Homeland Security

New DHS data details scope of visa overstays


The Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of 38 countries to come into the U.S. without a formal visa for 90 days, has been under fire for being a possible gap in immigration security because of inadequate tracking of who is overstaying their visas.

A new study provides more detailed data on departures and overstays, by country, for foreign visitors to the U.S. who entered as nonimmigrant visitors through an air or sea Port of Entry and who were expected to depart in fiscal year 2016.

The Department of Homeland Security’s report for 2016 expands on the data included in the 2015 report, adding student travelers, worker classifications and other types of admission.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed 50,437,278 nonimmigrant admissions at U.S. airports and seaports. Of these, 739,478 overstayed their admission, for an overstay rate of 1.47 percent.

To help bring overstay rates down, DHS said it has found a "feasible biometric exit solution" based on its successful pilot of technology at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in 2016.

That trial partnered Customs and Border Protection with airlines to leverage facial recognition technology to confirm passenger identity. CBP said again that it plans to deploy the same technology to seven more airports in the coming months. The Government Accountability Office, however, has said the implementation may face significant hurdles at airports because those buildings and facilities aren't set up to handle it.

Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson testified a year ago that the biometric exit program had been expedited and was on schedule to be more widely deployed in 2018.

According to the report, DHS plans to build out its biometric exit capabilities and expand to more daily international flights in fiscal year 2017.

The Atlanta pilot and other efforts, "only account for a very small percentage of all the biographic departure records," for fiscal year 2017, but "it is an important first step towards implementing a comprehensive biometric entry and exit system," the report said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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