DHS: Foreign Students Overstay Visas At Twice The Rate Of ‘Regular’ Visitors

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

When it comes to overstaying a non-immigrant visa, foreign students are more than twice as likely to violate the terms of their stay as visitors who come to the U.S. for business or pleasure, according to government data released Tuesday.

There were a total of 1,662,369 foreign students and exchange program visitors who were expected to change status or leave the country in fiscal year 2017, the Department of Homeland Security said in its annual overstay report.

Of those, nearly 69,000 — or 4.15 percent — failed to do so on time. That was more than double the overstay rate of 2.06 percent for foreign tourists and business travelers from non-visa waiver countries, and nearly four times the 0.58 percent from countries in the visa waiver program.

The figures for student visa overstays in DHS’s fiscal year 2017 report are in keeping with those reported in the same study the previous year, when the student overstay rate was more than 5 percent compared to an overall of just over 2 percent. Both reports indicate that the student and exchange visa categories — F, J and M visas — are particularly susceptible to abuse by foreigners looking to stay in the U.S. beyond the terms of their visas.

The student and exchange visitor overstays are just one slice of a larger population of overstays that is a significant contributor to the country’s illegal immigrant population. Overall, there were about 702,000 “overstay events” in fiscal year 2017, according to DHS. (RELATED: DHS: More Than 700K Foreigners Overstayed Their Visas In 2016)

Of those, about 607,000 were so-called “in-country” overstays, meaning that immigration authorities had no record of a departure at the end of the fiscal year. About 421,000 of the FY2017 in-country overstays still showed no record of leaving as of May 1, meaning most were probably still somewhere in the U.S.

Although estimates vary, many immigration experts believe more than 40 percent of all illegal immigrants living in the U.S. arrived on a legitimate non-immigrant visa and never left.

In the student and exchange visa categories, just five countries accounted for nearly half of all overstays, according to DHS. Students from China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Brazil were responsible for a combined 30,062 overstay events, or 44 percent of the total.

Of those countries, China had the most number of overstays at 15,105, while Brazil had the highest overstay rate, at 5.68 percent.

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