International Student FAQs: SEVIS: Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
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. This handout will help you understand the kinds of information that Raritan Valley Community 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 and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 student's academic career in the United States. U.S. embassies and consulates also have access to SEVIS. SEVIS Fee Information.
- 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 to SEVIS has been required by immigration for many years. But the existing 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 would come 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?
- After Raritan Valley Community College admits an international student, SEVIS is notified and the ICE approves the college's request to issue an I-20. The college transmits 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 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 the International Student Services (ISS), and the school confirms through SEVIS the student's enrollment. The University continues to provide regular electronic reports to ICE throughout the student's academic career.
- Finally, SEVIS records the student's departure from the United States.
- RVCC 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 advisors 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 quarter. 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 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 ICE, via SEVIS, and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to ICE 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 ICE does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.
- How will RVCC help students comply with the immigration laws?
The College is committed to assist students in ways that prevent status violations from ever occurring.
- F-1 students new to RVCC must physically check in with International Student Services (ISS) prior to registering for classes. An advisor will review the student's visa documents, confirm to SEVIS that the student has arrived on campus, and then release the restriction on the student's registration.
- All F-1 student who registers for less than a full course of study (other than Summer Quarter) without a waiver of the full-time requirement will have their registration cancelled by the 14th calendar day of the quarter.
- International students will not be able to drop below a full course of study after the 7th calendar day of the quarter without prior authorization from ISS.
"Full-time" means 12 credits per semester. 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 quarter off.
Remember, only the Designated School Officials in ISS have authority to authorize a reduced credit load!
- What happens if RVCC fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?
ICE 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 F1 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 ICE forms will be produced faster, applications for benefits such as Practical Training will be approved more quickly, and visas will be granted without the usual long delays.
- What should students do to prepare for SEVIS?
- Understand the immigration regulations and learn how to maintain lawful status in the U.S., and refer any questions or problems immediately to the experts in ISS.
- 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 ISS for assistance.
- Are there other resources about SEVIS?
The immigration Website has useful information for all F-1 students:
ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
Also, please refer to our SEVIS Fee Information page.
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