Every year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provides data to Congress on the number of nonimmigrants who enter the U.S., and the number of departures corresponding to those entries. From these numbers, the government calculates the number of nonimmigrants who are suspected to have stayed in the U.S. beyond the authorized period of admission. Dividing this number by the expected number of departures yields the overstay rate.
All foreign nationals arriving in the U.S. provide biographic information to CBP officers, and for most, CPB also collects biometric data — fingerprints and photographs.
For departing travelers, the collection of biographic and biometric data is more complicated. As the report notes, “…transportation hubs and border infrastructure in the United States were not constructed with exit processing in mind.” For example, international air travelers are familiar with the experience of being funneled into room where CBP officers are waiting to ask you questions and inspect your documents. There is no comparable room for departing international passengers. Instead, commercial airlines provide biographical information about departing passengers. CBP has begun to deploy technology to capture biometric data (photographs, and facial recognition technology) in airports, but thus far the use of this technology is limited. In FY 2020, approximately 13 percent of noncitizens air travelers departing the U.S. had their biometric data captured and matched with entry data.
Land ports of entry (POEs) present greater challenges. First, it isn’t feasible to obtain advance information of arrivals and departures, as most travelers arrive by car or on foot, and thus there is no passenger manifest such as those provided by air carriers. But travelers are inspected upon arrival. BPB is testing facial recognition technology on car passengers arriving and departing one land POE in Texas, and will evaluate the success of that technology for possible wider deployment.
In the meantime, outbound travelers at the southern border may be subject to “pulse and surge” operations, where CBP collects biometric data with mobile devices.
For the northern land border, the U.S. and Canada are exchanging biographic entry data, so that when someone enters Canada, it is recorded as a departure from the U.S. This agreement applied to third-country nationals crossing the U.S./Canada border. On the southern border, for many individuals who are repeat border crossers, the U.S. records a departure for an individual when that individual re-enters the U.S.
The report explains what happens when the data shows an individual has not departed as expected. There are two types of overstays — Out-of-Country Overstays, where an individual fails to depart when required by the term of his or her admission, but subsequently departs, and Suspected In-Country Overstays, where the individual fails to depart and remains in the country. In the first group, individuals may be denied entry to the U.S. in the future. In the second group, lists are generated and examined by DHS for possible enforcement action, depending on set enforcement priorities.
The report contains tables breaking down statistics on overstays by Visa Waiver Program (VWP) nonimmigrants (nationals of countries for which the U.S. does not require visitors to obtain a visa) and non-VWP nonimmigrants (who must first apply for a visa before traveling to the U.S.). Tables are also broken down by visitors for business or pleasure, students and exchange visitors, and all others. (A few classes of nonimmigrants — diplomats, for example — are not included in the entry-exit data.)
For Fiscal Year 2020, the three Visa Waiver countries with the highest Suspected In-Country overstay rates in the visitor categories (out of 40 participating countries) were Brunei (2.01%); Portugal (1.90%) and Chile (1.53%). But some of these countries have few visitors, and a relatively high overstay rate does not mean there are many persons thought to have overstayed and remain in the country. For example, there were only 747 persons expected to depart from Brunei, and only 15 are suspected to remain in the country after their approved length of admission expired. The top three countries in number of Suspected In-Country overstays were the United Kingdom (19,635); Spain (11,395); and France (10,551).
For non-VWP countries, the corresponding statistics were Chad (24.78%); Djibouti (23.03%); and Sudan (22.31%). But in numbers: Brazil (46,711); Venezuela (31,599); and Columbia (30,479).
For students and exchange visitors, the top Suspected In-Country overstay rates were from nationals of Libya (49.83%); Burundi (36.36%); and Eritrea (32.35%). Numerically, the top countries were China (3,809); India (2,632); and Brazil (1,563).
The report, “Fiscal Year 2020 Entry/Exit Overstay Report” (September 30, 2021) is available on the DHS website HERE.
Image from Ars Electronica, under Creative Commons license.