Temporary Visitors to U.S. At All-Time High, Nobody’s Keeping Track of Them

By Alissa Tabirian | September 4, 2013 | 3:39pm EDT

(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Visas for temporary visitors entering the United States have increased 61 percent since 1992, according to data released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). But the federal government has no way to make sure they leave when their visas expire.

Out of 165 million non-immigrant admissions to the U.S. last year, 53.9 million were “temporary visitors for business and pleasure,” according to the Office of Immigration Statistics’ 2012 Annual Flow Report. In 1992, this number was 20.9 million, marking a 61 percent increase in temporary admissions over the past 21 years.

In 2012, 78 percent of non-immigrant admissions were foreigners who came to the U.S. as tourists, up from 76.4 percent in 2011 and 75.6 percent in 2010, according to the report.

Non-immigrants may be granted visas for “temporary visits for business or pleasure, academic or vocational study, temporary employment, or to act as a representative of a foreign government or international organization.”

Most of the visas issued in 2012 to temporary visitors, workers, and students went to visitors from Mexico (31 percent), the United Kingdom (8.3 percent), and Japan (7.7 percent), the “leading countries of citizenship for I-94 admissions.”

Upon arrival in the U.S., tourists complete an I-94 “Arrival/Departure” form, which must then be approved by the U.S. Border Patrol to authorize the visit. Visitors are generally required to return their I-94s upon departure from the U.S.

CNSNews previously reported that the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the Senate immigration bill passed in June, which would put illegal aliens on a pathway to citizenship, would also “allow the flow of new illegal aliens into the United States to continue at a rate equal to 75 percent of the current rate of illegal immigration,” partly “because of people who overstay temporary work visas that will be authorized by the bill.”

A House hearing in June revealed that the U.S. Border Patrol does not have an exit program to track individuals leaving the U.S., and thus cannot track visa overstays. Approximately “40 percent of the 11 million or more illegal aliens living in the United States entered the country legally with a visa but overstayed the date for departure.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) referred to the lack of an exit program as “the biggest gaping hole we have on our border.”

Rebecca Gambler, director of the Homeland Security and Justice Team for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), testified in May that the DHS has not been able to locate 266 potentially dangerous foreign nationals who overstayed their visas since 2011 out of 1,901 temporary visitors considered threats to national security.

“All the hijackers who committed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks . . . entered the country legally on a temporary visa, mostly tourist visas with entry permits for six months,” according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Some of the hijackers had expired visas at the time of the attack.

DHS did not answer CNSNews’ requests for further information.

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