U.S. says nearly 740K foreigners overstayed visas last year

  • U.S. says nearly 740K foreigners overstayed visas last year

U.S. says nearly 740K foreigners overstayed visas last year

Of the more than 50 million non-immigrant admissions at US air and sea ports of entry who were expected to depart last year, 739,478 overstayed their admission, according to DHS's "Fiscal Year 2016 Entry/Exit Overstay Report".

"Identifying overstays is important for national security, public safety, immigration enforcement, and processing applications for immigration benefits", the report said. Of the 79,818, 40,949 are suspected in-country overstays (2.81 percent).

Of the total number of overstays last year, 628,799 people or 1.25 percent had no record of departure, known as an "in-country" overstay at the end of the fiscal year, according to DHS. Of these, 739,478 overstayed their admission, resulting in a total overstay rate of 1.47 per cent.

A majority of the roughly 740,000 people DHS reported remained in the country illegally at the end of 2016 are long-term overstays, with almost 630,000 still in the country at year's end.

However, a DHS inspector general report earlier this month found that a "fragmented, ineffective" set of information technology (IT) systems hinder efforts by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track visa overstays.

While it's hard to know exact numbers, some analysts say that for every illegal immigrant nabbed at the border, another one gets through. But the sheer amount of travel - some 54 million visitors who came through those air and sea ports - means even that small overstay rate works out to almost 740,000 illegal immigrants.

The highest rates of overstays were from countries outside the visa-waiver program, according to the New York Times research. That means that fewer than 500,000 new illegal immigrants a year have snuck in.

Homeland Security experts say those who come legally then overstay have at least faced some scrutiny, often by State Department employees who issue visas, and then by border officers who make a final determination on everyone admitted. But several members of the September 11 terrorist plot overstayed their visas.

The report is years overdue, and the Obama administration struggled to get it done, with then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sending versions back for rewrites.

The report, which is only a snapshot in time, represents about 96 percent of all people entering the US on a temporary visa, including temporary workers, students, exchange visitors, personal travel and business travel - a larger pool of people than the 2015 report. It also only covers sea and air arrivals - the DHS still has trouble tracking land-based visa visitors.