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U.S. government targets hundreds of thousands of foreigners who have overstayed their visas

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 6 days ago By Daniel Shoer Roth
Rachel Zoe standing in front of a building: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during the daily news briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on June 18, 2018, in Washington, D.C. © Oliver Contreras/Sipa USA/TNS Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speaks during the daily news briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on June 18, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. government has pulled together the numbers and nationalities of foreign travelers who entered the country legally in 2017 as nonimmigrants but overstayed their visas or their authorized periods of admission - thus remaining in the country without legal status.

A Department of Homeland Security report for fiscal year 2017 shows that more than 606,000 visitors to the United States overstayed their tourist, work, business and student visas, among other categories of nonimmigrant admissions.

Those violations represent a tiny portion - 1.15 percent or 606,926 suspected overstays - of the estimated 52.6 million nonimmigrant admissions through air or sea ports of entry, according to the report.

However, despite the Trump administration's measures to strengthen immigration enforcement, this was the second year in a row in which more than 600,000 visitors stayed in the U.S. beyond their period of admission, becoming undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation.

"Identifying aliens who overstay their authorized periods of stay is important for national security, public safety, immigration enforcement, and processing applications for immigration benefits," the DHS report said.

The document emphasized that the DHS will continue to develop biographical and biometric data on travelers to improve the tracking and deportation of violators who remain the U.S despite being expected to leave.

The data show that people who overstay their visas account for an important part of undocumented immigration. An estimated 40 percent of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States arrived legally but stayed after their visas expired, the Associated Press reported this week.

Venezuelan nationals accounted for the highest overstay rate among Hispanics nonimmigrants admitted to the U.S. for business or tourism, according to the DHS statistics. Venezuelans are fleeing a deepening political and economic crisis in their country and South Florida is one of the biggest communities of expatriates.

During the last fiscal year, 538,827 Venezuelan visitors admitted with B1/B2 business and tourist visas were expected to leave and 30,424 overstayed their visits - a 5.65 percent overstay rate.

Venezuelans also recorded the highest rate of overstays of nonimmigrant student and exchange visitors (F, M and J visa categories) among Hispanics admitted to the U.S. Of 15,138 Venezuelans with those types of visas who were supposed to leave last year, 1,087 - or 7.18 percent - overstayed without legal status, the DHS said

Virtually tied for second and third places among Hispanic visitors who overstayed were Dominicans at 2.88 percent rate and Cubans at 2.86 percent rate. Fourth and fifth places went to El Salvador and Colombia.

Haitian nationals who visited the U.S. for business or pleasure had a 6.84 percent overstay rate.

Dominican, Salvadoran and Colombian students also followed Venezuelans on the list of student and exchange visitor overstays, according to the DHS report.

More broadly, the largest groups of people who entered the U.S. legally and then overstayed their visits were Canadians, with more than 92,000 remaining in the U.S. longer than they were permitted, followed by Mexicans, with more than 47,000. It is estimated that the numbers are higher because the DHS report does not include arrivals by land border crossings.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in the report's introduction that her agency is working with the U.S. State Department "to share information on departures and overstays, especially as it pertains to the visa application and adjudication process."

She stressed that the government's goal is to reinforce visa compliance and decrease overstay numbers and rates.

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