DHS Overestimates Visa Overstays for 2016: Overstay Population Growth Near Zero During the Year

Report Author: 
Robert Warren
Original Date of Publication: 
December, 2017

In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security released a report on visa overstays, i.e. non-immigrants admitted to the United States on temporary visas, e.g. visitors, students, who had not departed the country by the expiration date of their authorized stay. The report found that there were 628,799 people in this category in 2016 and provided detailed breakdowns by country of origin. This paper assesses the credibility of these estimates for 133 countries by comparing them to estimates derived by the Center for Migration Studies of New York using a different methodology. Although the author found rough correspondence in estimates for 90 of 133 countries (less than 2000 difference), the study also found wide variations for other large sending countries, particularly so-called visa waiver (VWP) countries. For example, CMS found only 500 overstays for the United Kingdom, but DHS reported 21,700; CMS found 900 for Canada, but DHS reported 119,400. The reason for these wide discrepancies is that the DHS estimates include people who did indeed exit the country in a timely fashion, but whose departure was not recorded. Instead of 628,799 overstays, the actual number is probably closer to 316,000, according to the author. The report concludes that "the best information available indicates that overstays from VWP countries remain at extremely low levels and that the total overstay population is growing very slowly." (Diversity Dynamics)

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Report File: 

Warren, R. (2017). DHS Overestimates Visa Overstays for 2016; Overstay Population Growth Near Zero During the Year. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 5(4). https://doi.org/10.14240/jmhs.v5i4.108

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