The information below borrows extensively from information provided by the International Services Office at the University of Washington. The University of Washington graciously provided this information for use by international student offices at schools who are members of NORIE (Northern Oregon International Educators). We acknowledge and appreciate the fine work of our colleages at the University of Washington.
The news media has reported extensively on how the U.S. government is seeking more efficient ways of managing information on international students in the United States. We have prepared this web page to help you understand the kinds of information that Lewis & Clark College, 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, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State's overseas embassies and consulates and port of entry officials to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the United States.
Is SEVIS new?
No. The requirement that schools provide the federal government with information about each student's status has been in effect for many years. . But the former paper-based system precluded widespread coordination amongst schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the INS to move to an electronic data collection system. This program came to be known as SEVIS-the 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 that authorized additional SEVIS funding and required nationwide compliance by January 30, 2003.
How does SEVIS work for new students?
* After Lewis & Clark College admits an international student, SEVIS is notified and the DHS approves the College's request to issue an I-20. The College sends the new bar-coded I-20 form to the student.
* The student visits the U.S. consulate abroad, and the consulate confirms through SEVIS that the I-20 the student is carrying is a valid document. If everything is in order, the consulate issues the visa.
* An DHS port of entry officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student's entry into the U.S.
* When the student arrives on campus, he/she reports to International Students and Scholars (ISS), and the staff confirms through SEVIS the student's enrollment. The College 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.
How does SEVIS work for continuing students?
* Continuing students need to report any changes in major, full-time study, address, telephone number, exit and entry to and from the US or employment to ISS immediately after the change takes place.
What data does SEVIS collect?
Lewis & Clark College 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.
* Whether the student drops below a full course of study without prior authorization from the DSO (Immigration regulations refer to international student advisers as "designated school officials"-DSO's).
* 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 a student is authorized to attend, failure to apply for a timely transfer or I-20 extension or change in level of study, unauthorized employment, and failure to report a change of address.
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 visa 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 Optional Practical Training, denial of requests to change visa 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, that "event" would be reported to DHS, via SEVIS, and he or she 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 under any circumstances if he or she is out of status longer than five months. If DHS does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.
How will the Lewis & Clark College help students comply with the immigration laws?
The College is committed to assist students in ways that prevent status violations from ever occurring. Accordingly, effective Spring Semester 2003, two registration changes will take effect.
1. Beginning in the spring semester of 2003, international students on F-1 and J-1 visas will not be permitted to register for less than full time study unless they have an official "Underload Form" approved by International Students and Scholars. An "alert" has been added to the Registrar's files to ask for documentation.
2. All F-1 and J-1 students who register for less than a full course of study (other than summer semester) without a waiver of the full-time requirement will have their registration cancelled by the 14th calendar day of the semester.
A "full-time" course load is defined as:
- ESL (Regular): 12 credits
- ESL (Short Session): 8 credits
- Undergraduate: 12 credits
- LLM: 5 credits
- JD (Day): 12 credits
- JD (Night): 9 credits
- Graduate School (all programs): 6 credits
Acceptable reasons for reduced credit load include:
* Students who experience academic difficulties (for example, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods) may take a reduced credit load.
* Students in their final term of study need only the credits required to complete the degree.
* Students who have a medical problem can reduce their credit load or take the term off.
Remember, only the staff members in International Student Services have authority to authorize a reduced credit load!
What happens if the Lewis & Clark College fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?
The DHS is required to audit the College's compliance with these new requirements every two years. Failure to comply with the federal regulations could result in the loss of the College'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 Optional Practical Training will be approved more quickly, and visas will be granted without the usual long delays.
What should students do to comply with SEVIS?
* Read any email updates from International Student Services , and periodically check for "Newsflash!" items on the ISS web site. Changes in immigration or visa procedures sometimes happen quickly. Information is posted as soon as we have reliable facts.
* Understand the immigration regulations and learn how to maintain lawful status in the U.S., and refer any questions or problems immediately to the staff in the ISS. The four words we hate to hear are: "But my friend said…"
* 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, extensions, 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 the ISS for assistance. Lewis & Clark College is a better place because you are here, and we are committed to your success!
Are there other resources about SEVIS?
The DHS has a good web site at: SEVIS