Skift Take

Visa overstays are a hot topic for xenophobic politicians, but the data indicates that very few international travelers choose to remain in the U.S. illegally. It also so happens that the worst offenders are America's neighbors.

For all the political rigmarole about restricting visitors to the U.S. from countries such as Syria and Iran, a report from the Department of Homeland Security indicates that Canadians are the most likely visitors to remain in the U.S. after their visa expires.

Overall, 527,127 foreign visitors overstayed their visa in the 2015 fiscal year out of 44,928,381 total admitted visitors. This means that 1.17 percent of foreign visitors to the U.S. who entered without an immigrant visa overstayed in the U.S.

The worst culprits by far were Canada and Mexico, which combined for 145,178 total overstays, more than a quarter of those who didn’t leave the U.S. after visa expiration. The numbers in the report don’t even include land entries from both U.S. neighbors, meaning the actual numbers are probably much higher.

The report indicates how difficult it is for Homeland Security to account for all foreign travelers who enter the U.S.

“The process of matching data to determine overstays has been extremely difficult, as the data collection processes for arrival and departure information are not the same,” writes Homeland Security. “The United States did not build its border, aviation, and immigration infrastructure with exit processing in mind. Despite these significant challenges, in recent years, the Department has made substantial improvements to enhance its capability to record arrivals and departures from the United States, detect overstays, and interdict threats.”

A look at the data shows that overstay percentages are misleading, because the countries with the highest rate of overstay have a tiny number of overall visitors.

Djibouti, for instance, had the highest overstay rate of any country with 27.67 percent of Djiboutians overstaying their visa. But only 96 total travelers overstayed.

Here’s a breakdown of the top ten countries.

Country Total FY2015 overstays
Canada 99,906
Mexico 45,272
Brazil 36,991
Germany 22,554
Italy 18,997
U.K. 18,950
China 18,246
Colombia 17,155
India 14,348
Venezuela 12,729

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Tags: canada, mexico, tourism, usa, visa waiver

Photo credit: Kevin Molloy, VP Simplified Passenger Travel, Vancouver Airport Authority, (right) and John Wagner, Acting Deputy Assistant Commissioner, US Customs and Border Protection (centre), assist one of the first US passengers using the newly launched Automated Passport Control kiosk at Vancouver International Airport, Richmond, BC, Tuesday, May 7, 2013. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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