New Automated System Checks for Visa Violations

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other immigration enforcement agencies have begun to use an automated system to identify immigrants and visitors to the United States who have overstayed their visas, a DHS official recently told The Associated Press.

John Cohen, deputy counterterrorism coordinator at DHS, told the source the new system links national security, immigration and law enforcement databases to streamline the process of cross-referencing the names of visa applicants and holders. Cohen said the number one priority is identifying individuals who remain in the country on expired visas or who are violating their visa conditions.

The recent 10-year anniversary of 9/11 drew renewed attention to this issue, as people were reminded that some of the hijackers had overstayed their visas or were not attending the school they had named on their student visa applications.

Cohen told the AP the automated system has identified 839,000 people in the country in violation of their visas. This is slightly more than the number Rand Beers, under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, gave the Senate Committee on Homeland Security in July. Beers said federal agencies are collaborating to address 757,000 visa overstays flagged as national security concerns.