Student Life: International Students

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)


The news media has reported extensively on how the US government is seeking more efficient ways of managing information on international students in the United States. The following information has been prepared to help you understand the kinds of information that SIT Graduate Institute and all colleges and universities in the US must maintain on international students and how this information is shared with the government in a manner prescribed by law.

What is SEVIS?

SEVIS is an Internet-based system that allows schools and the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (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. US 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 the INS for many years. But the existing paper-based system precluded widespread coordination amongst schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the INS 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 SIT Graduate Institute admits an international student, SEVIS is notified, and the INS approves the school's request to issue an I-20. The school transmits the new bar-coded I-20 form to the student.
  • The student visits the US 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.
  • An INS officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the student's entry into the US
  • When the student arrives on campus, he/she reports to the International Student and Scholar Office (ISSO), and the school confirms through SEVIS the student's enrollment. The school continues to provide regular electronic reports to INS throughout the student's academic career.
  • Finally, SEVIS records the student's departure from the United States.

What data does SEVIS collect?

SIT must report:

Whether or not a student has dropped below a full course of study during on-campus phases without prior authorization from an international student advisor or, as stated in immigration regulations, a Designated School Official (DSO).

  • Whether or not a student has enrolled at the school, especially during off-campus phases.
  • Whether or not a student graduates prior to the end date listed on his or her I-20.
  • Changes in a student or a dependent's legal name or address.
  • Academic or disciplinary actions taken against a student due to criminal conviction.
  • A student'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.
  • A student who fails to maintain status or complete his or her program.

Note: These data collection by SEVIS will be effective to all current and continuing students from August 1, 2003, if they are continuously staying in the US for their practicum, capstone, or other programs as well as Optional Practical Training.

What does "fail to maintain status" mean?

Some examples of failure to maintain status include:
  • attending a school other than the one a student is authorized to attend,
  • failure to enroll at school with the exception of vacation periods,
  • 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 US,
  • 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?

For example, if a student failed to apply for a timely program extension, that "event" would be reported to INS, via SEVIS, and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to INS 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 INS does not reinstate the student, he or she may not appeal that decision.

How will SIT help students comply with the immigration laws?

SIT  is committed to assist students in ways that prevent status violations from ever occurring. Accordingly, effective Fall 2003, the following major Registration change will take effect, besides the regular immigration orientation and workshops.

F-1 and J-1 students new to SIT must physically check in with the International Student and Scholar Office (ISSO) prior to registering for classes. The ISSO 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.

Also, current and continuing students must regularly check in with the Director of International Student and Scholar Services in order to maintain their lawful status with SEVIS and keep their immigration information updated, especially after they leave SIT for off-campus phases.

What happens if SIT fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?

The INS is required to audit SIT’s compliance with these new requirements every two years. Failure to comply with the federal regulations could result in the loss of the School'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 INS 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 email updates from SIT or the International Student and Scholar Office, and periodically check for new items on the ISSO website. 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 US, and refer any questions or problems immediately to the expert in the ISSO.
  • Be proactive. Students should plan their course schedules carefully so that they maintain their enrollment and student status while they are in the US. Make travel arrangements early and anticipate delays at consulates and border crossings. Keep all documents updated. 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.
  • Feel free to come to the ISSO for assistance. SIT is a better place because you are here, and we are committed to your success!

Are there other resources about SEVIS?

The INS has a good website. You can also read the USCIS Fact Sheet.

Also, if you have specific questions about your visa, call (802) 258-3364, or visit us in the International Student and Scholar Office at Student Center, Monday through Friday between 9:00 and 4:00, or send an email at the following address:

Janet Hulnick
Director of International Student and Scholar Services
Phone: 802.258.3364

Note for participants who come to the US on an F-1 or J-1 visa: SIT is authorized under federal law to enroll non-immigrant students.

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