Visa Holders Take Note: White House Memo Takes Aim at Visa Overstays

Written by Frederik Stefani – May 6, 2019

An independent organization, Center for Migration Studies of New York, in its report for 2017 concluded that the number of people crossing the southern US border reduced from 62% to 38%. Since 2012, the number of visa overstays has significantly exceeded illegal border crossings in each year. Visa overstays are people who were admitted in the United States with a legal visa and stayed in the country after it expired.

On April 22, 2019, the White House issued a new memo charging Secretaries of State and the Department of Homeland Security to reduce visa overstays. The White House is taking a strong stand to reduce the number of people who violate the rules of their admission to the United States.

Administration data shows that 415,000 people overstayed their legal visas in the United States in 2018. The memo quotes data showing that twenty countries have the highest overstay rates, at 10% to 40%.

The White House has requested the agencies, within 120 days, introduce recommendations to limit visa overstays. Some of the White Proposal are:
— Suspending visas for those countries with high overstay rates;
— Implementing admission bond to improve compliance 

The administration has already taken some actions to reduce the high rate of overstays by introducing advanced biometrics at ports of entry. However, a fully revised entry-exit process will be initiated by 2021. The administration is planning to initiate email and mail notifications to visa waiver program entrants of when their authorized stay ends and explaining the outcomes of refusal. In addition, visa waiver countries with more than a 2% overstay rate will be asked to create public awareness campaigns warning of the results of visa overstay actions.

Some countries with a high overstay rate are: Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Liberia, the Solomon Islands, Benin, and Burkina Faso. Other countries affected could include Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Sierra Leone.

What does all this mean for people who are in the US on a visa?
— If you are a current visa holder, it is your responsibility to know the expiration date of your visa and either leave the country or have it renewed before that date.
— If your visa has expired, seek legal advice immediately. A qualified immigration attorney can review your situation and recommend a course of action.
— If you are from one of the countries with a high overstay rate, or you have family in those countries, the proposed changes from the White House memo, once implemented, could make it significantly more difficult to get a visa.

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