Now You Know

Immigration Deep Dive: Visa Overstays


Amid the chaos and controversy about illegal immigration at the U.S. Southern Border, a closer look at an often overlooked group of people illegally in America: those who overstay their visas.

Now You Know

About The Visa Program:

  • Every year the U.S. issues more than 9M nonimmigrant visas for foreigners entering temporarily for touristic, work or educational purposes. Length of visas vary.
  • Under the Visa Waiver ProgramA (VWP), citizens of 38 countries (ex: Australia, Japan & many EU countries) are free to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.
Now You Know

The Visa Process:

  • Visa recipients must apply (usually in person at a U.S. embassy), provide identification & get approval by the U.S. government.
  • Those who overstay are considered “unlawfully present.”
  • Often quoted data includes ALL visa overstays, even those who eventually leave. We looked at the most recent numbers of those suspected of not leaving yet.
Now You Know

A Look At FY2017:

We don’t know how many entered illegally, but we know visa overstays outpaced border arrests.

  • More than 600KA of the 52.6M who entered (via air or sea) were suspected of staying beyond the time their visa allowed.
  • More than 310KA were apprehended while trying to enter illegally at a U.S. border.
Now You Know

A Closer Look:

In 2017, the overstay rate of those suspected of staying beyond the time their visa allowed was 1.15% (meaning more than 98% left under the terms of their visas).

Who were the least & most likely to overstay?A Those on student or exchange visas had an overstay rate of 4.15%. The overstay rate for Visa Waiver Program countries was .51%.

Now You Know

Top 10 Countries of Visa Overstayers (FY2017)

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Venezuela
  • UK
  • India
  • Colombia
  • Nigeria
  • FranceA
Now You Know

HOW DOES IT HAPPEN? A lack of information sharing & inadequate technology. A 2017 report by the federal gov't concluded that the "Department of Homeland Security IT systems don't effectively support ICE visa tracking operations." Also, some visa exit dates and extension requirements, especially for students, are vague.

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