Nearly 740,000 foreigners overstayed visas last year, U.S. officials say

SAN DIEGO -- The U.S. Homeland Security Department says nearly 740,000 foreigners who were supposed to leave the country during a recent 12-month period overstayed their visas.

The count released Monday includes people who arrived in the U.S. by plane or boat but does not include ground border crossings.

Countries with the highest number of visa overstays during the period from October 2015 to September 2016 were Canada, Mexico, Brazil, China and India.

The number of visa overstays was about 200,000 higher than the previous 12-month period.

That's largely because this year's report adds students, who overstayed visas at a much higher rate than business travelers and tourists. Students were not included in last year's report.

An estimated 40 percent of the roughly 11 million people in the United States illegally have overstayed their visas.

Meanwhile, the H-1B visa program that brings tens of thousands of temporary workers to the U.S. each year is under review. Last month, President Trump directed federal agencies to review the visa program.

Mr. Trump announced an initiative in April, dubbed "Buy American, Hire American," at the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-on in Kenosha, Wisconsin."Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery and that's wrong," he said. "Instead, they should be given to [the] most skilled and highest-paid applicants, and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans."

The president followed his remarks by signing an executive order requiring the government to reexamine the visa program.

The White House says the H-1B visa program undercuts American workers by bringing in large numbers of cheaper, foreign workers, driving down wages.

The order directs U.S. agencies to propose rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the program. They would also be asked to offer changes so that H-1B visas are awarded to the "most-skilled or highest-paid applicants," said administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity despite the president's frequent criticism of the use of anonymous sources.

The commerce secretary will review how to close loopholes in existing rules and provide recommendations to the president.