Homeland Security: Overstay Tracking Is a Key Component of a Layered Defense, Statement by Nancy R. Kingsbury, Managing Director, Applied Research, and Methods, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives   [open pdf - 646KB]

"Each year, millions of visitors, foreign students, and immigrants come to the United States. Visitors may enter on a legal temporary basis--that is, with an authorized period of admission that expires on a specific date--either (1) with temporary visas or, in some cases (2) as tourists or business visitors who are allowed to enter without visas. Significant numbers of foreign visitors overstay their authorized periods of admission. This has heightened attention to issues such as (1) the extent of overstaying, (2) weaknesses in our current overstay tracking system, and (3) how the tracking system weaknesses and the level of overstaying might affect domestic security. Because of unresolved weaknesses in DHS's current system for tracking arrivals and departures there is no accurate list of overstays. Two new tracking initiatives are intended to address these weaknesses. NSEERS, the National Security Entry and Exit Registration System, does not cover most visitors. US-VISIT, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, a more comprehensive, automated program, is being phased in. Evaluating US-VISIT against the weaknesses GAO identifies here would increase its potential for success. The current tracking system's weaknesses limit control options and make it difficult to monitor potential terrorists who enter the country legally. Like other illegal immigrants, overstays obtain jobs with fraudulent identity documents, including jobs at critical infrastructure locations, such as airports. Thus, tracking issues can affect domestic security. Improving the tracking system could work with intelligence, investigation, information-sharing, and other factors to help counter threats from foreign terrorists."

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