Oct 19th, 2016, 10:19 PM

The Unspoken Trend of Overstaying your Visa

By Daniel Catalan
Image Credit: Shutterstock
A window into the hidden world of overstaying your Visa.

It isn't uncommon for Americans who get a taste of the European lifestyle to be drawn in and want to make their adopted country their permanent home at any cost. The desire to stay abroad could be fueled by hedonism, a rejection of convention, love, or the pursuit of captivating anecdotes to tell at dinner parties. 

University students in France can prolong their legal stay by extending their graduation date after finishing their academic coursework through auditing more courses and taking on uncredited internships. This bought time allows students to seek career opportunities, or spouses, that can allow them to establish themselves in France longer term. However, the bureaucracy of acquiring legal residency and permission to work while racing against a ticking clock is the source of sleepless nights for the aspiring expatriate. Desperation could press one to scour more unsavory avenues.

Image Credit: PHD Comics


Staying in Europe after one's student or tourist visa expires is not only inadvisable, but highly illegal. The consequences of being discovered include severe fines and deportation, and potentially a ban from returning to the continent. With that said, it is not uncommon for North Americans to do so regardless, keeping a low profile and sustaining themselves by working jobs that pay under the table such as bartending, being an au pair or tutoring English. Unfortunately, the ceiling is low with the opportunities available to those without papers; it is possible to make ends meet but not to thrive. Avoiding any confrontation that would require you to present your documentation to the authorities is paramount and driving vehicles should be avoided all costs. Many find these conditions preferable to going back to the United States. There is no precise data on how many U.S. citizens live abroad off the grid. A United States passport and accent are the epitome of privilege. Authorities are not actively trying to restrict our travel as they would travelers from other nations.

While traveling within Europe is seamless due to the absence of passport control, undocumented immigrants are most vulnerable of getting caught when passing through customs while entering the continent or leaving it. Remaining undetected hinges entirely on the whims of the officer who inspects the passport in the airport. If the officer is having a bad day, they could inspect the documents closely, call you out for the discrepancy and relish in using their authority. Or you could get an overworked or distracted officer who simply cannot be bothered to do their job which allows you to continue on your merry way. There's no consistency and some countries are stricter than others in this regard. Other tactics used to mitigate these risks are "losing" your passport and request a new one, without any entry or exit stamps, from your nearest consulate or embassy. It doesn't hurt to be dressed formally and be clean shaven at the airport, walking confidently, embodying the "be" in subtle.

It is highly advised that you avoid traveling to the United Kingdom at all costs because their stoic customs agents inspect travel documents closely and their humanity cannot be appealed to. When flying to locations outside of Europe it is recommended to depart from airports in Italy, Portugal and Spain whose immigration counters are known to be less organized than those of the UK, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. If you are detained and interrogated by the authorities you must not admit that you have been working; attempt to endear them towards you by acting oblivious, but respectful. Use tact, wit and charm to attempt talking your way out of it, and burst into tears if necessary.

To correct one's legal situation, the easiest route is often to get hitched with a citizen of any European country, either through domestic partnership or conventional marriage. For those who are valiant and physically fit, joining the French Foreign Legion provides French citizenship to recruits who pass a series of rigorous tests and then commit  to fighting on behalf of France. A counterfeit French passport costs between 1,600€ and 3,400€ on the deep web, although what you would really be paying for is the inevitable heart attack that you'd have in the airport before attempting to actually use it. Those who are committed to the idea of staying abroad are resilient and unwavering, capable of finding a way either through conventional or unconventional means.