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

Daniel Shoer Roth, El Nuevo Herald on

Published in News & Features

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

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