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Follow-Up Report On INS Efforts To Improve
The Control Of Nonimmigrant Overstays

Report No. I-2002-006
April 2002


In sum, the INS has made little progress in effectively addressing the problem of nonimmigrant overstays since we issued our 1997 report. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, focused renewed attention on the importance of knowing when nonimmigrant visitors enter and depart the United States. It is critical for the INS to be able to identify individual overstays, collect aggregate information on overstays, and develop an effective interior enforcement strategy for pursuing overstays who are identified as representing the greatest potential risk to the security of the United States.

Our original report focused on the weaknesses of the NIIS system that was, and still is, the INS's principal means of identifying overstays. At the time of our original report, the INS expected that its Automated I-94 System would provide the necessary arrival and departure information to identify overstays and help in the development of an effective enforcement strategy to address the problem. However, according to the INS's recent evaluation, the Automated I-94 System would not be able to identify overstays or meet the requirements of the USA Patriot Act, which mandates development of an integrated entry-exit control system. Consequently, the INS has terminated the Automated I-94 project.

As a result, the findings from our 1997 report still apply today. The INS does not have a reliable system to track overstays, does not have a specific overstay enforcement program, and cannot perform its responsibilities under the Visa Waiver Program to provide accurate data on overstays.

It is clear that the key to the timely identification of overstays is an integrated entry-exit control system. The INS and other federal agencies are now working together in a task force to develop such a system, with provisions for biometric identifiers and machine-readable documents. The first phase of the project will provide data that will allow the Attorney General to certify the continued participation of countries that are enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program, and the INS Commissioner has pledged to complete this phase by January 2003.

Even if this goal is met, however, completion of the entire entry-exit system will take years. In the interim, we believe the INS should consider taking steps to help address the issue of nonimmigrant overstays, such as implementing the recommendations from our 1997 report regarding the improvement of collection of departure records by working with airlines to promote carrier compliance, monitoring carrier compliance, and fining non-compliant airlines. We recognize that these steps are limited and will not address the need for a reliable entry-exit system. The success of the INS in developing such a reliable automated entry-exit system is essential to addressing the overstay issue. Because of its importance, the OIG intends to continue to monitor and evaluate the INS's progress in developing this critical system.