ISS In the News

Electronic system eases tracking of foreign students

Posted: 01-07-2003

By: Mark B Geller

Cheolsoon In, a Purdue University graduate student from Seoul, South Korea, fills out an electronic
Cheolsoon In, a Purdue University graduate student from Seoul, South Korea, fills out an electronic

Purdue one of first universities to implement SEVIS

Purdue University freshman Richard Kidarsa sat in Room 206 of the Stewart Center and typed away at a laptop computer Monday morning, ostensibly helping to safeguard the United States against terrorism -- and making sure he could get his student ID card and open a Purdue e-mail account.

Kidarsa, an 18-year-old from Indonesia, was among Purdue's first international students to use a newly computerized system of submitting personal information and transmitting it to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The university is one of the first institutions in the country to collect and transmit batches of information about its students to the INS as part of a new tracking system, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS.

The information Purdue is collecting is very similar to what it has been collecting from international students. But the implementation of SEVIS marks the first time these students have entered the information electronically themselves, sparing them from filling out forms by hand and saving university employees time and Purdue thousands of dollars.

"I think a computer system is better," Kidarsa said. "On a computer you can just type. I think it's easier for me."

Easier is good, particularly since the consequences for failure to comply with SEVIS requirements could be disastrous.

"We want to be SEVIS compliant so that we can continue to engage in international educational exchange activities," said Mike Brzezinski, director of Purdue's Office of International Students and Scholars.

The consequences for students who fail to comply are "draconian at best," said Mike Ivy, Purdue director of information technology for International Programs. Such students risk being deported.

Purdue expected as many as 60 new students Monday using 18 laptop computers set up in Stewart Center. Completing the SEVIS form takes about 15 minutes, Brzezinski said.

Purdue expects as many as 250 new students to fill out the form this week. The university anticipates as many as 1,000 students will register with SEVIS at the start of the fall semester.

Getting oriented

The makeshift SEVIS registration center is part of the pre-orientation check-in program Purdue is offering new international students ahead of the regular orientation. This week, Room 206 is virtually a one-stop shop for services for the new students.

In addition to the SEVIS stations, others are set up to distribute orientation materials, provide undergraduate academic advising, offer information about the International Center, and help with signing up for Purdue health insurance, opening an e-mail account and applying for a Social Security card.

International students who enter the required SEVIS information receive a printout stamped "SEVIS compliant."

"Without this stamp they are not able to get a student ID card at Purdue," Brzezinski said, calling the policy a "minimally intrusive method" of assuring individual SEVIS compliance. "It's not a major hindrance like preventing registration, but it's intrusive enough that they want to get it done."

Reporting requirements

Though the types of information the students must provide Purdue are much the same as they were before SEVIS, the frequency and method of reporting that data to the federal government is different.

SEVIS requirements specify that no later than 30 days following the deadline for registering for classes, the school must report that the student failed to register. Furthermore, during each term, and no later than 30 days after the deadline for registering for classes, schools are required to report the following information:

•Whether the student has enrolled, dropped below a full course of study without prior authorization by designated officials, or failed to enroll;

•The address of each student; and

•The start date of the student's next semester.

Within 21 days of a change of any information, schools will be required to report the following information:

•Any student who has failed to maintain status or complete his or her program;

•A change of the student's or dependent's legal name or U.S. address;

•Any student who has graduated early or prior to the program end date;

•Any disciplinary action taken as a result of the student being convicted of a crime; and

•Any other notification request made by SEVIS with respect to the status of the student.

Prodded by 9-11

The Department of Justice announced the final rule for SEVIS on Dec. 11. It took effect Wednesday and states that all universities enrolling international students are required to begin using SEVIS by Jan. 30.

The new tracking system has been in the works for several years, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks accelerated its implementation. The idea initially was conceived in response to reports that one of the terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was in the United States on an expired student visa.

"I think it's a very good way to keep tabs on the international students in the U.S.," said Santosh Rao, 20, a Purdue freshman from Singapore who registered with SEVIS. "We have similar sorts of registrations in the Singapore institutions."

Rao gained a new appreciation for Purdue's laptop SEVIS stations after learning that international students had filled out information forms by hand.

"That means I'm very lucky. I'm glad I came at the right time," he said. The old-fashioned method would have been "such a drag. There will be less chance of a mistake if you do it on the computer, because you can just delete if you have made a mistake."

What's next?

Purdue University's pre-orientation check-in for new international students continues at 8:30-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. today through Thursday at Stewart Center, Room 206.

New international students should bring their passport, Form I-20 or J-1 document, I-94 departure card and all previous immigration documents if they are a transfer student from another U.S. institution.

They will receive a detailed orientation schedule and information packet. Students should be sure to bring this packet with them to the orientation program 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Class of 1950 Lecture Hall.

Reproduced with permission from Journal & Courier

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