Last Updated on August 28, 2016
A recent New York Times editorial presents an inaccurate picture on the number of Canadians who overstayed in the United States in 2015. Asserting that 100,000 Canadians overstayed, this number is most likely inflated since the Department of Homeland Security report clarifies the total number of 2015 overstays does not equal the total number who actually remain in the United States. The number of overstays is likely considerably lower because foreign nationals identified as possible overstays can and do subsequently depart the United States, or have been found to have adjusted their lawful status.
In its 2015 report, Entry/Exit Overstay Report for Fiscal Year 2015 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides data on departures and overstays by country, for foreign visitors to the United States. This report represents a snapshot of the number of foreign nationals who, despite having entered the United States legally through air or sea ports, went onto to stay beyond their stipulated admission period.
To deal with this issue several controls are in place to screen visitors to the United States. One such database that all foreign nationals are entered into is the Terrorist Screening Database to remove any possible threat to public and national security.
The Department identifies two types of overstays: Suspected In-Country Overstay and Out-of-Country Overstay. In FY 2015, out of nearly 45 million non-immigrant visitor admissions through air or sea ports of entry, 527,127 individuals (or 1.17 percent) overstayed their admission. For Canada the FY 2015 Suspected In-Country Overstay rate is 1.18 percent of the 7,875,054 expected departures. It should be noted that this figure represents only travel through air and sea ports of entry and does not include data on land border crossings.
This latest report by the DHS focuses on foreign nationals who entered the United States as non-immigrant visitors through an air or sea port of entry. This is because those visitors represent the vast majority of annual non-immigrant admissions. Unlike all other countries, over 95 percent of travelers from Canada enter the United States by land.
Given the difficulty in collecting information in the land environment due to travelers crossing borders using their own vehicle or as pedestrians, the US Customs and Border Protection created a partnership with the Canadian Border Services Agency. On June 30, 2013, the ‘Beyond the Border’ program came into existence and Canada began an exchange of information with the United States. Entry data was collected electronically for third-country nationals, permanent residents of Canada and U.S. lawful permanent residents, who entered through any land port of entry along the shared border. This entry/exit initiative helps both nations as an entry into one is recorded as an exit from the other. Overstay data concerning land entries will also be incorporated into future versions of this DHS report that was not reflected in the 2015 report.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU) is the department responsible for analyzing records of hundreds of thousands of potential status violators from various investigative databases with the aim of identifying, locating and prosecuting persons who overstay. They also remove overstays, prioritizing those who pose a risk to national security or public safety.
Despite the fact that the United States did not build its border, aviation, and immigration infrastructure with exit processing in mind, in recent years significant progress has been made towards improving the data collection process.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection obtain passenger manifest data on all commercial air and sea departures from the United States, and passenger data on land departures into Canada. CBP aims to verify entry and exit data to identify foreign travelers who have overstayed their period of admission to the United States.
At the end of FY 2015, the overall Suspected In-Country Overstay number was 482,781 individuals or 1.07 percent and by January 4, 2016, this number had dropped to 416,500 due to further departures by individuals in this group. The latest Suspected In-Country Overstay rate for FY 2015 is now 0.9 percent.
The DHS expects these numbers to fall even further over time with the aid of additional information being reported. The overall Suspected In-Country Overstay rate will continue to decline as there will be a rise in the number of individuals who have departed or transitioned to another immigration status after their initial period of authorized admission ended.
As of January 4, DHS was able to confirm the departures of over 99 percent of nonimmigrant visitors scheduled to depart in FY 2015 via air and sea POEs, and that number continues to grow. The Department of Homeland Security hopes to be able to provide a broader scope of data in future Entry/Exit Overstay Reports.
This topic has become an issue during the current US presidential election campaign. Hopefully the candidates will not rely on the inaccurate New York Times editorial when referring to Canada as a country with high rates of overstay.
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