The news media has reported extensively on how the U.S. government is seeking more efficient ways of managing data on international students in the United States. We have prepared this information to help you understand the kinds of data that Drury University, and all colleges and universities in the U.S., must maintain on international students and how this information is shared with the government in a manner prescribed by law. We hope you find this explanation helpful.
What is SEVIS?
SEVIS is an internet-based system that allows schools and the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to exchange data on the immigration status of internationals. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the United States. U.S. embassies and consulates also have access to SEVIS.
Is SEVIS new?
Yes. And no. The requirement that schools provide the federal government with information about each student's status is not new. Most of the information that will be reported has been required by the INS for many years. But the existing paper-based system prevented widespread coordination among schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the INS (now DHS) to move to an electronic data collection system. This program would come to be known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). Technical challenges and lack of funding delayed the program for several years. However, in October 2001, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act authorizing additional SEVIS funding and required nationwide compliance by January 30, 2003.
How does SEVIS work?
* After Drury University admits an international student, SEVIS is notified, and the DHS approves Drury’s request to issue an immigration form (I-20 or DS-2019). Drury sends the new bar-coded form to the student.
* The student pays a SEVIS fee and a visa application fee and visits the U.S. consulate abroad, and the consulate confirms through SEVIS that the immigration form the student is carrying is a valid document. If everything is in order, the consulate issues the visa.
* A DHS officer at the U.S. port of entry reports to SEVIS the student's entry into the U.S.
* When the student arrives on campus, he/she reports to the International Support Services Office, and the school confirms through SEVIS the student's enrollment. Drury continues to provide regular electronic reports to DHS throughout the student's academic career.
* Finally, SEVIS records the student's departure from the United States.
What data does SEVIS collect?
Drury University must report:
* Whether the student has enrolled at the school, or failed to enroll.
* A change of the student or dependent's legal name or address.
* Any student who graduates prior to the end date listed on the I-20.
* Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction.
* If the student drops below a full course of study without prior authorization from the DSO (Immigration regulations refer to the international student adviser as "designated school official" - DSO).
* Termination date and reason for termination.
* Other data generated by standard procedures such as program extensions, school transfers, changes in level of study, employment authorizations, and reinstatement.
* Any student who fails to maintain status or complete his or her program.
What does "fail to maintain status" mean?
Some examples of failure to maintain status include dropping from full-time to part-time enrollment without prior approval from the DSO, attending a school other than the one the student is authorized to attend, failure to apply for a timely transfer of schools, failure to apply for a timely extension of program, failure to apply for a timely change in level of studies, unauthorized employment, and failure to report a change of address in 10 days.
What are the consequences if a student fails to maintain status?
The student's record will be updated with SEVIS every semester. Students who fail to maintain status lose the privileges of their student immigration status and become subject to deportation. Specific consequences may include denial of re-entry to the U.S., inability to move from undergraduate to graduate status, denial of requests for practical training, denial of requests for change of immigration status, and possible denial of all future visa applications.
Can a student who is "out of status" regain legal status?
If a student drops below a full course of study without prior approval from the DSO, the "event" would be reported to DHS, via SEVIS, and the student would be out of status. The student may apply to DHS for reinstatement if the violation resulted from circumstances beyond his or her control. Reinstatement is intended to be a rare benefit for exceptional cases. The student may not apply for reinstatement if s/he is out of status longer than five months unless s/he can show exceptional circumstances beyond her/his control such as: serious injury or illness, closure of the institution, or a natural disaster. If DHS does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.
How will Drury help students comply with the immigration laws?
Drury is committed in assisting students in ways that prevent status violations from occurring. F-1 students new to Drury must physically check in with the International Support Services Office (ISS) during new international student orientation. ISS reviews the student's immigration documents and confirms in SEVIS that the student has arrived on campus. International students are not able to drop below a full course of study without prior authorization from ISS.
"Full-time" means 12 credits fall and spring semester for undergraduates, and 8 credits for graduate students.
Acceptable reasons for reduced credit load include:
* Medical problem. (12 months maximum). Medical documentation from a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or licensed clinical psychologist stating problem and how long the student is advised to reduce course load must be submitted to the ISO. If for two semesters, must be revalidated each semester.
* Initial difficulties with English language or reading requirements. (First semester only.) Advisor or instructor’s letter must be submitted to the ISS.
* Unfamiliarity with American teaching methods/improper course level placement. (One semester only). Advisor’s letter must be submitted to the ISS.
* Final semester for degree.
* Concurrent enrollment at another institution. Student must supply transcript to the ISO.
Students must complete at least 6 credit hours even with authorization for a reduced course load (except for medical reasons or last semester for degree ). Remember, only the Designated School Official in the ISO has authority to authorize a reduced credit load!
What happens if Drury fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?
The DHS is required to audit Drury’s compliance with these new requirements every two years. Failure to comply with the federal regulations could result in the loss of Drury’s ability to accept international students.
Will SEVIS benefit students in any way?
Data moves faster through an electronic system than through a paper system. Students can expect that DHS forms will be produced faster, applications for benefits such as practical training will be approved more quickly, and visas will be granted with shorter delays.
What should students do to prepare for SEVIS?
* Read all mail and e-mail from ISS, and periodically check ISS web site. Changes in immigration procedures can happen quickly. Information is shared as soon as we have the facts.
* Understand the immigration regulations, learn how to maintain lawful status in the U.S., and refer any questions or problems immediately to the experts in ISS. The four words we hate to hear are: "But my friend said!". Information on how to maintain F-1 student status can also be found on the ISS website.
* Be proactive. Students should plan their course schedules carefully so that they maintain full-time enrollment. Make travel arrangements early, and anticipate delays at consulates and border crossings. Keep all documents up-to-date. Changes in degree level, extension of program, and travel validations must be done in a timely manner and on SEVIS documents. Allow time for processing new forms.
* Feel free to come to ISS for assistance. Drury University is a better place because you are here, and we are committed to your success!
Where can I find information about SEVIS? The DHS has a good web site.
The ISS has scheduled information meetings about SEVIS throughout the semester. Check your e-mail and our web site for announcements. Also, if you have specific questions about your immigration status, call ISS at 873-7885, visit us in the Findlay Student Center, room 113, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.