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December 2019 SEVP Spotlight

Table of Contents 

1 Director's Corner
2 What's New on Study in the States
3 Field Representative Unit Update
4 SMU Update
5 K-12 Best Practices
6 Contact Us

Welcome to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Spotlight, a quarterly newsletter for the academic community that includes important program news, seasonal reminders and updates relevant to the international student life cycle.

Director's Corner

Year in Review: SEVP's 2019 Accomplishments

A message from Rachel Canty, Director of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program

2019 has been a busy year for SEVP. We’ve seen many exciting developments and new initiatives unveiled. I’d like to use this opportunity to highlight several of SEVP’s accomplishments in 2019 which have, across the board, made SEVP more compliant with federal regulations, increased stakeholder engagement and improved program operations.

Most notably, in May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule to adjust fees charged by SEVP to international students, exchange visitors and SEVP-certified schools. The new fees, which took effect in June, are an estimate of the current and projected costs of funding needed to continue enhancing SEVP’s ability to achieve our priorities—supporting national security and preventing immigration fraud. The new fees will help us respond to stakeholder requests to improve the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) user experience and decrease school petition processing times. Additionally, the new and increased fees allow us to continue to achieve our mission of enhancing national security and preventing immigration fraud.

This year, we’ve also worked to improve the SEVIS user experience, as we move to create a person-centric SEVIS or “one person, one record.” The first phase of the process, which launched in July, focused on merging SEVIS accounts for active school and sponsor officials who use more than one SEVIS username. Now, school officials will be able to access all of their schools and exchange programs with a single SEVIS username and password and will have one location to update information on their account.

To improve stakeholder engagement globally on SEVP’s social media platforms and to more effectively communicate critical information about the international student lifecycle, Study in the States launched the Facebook Chatbot in March. The interactive messaging tool, which is accessible on the Study in the States Facebook page, helps prospective students learn how to become an F or M international student in the United States.  The Chatbot instantly answers questions on topics such as how to study in the United States, prove financial ability, pay the I-901 SEVIS fee and find an SEVP-certified school.

While I’ve touched on just a few of SEVP’s programmatic changes and improvements throughout the year, countless other changes have taken place including the hiring of additional adjudicators, the implementation of a comprehensive baseline adjudicator training program, enhanced compliance surrounding nation-wide science, technology, engineering and mathematics optional practical training site visits, and enhanced cross-agency government coordination with ICE’s Counter-Proliferation Investigations and Project Campus Sentinel at many of the more than 400 conferences and events that SEVP personnel attended throughout the year.

In 2020, we anticipate the release of additional SEVP External Training Application (SETA) courses to the academic community. As part of SEVP’s ongoing effort to improve education and training for school officials, we encourage current and prospective DSOs to take these trainings to boost their understanding of the rules and regulations governing the international student life cycle and how to input required information into SEVIS.

We’ll be sure to communicate any upcoming program updates and changes through Broadcast Messages, Study in the States blog postssocial media updates, GovDelivery emails and more. Keep an eye on these channels for updates about how we’re making progress with SEVP’s priorities. 

As always, thanks for your continued support of SEVP and its mission to protect national and campus security.   


Rachel Canty


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What's New on Study in the States

SEVP Publishes Guidance on OPT Employment and Student's Major Area of Study

On Sept. 30, 2019, SEVP published new policy guidance titled, “Practical Training: Determining a Direct Relationship Between Employment and a Student’s Major Area of Study.”

The newly published guidance explains that students who are authorized to engage in optional practical training (OPT) are responsible for providing a description of how their job duties relate to their major area of study, which their designated school official (DSO) must review and retain in the student’s file.

The new guidance also outlines how DSOs should document the relationship between a student’s job and major area of study, additional resources for DSOs and common scenarios and responsibilities related to establishing a relationship between practical training opportunities and a student’s major.

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Field Representative Unit Update

Meet SEVP's Newest Field Representative

In December, SEVP deployed a new field representative in Territory 18, which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Field representatives serve as liaisons between SEVP and SEVP-certified schools. Learn more about the newest member of the Field Representative Unit below.

