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FAQs about SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)

What Missouri S&T International Students and Exchange Visitors Should Know about SEVIS

What is SEVIS?

SEVIS is an Internet-based system that allows schools and the U.S. Bureau of  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE) to exchange data on the visa status of international students and exchange visitors. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor’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 to SEVIS has been required by immigration for many years. But the existing paper-based system precluded widespread coordination among schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the INS to move to an electronic data collection system. This program is now 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 Feb. 15, 2003. By Aug. 1, 2003, all F-1, J-1 students/scholars and dependents had be entered into the SEVIS system.

 How does SEVIS work?

Before the student’s arrival to the United States

  • After Missouri S&T admits an international student, SEVIS is notified and the immigration 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 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.

After the student’s arrival to the United States

  • A BICE officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student’s entry into the United States.
  • When the student arrives on campus, he/she checks-in during New International Student Orientation to the Office of International Affairs. The University provides regular electronic reports to SEVIS throughout the student’s academic career.
  • Finally, SEVIS records the student’s departure from the United States.

What data does SEVIS collect?

We 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;
  • Completion of degree program;
  • Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction;
  • Whether the student drops below a full course of study without prior authorization from an international student advisor;
  • 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 reinstatements;
  • Data on any student who fails to maintain status or complete his or her program.

What does “failure to maintain status" mean?

Some examples of failure to maintain status include:

  • dropping from full-time to part-time enrollment without prior approval from a coordinator of international student services;
  • attending a school other than the one a student is authorized to attend;
  • failure to complete a timely school transfer procedure or program extension or change of educational level;
  • failure to renew I-20 document;
  • failure to make appropriate progress in degree program;
  • 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 regularly. Students who fail to maintain status may even become subject to deportation. Specific consequences may include:

  • denial of re-entry to the United States;
  • inability to move from undergraduate to graduate status;
  • denial of requests for Practical Training;
  • denial of requests to change visa status;
  • 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 a coordinator of international student services, that “event" would be reported to immigration, via SEVIS, and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to immigration 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 immigration does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.

How will the Office of International Affairs assist students to comply with SEVIS immigration requirements?

We are committed to assist students in ways that prevent status violations from ever occurring. Accordingly, these processes are in effect:

  • Any F-1 or J-1 student who is enrolled for less that the required full-time credits (12 for undergraduate students, nine for graduate students) must receive PRIOR authorization from the Office of International Affairs.  Students must complete a Request for Reduced Enrollment Form in the Office of International Affairs even if the semester in which the student is enrolling is the student’s final semester. 

What happens if Missouri S&T fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?

Immigration is required to audit Missouri S&T’s compliance with these new requirements every two years. Failure to comply with the federal regulations could result in the loss of the University’s ability to issue I-20s/DS-2019s to international students.

Will SEVIS benefit students in any way?

As everyone knows, data moves faster through an electronic system than through a paper system. Immigration has advised educational institutions that students can expect that immigration 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 insure compliance with SEVIS?

  • Read any email updates from the Office of International Affairs list serve;
  • Refer to this informational FAQ;
  • Changes in immigration or visa procedures sometimes happen quickly. Information is posted as soon as we have reliable facts. Periodically check the Office of International Affairs website .
  • Understand the immigration regulations that govern your particular status, and learn how to fulfill your responsibility to maintain lawful status in the United States
  • 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, degree program, I-20 or DS-2019 extensions, and travel validations must be done in a timely manner and in the SEVIS system. The Office of International Affairs’ Document Request Form indicates the minimum processing time for a document is five days.  Processing time could increase because of SEVIS
  • And above all, if you have any questions or doubts about your status, please contact the Office of International Affairs.  The contributions of international students and scholars are vitally important to the fulfillment of Missouri S&T’s mission.  The Office of International Affairs is committed to assisting you in meeting your goals.

Will SEVIS ever become paperless?

Currently there is a large project to develop the next generation of SEVIS called SEVIS II. The new system is a modernization effort to address limitations in the current SEVIS. SEVIS II will continue to be used to monitor F/M/J nonimmigrants throughout the duration of their participation within the U.S. education system or exchange visitor programs. SEVIS also maintains information on the schools, exchange visitor program sponsors, and associated officials. While SEVIS II will maintain the base functionality of SEVIS, it does introduce several significant changes that will impact the way people do business.

  • First, SEVIS II will create an entirely paperless process for all activities related to the admission and tracking of F/M/J nonimmigrants. Under SEVIS II, F/M/J nonimmigrants and school and sponsor officials will use digital signatures to sign electronic forms related to the student and exchange visitor process. Government officials will also use SEVIS II—or a system that links to SEVIS II—to document electronically decisions about visa issuance, changes of status, entry into the U.S., and other requests for nonimmigrant benefits (e.g., employment authorization).
  • Second, SEVIS II will permit F/M/J nonimmigrants to create user accounts and directly access their own information in the system. This feature of SEVIS II permits F/M/J nonimmigrants to view information about their status, immigration benefits, and payment of SEVP fees. F/M/J nonimmigrants will also be able to view their own information in the system in real time and request that SEVP or OPSE make a change if it is inaccurate.
  • Third, SEVIS II will create a new, person-centric recordkeeping system that will unify information about the same F/M/J nonimmigrants that the original SEVIS maintained in multiple records. SEVIS II seeks to unify records about the same individuals by using immigration identification numbers (IINs) assigned to F/M/J nonimmigrants through the activation of SEVIS II accounts. SEVIS II will also links to biometric information for F/M/J nonimmigrants collected by US VISIT. SEVIS II will use this biometric to maintain the one-person, one-record system; however, SEVIS II does not collect, store, or process actual fingerprints or other biometric information.
  • Fourth, SEVIS II will generate and display an admissibility indicator for each F/M/J nonimmigrant that reflects whether they are currently eligible for admission into the United States in F/M/J status. F/M/J nonimmigrants will be able to view their admissibility indicator in SEVIS II. To generate the admissibility indicator, SEVIS II will use the information already in the system and a set of business rules to determine if an individual is currently eligible to enter the United States as an F/M/J nonimmigrant. SEVIS II will export the admissibility indicator to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS). This will allow CBP officers to view the admissibility indicator when an F/M/J nonimmigrant arrives at the port of entry. The CBP officer will use the admissibility indicator to determine if the individual may enter as an F/M/J nonimmigrant.
  • Finally, SEVIS II will indicate whether a nonimmigrant is eligible for employment in the United States under the terms of his or her F/M/J class of admission. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) E-Verify system will query SEVIS II in response to a request for employment authorization verification. SEVIS II will use information already in the system and a set of business rules to determine if the nonimmigrant is eligible for employment, the maximum allowable length of employment, and (if applicable) the allowable location for employment under the terms of his or her F/M/J admission. 

Are there other resources about SEVIS?

Take a look at the BICE web site.

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