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May 20, 2002
Volume 80, Number 20
CENEAR 80 20 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347


IMMIGRATION

TRACKING FOREIGN STUDENTS
New electronic data system aims to enhance security

The federal government is fine-tuning its efforts to keep closer tabs on foreign students studying in the U.S.

Under a proposed regulation announced on May 10 by Attorney General John Ashcroft, schools and other institutions of higher learning would have to begin using an electronic database to report information on foreign students to the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) by Jan. 30, 2003. But they can begin using the INS Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) on a voluntary basis on July 1.

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Ashcroft
PHOTO BY PETER CUTTS
SEVIS is an Internet-based system meant to provide the government and educational institutions with a way to swap timely information about foreign students. Current estimates of the U.S. foreign student population stand at about 1 million people.

"For too long, our student visa system has been a slow, antiquated, paper-driven reporting system incapable of ensuring that those who enter the U.S. as students are in fact attending our educational institutions," Ashcroft said. "Today we begin the process of bringing our student visa system into the 21st century."

Data that must be reported to SEVIS include, among other things, a student's enrollment at the school, a student dropping below a full course of study without prior authorization, and a change of the student's legal name or address.

An INS spokesman notes that schools are already required to report this information. The new regulation, he points out, only governs the means of reporting--that is, the use of SEVIS, which can be viewed at http://www.ins.gov/graphics/services/tempbenefits/sevp.htm.

Also last week, President George W. Bush signed the Enhanced Border Security & Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. The new law requires closer monitoring of foreign students by the institutions at which they are enrolled. Schools could be compelled, for example, to report the failure of an enrolled foreign student to show up for classes.



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