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Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and Visa Issues
International Affairs Office

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The United States Government has implemented new regulations and procedures for admitting foreign visitors to the United States since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Several of these new requirements affect foreign students, teachers, and other professionals who come on student, exchange, or work visas and the U.S. schools, local agencies, and organizations that host them.

Controlling Authorities

In addition to the basic Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (P.L. 82-414) and subsequent Amendments, several recent statutes authorize the new foreign visitor requirements. Each of these laws is implemented by an extensive body of regulations and policies, and they require certain federal agencies, including the Department of Education, to cooperate in order to ensure effective and fair enforcement of the post-9/11 security provisions.

New Regulations

Beginning in 2003, educational institutions and other hosts of foreign students coming to the United States on academic (F-1), vocational (M-1), or exchange (J-1) visas are required to be certified to receive such visitors via the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and its SEVIS database. SEVIS is housed in the Department of Homeland Security and is linked to certified participating schools as well as to overseas U.S. consulates. SEVIS is required by statute to be fee-based and there is a registration fee for schools and foreign visa applicants. Among the requirements for participation in SEVIS are that schools demonstrate that they are bonafide educational institutions and able to operate the SEVIS system securely.

Applicants for U.S. visas are also subject to more rigorous background checks than in the past, and applicants may also be subject to special processing and registration procedures. All visa applicants must be interviewed by a consular official and certain vital data recorded, including photographs and digital fingerprints. Major efforts are being made to publicize and explain these new procedures and to help potential students and other visitors, as well as hosts, navigate them.

Role of the Department of Education

Federal laws and regulations name the Department of Education as one of the agencies performing a consultative and advisory role in the development and implementation of U.S. rules pertaining to persons seeking to come to the United States as students, exchange visitors, or workers. The International Affairs Office coordinates Department of Education relations with the agencies that implement the new visa and immigration regulations, which are the Departments of Homeland Security and State.

The Department of Education has worked with both agencies to resolve issues connected with students and teachers who come to the United States, and in determining the bona fide status of schools seeking to be certified in SEVIS. We also closely follow the effect of the new regulations and policies on the flow of students and professionals to the United States. The Department works with other federal agencies, Congress, and educational associations to ensure that U.S. education continues to be open and attractive to international participants while addressing U.S. national security concerns.

ED Contact:     E. Stephen Hunt
stephen.hunt@ed.gov

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Last Modified: 05/11/2009