Student and Exchange Visitor Program
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Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the web-accessible database for monitoring information about exchange visitors, international students and scholars subject to this program. It was established by the Department of Homeland Security, and is administered by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), passed by Congress in 1996, mandated the creation of an electronic system to track certain international students and visitors. This was sparked in part after it was discovered that the driver of the Ryder van used to blow up the World Trade Center in the 1993 terrorist attack in New York, Eyad Ismoil, had entered the country on a student visa to attend Wichita State but had dropped out of college and gone underground, only to resurface in the attack. "Falsifying documents to get student visas was simple, and INS processing used an antiquated paper system and hand entry of data. It could take two years to detect fraud, plenty of time for a new entrant to disappear into the population and cause mayhem," according to Daniel Benjamin and Steve Simon, former staff members of the counter terrorism office of the National Security Council. 
In 1997, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) -- now dismantled and recreated in the services-oriented United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the enforcement-oriented US Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- developed a pilot program called Coordinated Interagency Partnership Regulating International Students (CIPRIS) in collaboration with the Department of State. Due to logistical problems and lobbying from some schools opposed to increased regulation, CIPRIS was not implemented beyond initial testing and was retired in 1999.
After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it was again discovered that the student visa system had been exploited by terrorists to enter the country. Hani Hanjour entered the United States on a student visa but never even showed up on campus. No timely notifications were made, and he was not heard from until the day of the attacks. As part of the response to the attacks, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, which again mandated the creation of a digitized system to track international students and visitors in the United States. Funding was established for this system, later known as SEVIS—the Student Exchange and Visitors Information System. All schools and programs in the United States hosting international students and scholars were required to begin using SEVIS by January 30, 2003. SEVIS has since gone through six major release versions to resolve technical problems and accommodate new reporting requirements.
During the first half of 2012, changes that affect all colleges, universities, and other educational institutions that provide English language training (“ESL”) programs began. These changes stem from the Accreditation of English Language Training Act (“Accreditation Act”), which became effective in June of 2011. Pursuant to the Accreditation Act, ESL programs that enroll foreign nonimmigrant students must obtain accreditation from a regional or national accreditation agency recognized by the United States Department of Education. The Accreditation Act applies to two types of ESL programs: Stand-Alone ESL Schools whose officials have indicated on the school’s Form I-17 the intention to offer only ESL programs of study; and Combined Schools whose officials have indicated on the school’s Form I-17 that the school offers an ESL program of study, as well as other programs of study. A Combined School may either contract out the ESL program of study or wholly own and operate the ESL program of study under the institution’s governance.
Access to SEVIS
Access to the program is granted only to those needing to use it, all of whom must be United States permanent residents and citizens. School and program officials authorized to access the system for F and M students are identified as Designated School Officials (DSO’s), with a single Primary Designated School Official. School and program officials authorized to access SEVIS J students and scholars are identified as Alternate Responsible Officers, with a single Responsible Officer.
Mandatory reporting requirements
Schools and programs approved to host students and scholars on these visas are required to report certain information. Information that must be reported includes:
- Change of legal name
- Change of U.S. address
- Change of major field of study
- Change of education degree level
- Change of funding
- Authorization for off-campus employment
In addition, they must report events that constitute a violation of the international visitor’s visa status, such as academic suspension, criminal conviction, failure to enroll and unauthorized off-campus employment.
SEVIS is administered by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The technical operations of SEVIS are under the control of SEVP for all students and scholars with an F, M, or J nonimmigrant classification. Policy making for these classes of nonimmigrants has been delegated to ICE/SEVP.
- Department of Homeland Security
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- Benjamin, Daniel and Simon, Steven. The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America. Random House, 2003. PP 300-8.
- The 9/11 Commission Report. W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. PP 242-4.
- "SEVP Implementation of the Accreditation Act". The National Law Review. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. 2012-07-03. Retrieved 2012-10-01.