No Coyote Needed: New Paper Examines Visa Overstays

No Coyote Needed
New Paper Examines Visa Overstays

Contact: David Seminara

WASHINGTON (March 2008) While presidential candidates promise to secure the border, the other major source of illegal immigration is largely ignored lax visa policies. Visa overstays account for between one-quarter to one-half of the illegal-alien population, and fencing, unmanned aerial vehicles, National Guard patrols, etc., are irrelevant to controlling this part of the immigration problem.

To shine some light on this neglected weakness, the Center for Immigration Studies has published a new paper, No Coyote Needed: U.S. Visas Still an Easy Ticket in Developing Counties, written by former State Department official David Seminara, examining the systemic problems in our nonimmigrant (i.e., temporary) visa system. The complete paper is online at

U.S. law places the burden of proof on the visa applicant to demonstrate that he wont remain in the United States as an illegal alien after his permission to remain has expired. Despite the laws tough language, 74 percent of nonimmigrant applications are granted, mostly from countries with much lower standards of living than the United States, where few residents should truly be able to qualify.

The new paper identifies some of the reasons for this laxity, including:

# The crushing volume of applications. Most visa-processing posts are woefully understaffed, resulting in very brief interviews. Managers value speed over clarity of decision making, so many applications that deserve closer scrutiny instead end up being approved.

# Foreign Service officers tend to have a diplomatic rather than a law enforcement mindset.

# Developing countries place great importance on visas in bilateral discussions.

# State Department managers are required to review only visa refusals not issuances forcing consular officers to routinely justify denials.

# DHS has not implemented meaningful exit controls or shared entry/exit data with consular officials overseas, leaving them without adequate information on visa renewal applicants.

# Officers evaluate how well-off visa candidates are by the standards of their home country, rather than by U.S. standards, and thus often fail to understand how a nurse from Ecuador, say, would prefer to wash dishes at a restaurant in New York.

# Refused applicants, their relatives, and members of Congress routinely pressure consular officials to overturn visa refusals.

# The simple reality that it is far easier to say yes to applicants than to dash their hopes by telling them that they dont qualify to come to America.

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The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institute
which examines the impact of immigration on the United States.

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(202) 466-8185 fax (202) 466-8076