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Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

What should GSC international students know about the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)?
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 handout to help you understand the kinds of information that Glenville State 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. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS – formerly the INS) 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. U.S. embassies and consulates also have access to SEVIS. At GSC we only have F-1 students.

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 the USCIS for many years. The existing paper-based system precluded widespread coordination amongst schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the BCIS 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 Glenville State College admits an international student, SEVIS is notified and the USCIS approves the University's request to issue an I-20. The University transmits the new bar-coded I-20 form to the student.

The student then 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. A BCIS officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student's entry into the U.S.

When the student arrives on campus, he/she will report to the Office of Admissions, and the school confirms through SEVIS the student's enrollment. GSC continues to provide regular electronic reports to USCIS throughout the student's academic career.

Finally, SEVIS records the student's departure from the United States.

What data does SEVIS collect?
Glenville State 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—so you would need approval from the Office of Admissions).
  • 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, practical training programs, 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.
  • Change in level of study ? Unauthorized employment.
  • 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 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 USCIS, via SEVIS, and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to USCIS 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 USCIS does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.

How will GSC help students comply with the immigration laws?
Glenville State College is committed to assist students in ways that prevent status violations from ever occurring. Accordingly, effective Fall semester 2003, three Registration changes will take effect. The changes are as follows:

  • All International students enrolled at GSC must physically check in with the Admissions Office on or prior to the first day of classes each semester. The Office of Admissions will review the student's immigration documents and confirm to SEVIS that the student has arrived on campus.
  • International students will not be able to drop below a full course of study without prior authorization from the Office of Admissions and their Academic Advisor. "Full-time" means 12 credits per semester for undergraduates. Acceptable reasons for reduced credit load are limited and authorization for such is rare.
  • All F-1 students who register for less than a full course of study (other than Summer Break) without a waiver of the full-time requirement will have their registration cancelled by the 4th day of classes.
Remember, only the Designated School Officials have authority to authorize a reduced credit load for F-1 students!

What happens if Glenville State College fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?
The USCIS is required to audit GSC’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 USCIS 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?

  • Read any e-mail updates from GSC and pay special attention to those from the Office of Enrollment Services, the Office of Admissions, and Academic Affairs. Periodically check for updates on the GSC 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 International Program coordinator in the Office of Admissions.
  • 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.

Are there other resources about SEVIS?
The USCIS has a good web site. You can access it at www.uscis.gov Another great website is www.immigrationagency.org/ Also please stop by the Office of Admissions for assistance at anytime. Glenville State College is a better place because you are here, and we are committed to your success!

** Some of the information contained in this document is general and some is specific to GSC. Information contained herein should not be used as the sole source of information for making decisions that may affect one's legal status in the U.S. or one's right to study, teach, conduct research, or work. Please seek assistance when taking actions and making decisions that will affect one’s legal status and rights to be in the U.S.

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