Jessica Hall:

Jessica Hall is the field representative for the North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska territory. She previously served as the assistant director for the office of global engagement and principal designated school official at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Jessica has experience in a variety of international education, including study abroad, employment-based immigration, programming and English language programs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in both English and history. She received her master’s degree in English education, with a focus in English as a second language, from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.


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SMU Update

The SEVP External Training Application is Here!

In November, SEVP launched the SEVP External Training Application (SETA), an online learning management tool for current and prospective school and sponsor officials.

SETA courses primarily cover the rules and regulations governing SEVP and the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program. SETA is a part of SEVP’s broader effort to ensure compliance among all public Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) users.

For more information on how to access SETA and for additional resources, visit the SETA resource page.

DSOs: What to Know about SEVP Portal Release 1.10

The SEVP Portal recently upgraded to Release 1.10, which changes how long students can access the SEVP Portal after their optional practical training (OPT) authorization ends. Students will now only be able to access their SEVP Portal account for six months after the end of their OPT authorization.

When OPT authorization ends, the student will receive an email notifying them that their portal access will end in six months. If the student is five months or more beyond their OPT end date, they will receive two emails:

  • The first will notify the student that their portal access will end in 30 days.
  • After the thirty days, they will be notified that their portal access has ended.

For more information on this release and upcoming releases, visit the SEVP Portal Enhancements page.  To view a copy of the emails you will receive, read the SEVP Portal Email Notices to Students on the SEVIS Help Hub.

DSOs: What to Know about SEVIS Release 6.49

SEVIS recently upgraded to Release 6.49. This latest release introduced new functionality, including the ability for designated school officials (DSOs) to upload the Form I-983, “Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students.”

As a result of Release 6.49, DSOs will now have access to a new alert list in SEVIS for students requiring a new Form I-983. This latest release also introduced a new error message in SEVIS when school or sponsor officials add a new school official to the Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” who may have an existing active SEVIS account.

For more information on SEVIS Release 6.49, watch the pre-release webinar or read the “DSOs: You May Now Upload the Form I-983 in SEVIS” blog post on Study in the States.



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K-12 Best Practices

The kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) international student population is the fastest growing user group in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This section of SEVP Spotlight helps K-12 schools understand how to comply with federal regulations and navigate the international student life cycle.

Public K-12 Schools Can Enroll both F and J Students

An SEVP-certified public high school (grades nine through 12) can enroll both F-1 international students and  also enroll exchange visitors through a U.S. Department of State-designated Secondary School Student Exchange Program. To learn more about the rules and regulations for public schools seeking to host international students, read the Questions from DSOs: Can My Public School Enroll F and J International Students blog on Study in the States. Check out the Public & Private K-12 Schools: Know the Difference infographic for details on how public and private schools differ in hosting international students.

Remember to Register your Students in SEVIS

As a K-12 designated school official (DSO), you can help your students maintain status by making sure to register your new and continuing international students in SEVIS at least twice during an academic year. As January marks the beginning of a new school session, be sure to register international students in Initial and Active status in SEVIS within 30 days of the start of the school session.

Please keep in mind that failure to register your F and M students can negatively affect your international students’ status or eligibility for benefits.

If you are a new DSO or just need a reminder on the process, watch the Demonstration on How to Register Initial and Active Students on the SEVIS Help Hub. Bookmark the F-1 and M-1 Registration User Guide for detailed SEVIS registration instructions, links to relevant federal regulations and more.


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Contact Us

SEVP Contacts

SEVP is dedicated to maintaining open communication with international students and academic officials. Our offices are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, except federal holidays.

SEVP has multiple contact options:

If you need assistance with passwords or Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) technical help, email

ICE Contacts

To report national vulnerabilities or national security concerns, contact ICE's Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit at

To report exploitation of student visa programs, contact your local HSI special agent by calling 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or visit

Disclaimer: The information presented in SEVP Spotlight is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

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