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.
- 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/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.