A nonimmigrant lawfully admitted to the United States for an authorized period of time, but who stays in the U.S. beyond the authorized period, has “overstayed” their visa. Should a nonimmigrant fail to maintain their status as a specific nonimmigrant—like dropping out of college—that person is also considered an overstay. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) maintain all the arrival and departure information of foreign nationals using border crossing and carrier data—it is a complex system of databases that analyzes and cross-references significant amounts of information.

Nonimmigrants who overstay their visas complicate our immigration system. Even though the incidence of overstay is fairly rare, it compromises the integrity of our system. Foreigners participating by way of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism without a visa, often makes it even more difficult to determine whether individuals left the country, are illegally violating the terms of their entry, or whether they are in the process of or recently completed a lawful extension of their stay in the United States.

To understand the incidence of overstays, and the potential impacts of legislation attempting to curb overstays, read our analysis here.

Note: this information was compiled and presented by Niskanen interns Vanessa Meraz and Meghna Choudhary.

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