The Most Overstayed Visas Are from Canada, Not Mexico

Despite years of hostile rhetoric regarding Mexican immigration, figures from the Department of Homeland Security showed that Canada is the biggest source of overstayed visas, followed by Mexico and Venezuela. An overstayed visa is a visa belonging to a nonimmigrant who has remained in the United States past their authorized period of residency. Overstays are most common among people with student visas and exchange visitor visas.

Overall, the DHS reports that overstays have declined. They attribute this to recent efforts from the Customs & Border Patrol, which has been given wider leeway to track and enforce overstayed visas. The CBP, among other efforts, has begun employing facial recognition technology and notifications.

“Besides gradually implementing facial recognition and biometric exit components at airports, we are being clear with people and advising them of their obligation to leave on time,” John P. Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner, said. “We have been sending email notifications to people when their expected date of departure is coming up. And if we don’t have a recorded departure of them, we are sending follow up emails about their overstay.”

George Bush Intercontinental Airport now has CBP-installed facial biometric exit tech. When CBP catches overstayed visitors, they're authorized to issue sanctions against them—including barring them from the country indefinitely.

On top of enforcement activities, the DHS has created a Traveler Compliance Check on its website. Using the TCC, visitors can check their period of admission and ensure their departure date is before the expiration of their visa. These efforts, at least to the CBP, are the reason that overstayed visas have declined over the last 12 months.

An Alternative Narrative to Political Rhetoric

Despite nearly every administration's focus on Mexican immigration as a 'problem,' Canadians with expired nonimmigrant visas outnumber Mexican visitors two to one. There are roughly 101,000 Canadians with expired visas in the United States, compared to about 53,000 Mexicans. While Canadian visitors have a lower rate of overstaying, their numbers are astounding.

Currently, there are no figures measuring undocumented Canadian immigrants in the United States.

“Unauthorized Europeans and Canadians have long received preferential treatment in U.S. politics and sometimes in policy,” said David FitzGerald, the Co-Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego. FitzGerald and other experts observed that Canadian immigrants can largely "pass" for Americans, which could explain why their visas are not scrutinized as closely.

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