Nearly 500,000 foreigners overstay their welcome in the US

New figures show that almost half-a-million US visa holders overstayed their welcome in the country last year.

The report, obtained by American newspaper USA Today, studied nearly 45 million international travellers who entered the US through its air and seaports using business and pleasure visas in the 2015 fiscal year 2015. Of those, it found that 482,781 remained in the country past the expiration of their visa.

While the figures are sure to spark yet more immigration debate in the country – for the past few years there has been an ongoing debate regarding the number of undocumented immigrants in the country – it is worth noting that those who overstayed their visas are a tiny fraction (just over 1 per cent) of the nearly 45 million foreigners who legally entered the country in 2015.

This is the first time the Department of Homeland and Security have officially published such figures for a single fiscal year, despite having been first asked to do so in 1997.

Researchers said it was a welcome first step to understand the magnitude of the visa overstayer problem and figure out the best ways to solve it “We’re starting to get a better picture of how people flow through the immigration system with this report,” said Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Research Centre.

Visa overstayers represent an estimated 40 per cent of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in America.