay can I say "No" to the question in DS160?
You should always answer truthfully all questions on Federal forms.
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I agree. You cannot mislead on those forms, Not, for your own sake. Just indicate yes and explain in the way you did here. You should be fine.
The answer should be "yes', followed by an explanation, UNLESS the I-94 with which you were admitted to the U.S. on your J-1 visa had no specific expiration date, but instead the annotation "D/S" (Duration of Status.) If that was the case then you answer "no" to that question and move on.
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The question is - did you really overstay your status? First, you have to understand the difference between "visa" and "status". For J1, there is a big difference. Visa is only required to enter the US. If it expires after you entered the US, there is no problem. Your J1 status, on the other hand, expired when your J1 program ended. You can find that date on your DS-2019 form. But J1 status had 30 days grace period. This means that, after the date your DS form expired, you could spend another 30 days here. This would not be an "overstay."
It is important that you answer this question correctly. If you make a mistake, the consulate may percieve it as a material misrepresentation, which would preclude you from ever returning into the US. Therefore, you should consult with an immigration lawyer individually. You can do so by contacting our office or finding a lawyer at www.aila.org
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Answer truthfully: yes, then explain.
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