U.S. Looks the Other Way as Students Overstay Their Visas



The latest data on foreign nationals who overstay their student visas in this country is an eye-opener. The number who are actually removed is even more disturbing.

While 68,593 visiting students failed to exit the U.S. when their visas expired in 2018, a mere 186 of those scofflaws were actually sent home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A Department of Homeland Security report indicates that roughly half the students with expired visas in 2017 were still in the country a year later.

Although students comprise a small subset of total overstays, the Center for Immigration Studies says they are particularly troubling for several reasons:

  • Student/exchange visitors are admitted for long periods with relatively little supervision.
  • The visas grant entry to some people who would not otherwise qualify for admission to the United States.
  • Student visas, albeit a small number, have a proven association with terrorism and espionage.
  • Student/exchange programs are easily exploited by unscrupulous schools that admit unqualified foreigners who then overstay. CIS estimates that as many as 40,000 individuals have entered through such “visa mills,” only to melt into the general population.

The largest number of student visa overstays last year came from China (12,924), India (5,716), Saudi Arabia (3,917), Brazil (3,196) and South Korea (3,069). Mexico and Canada were not counted, making the government’s tally incomplete.

As for the low percentage of removals, that may be due to ICE’s focus on national-security and public-safety threats. Yet the issuance of student visas to people from global hot spots (Eritrea, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria, to name a few) raises more red flags. It’s hardly comforting that students from those five countries have among the highest overstay rates, ranging from 32 percent to 52 percent.

Clearly, America’s student-visa system is compromised, and requires immediate attention. Enhanced vetting of groups with high overstay rates, and tougher sanctions on schools/exchange programs with poor compliance records would be two good places to start.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

11 Comments

  1. avatar

    Tis a sad situation where our laws mean nothing. Foreigners are allowed to violate our laws with impunity. And certain companies and well-connected citizens also are allowed to violate the laws. If the laws are bad, change them. Otherwise, enforce them. Think about that when you vote.

  2. avatar

    The solution to this problem, and the ONLY solution to this problem, is to get a felony law with a $2500 fine PLUS six months in jail for being in this country illegally. I am surprised that FAIR, NumbersdUSA, CAPS and other anti- illegal alien groups don’t insist that congress pass such a law. This would not only cover the overstayed VISA’s, it would cover DACA illegal aliens and every other illegal alien in this country. Let’s stop talking about illegal aliens and get them out of this country. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of them!

  3. avatar

    People are under the misconception that they do not receive financial aid when indeed they do. They have the same ability to apply for FAFSA and many grants that limit the availability for
    American born entrance Freshman. Many of these Universities are liberal to begin with & care less about expired visas or their progress reports in declared majors. The more the money-making merrier. But our students must keep a grade point average to be in a continuance of said grant or scholarship. Many Visa over-stays come from global hot-spots for terrorism & it’s imperative to make the Univ. accountable in the wallet as to their very own lackluster vetting system. The guise of diversity & exchange cultures has gone beyond monitored scrutiny.

    • avatar
      Thalia Babineau on

      I always assumed that the only ones who stayed were those persecuted by their governments at home. These last few years have really jarred my eyes opened with a shake.

  4. avatar

    There is a simple solution to the student Visa issue and that is: 1. Develop a very restrictive list of academic majors allowed for foreign students. After all, students from China, etc, do not need to come here for nursing school, business school, etc. 2. Limit USA universities allowed to accept foreign students. There is no reason for any foreigner coming here to attend a second tier college in Timbucktwo, USA. 3. Make the university accepting the foreign student completely, totally responsibile for that person for the entire degree program here. Make the school first sign legal documents accepting responsibility and agreement to a $500,000 fine if the school misplaced the student, does not keep close tabs on the student’s progress and living address, dies not contact the appropriate US authority near the end of the degree program to arrange the student leaving the USA/returning home. There should also be a clearcut set of rules/regulations for both the student and the university.

    • avatar

      A note on the Chinese students: Most come here to study the hard sciences and engage in as many joint ventures as possible, then they take the knowledge back home to improve their military capabilities. The government of China plans to destroy the U.S. and essentially take control of the world. They have two main focuses for this, economic and military. They steal our tech and use it against us or sell it back to us. With essential zero cost for R&D, they can sell it cheaper.
      Trump has put a dent in their economic situation but we still have to purchase some components for our military equipment from China. If you have to buy the parts to keep your military equipment functional from your number one enemy, that is not a viable situation.

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