What Lindenwood University international students should know about the 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. We have prepared this handout to help you understand the kind of information that Lindenwood University, 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. For further questions, please contact the International Student Center.
What is SEVIS?
SEVIS is an internet-based system that allows schools and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (formally US CIS, now US CIS) 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 and ports of entry (POE) 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 the CIS for many years, but the existing paper-based system precluded widespread coordination amongst schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the CIS 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 Lindenwood University admits an international student, SEVIS is notified and the CIS approves Lindenwood University's request to issue an I-20. Lindenwood University sends the new bar-coded I-20 form to the student. The student visits the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad, and they confirm through SEVIS that the I-20 the student is carrying is a valid document. If everything is in order, they issue the visa. An US CIS officer at the airport or port of entry reports to SEVIS the student's entry into the U.S. When the student arrives on campus, he/she reports to the International Student Center (ISC), and the school confirms through SEVIS the student's enrollment. Lindenwood University continues to provide regular electronic reports to CIS throughout the student's academic career. Finally, SEVIS records the student's departure from the United States.
What data does SEVIS collect?
Lindenwood University must report:
• hether 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 CIS via SEVIS and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to CIS 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 CIS does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.
How will Lindenwood University help students comply with immigration laws?
Lindenwood University is committed to assist students in ways that prevent status violations from ever occurring. Accordingly, effective Spring Quarter 2003, these registration procedures will take effect:
• F-1 students new to Lindenwood University must physically check in with the International Student Center (ISC) prior to registering for classes. The ISC 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 students who register for less than a full course of study (other than their vacation quarter, usually Summer Quarter) without a waiver of the full-time requirement will have their registration cancelled at the end of add and drop period 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 the ISC. "Full-time" means 12 credits per quarter for undergraduates, and 9 credits for graduate and professional students. Acceptable reasons for reduced credit load include:
• New students to the USA who experience academic difficulties (for example, unfamiliarity with American teaching methods, initial difficulty with the English language, or improper course level placement) may be authorized to 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 if they have the required documentation.
Remember, only the Designated School Officials in the ISC have authority to authorize a reduced credit load!
What happens if Lindenwood University fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?
The US CIS is required to audit Lindenwood University's compliance with these new requirements every two years. Failure to comply with the federal regulations could result in the loss of Lindenwood University'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 US CIS 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 about SEVIS?
Read email updates from Lindenwood University or the International Student Center. 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 experts at the ISC. 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.
If you are unsure about any regulation, don't guess you know the answer - talk to an ISC advisor.
Feel free to come to the ISC for assistance. Lindenwood University is a better place because you are here, and we are committed to your success!