Wall Street Journal
By Damian Paletta
January 20, 2016
Roughly 500,000 foreigners who entered the U.S. by sea or air in 2015 overstayed their visa, the Department of Homeland Security said late Tuesday, reflecting the challenges officials face in tracking individuals amid a heightened threat of terror attacks.
DHS, in an “Entry/Exit Overstay Report,” said that 44,928,381 people were granted nonimmigrant admissions to the U.S. in the year that ended Sept. 30, and roughly 99% of them departed the U.S. on time. But 527,127 had overstayed their visa as of Sept. 30. As of Jan. 4, 416,500 of these individuals were still believed to be in the U.S., violating the terms of their visas.
The figures don't represent people who might have entered the U.S. illegally.
Lawmakers have been demanding new data on the number of people who overstay their immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, in part because of concerns that terrorists could pose as students, tourists or business travelers and plot attacks in the U.S.
The White House and lawmakers have said they are reviewing major changes to some of the visa programs following a terror attack in December that killed more than a dozen people in San Bernardino, Calif.
One of the attackers in that shooting rampage entered the U.S. on a fiancée visa, another type of entry program that is currently under review.
The new report shines a light on data from the visa-waiver program, a type of expedited entry process for foreigners from certain countries seeking temporary entry into the U.S. For most of these countries, which include places like the United Kingdom and France, 1% or fewer of the visitors overstayed their visa to the U.S. But DHS reported that 2% or more of the visitors from Greece (2.02%), Hungary (3.25%), Italy, (2.67%), Monaco (2.95%), Netherlands (4.35%), Portugal (2.06%) and San Marino (6.07%) had overstayed their visas. The visa-waiver program is under more scrutiny, particularly because multiple terrorists involved in the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, had the types of passports that would have qualified them for this special type of entry.
For countries that don’t participate in the visa-waiver program, there was much more disparity in terms of overstaying their visa, DHS reported.
For example, 10.63% of the 1,374 visitors from Afghanistan who were supposed to depart last year overstayed their visa, DHS said. Similarly, 19.9% of the 2,891 visitors from Kyrgyzstan didn't leave on time.
Of the Syrians who entered the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas last year, 6.5% of the 13,297 visitors overstayed their visa. The same goes for 7.03% of the 9,855 visiting Iraqis who had temporary nonimmigrant visas. U.S. officials have watched immigration from Syria and Iraq closely, in part because of fears about the spread of terrorism.
Djibouti, a small French- and Arabic-speaking country on the Horn of Africa, had the highest percentage of overstays, with 26.8% of the 347 people who received nonimmigrant visas staying longer than they were legally permitted. Meanwhile, every single visitor from the Vatican as well as the small countries of Nauru, Sao Tome, and the Solomon Islands left by the time their visa was set to expire.
The report also said that the U.S. government issued 29 nonimmigrant visas to people from North Korea last year. One of those people, the report said, overstayed his or her visa. Another 16,429 visas went to people legally visiting the U.S. from Iran. Of those, 526 overstayed, DHS said.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com