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December 2020 SEVP Spotlight

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.

As of July 2020, SEVP Spotlight consists of an update from the SEVP director.

Director's Corner

Adjusting to COVID-19 and Looking Ahead to 2021

The year is quickly coming to a close and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) would not have been able to adjust and pivot in these unprecedented times without the help of our stakeholders. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to serving the international student community.

This year, SEVP worked closely with our colleagues within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop guidance that took into account the unique circumstances arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that F and M students could make normal progress in a full course of study as required by federal regulations. Notably, SEVP developed the following to ensure stakeholders were kept up to date on all program and policy changes and key COVID-19 developments:

  • 76 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding COVID-19 guidance
  • The COVID-19 Resource page on Study in the States
  • 14 COVID-19 related Study in the States blog posts
  • 108 Social Media posts

As we look towards the upcoming spring semester, I want to provide a couple of key reminders to the international student community. Firstly, COVID-19 guidance from March 2020 is still currently in place until further notice. The March 2020 guidance is available on We will of course notify you if this changes and new guidance is put into place.

I’d also like to remind international students and designated school officials (DSOs) to report student employer information related to optional practical training (OPT) in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Without this information, students could be viewed as having failed to obtain employment and potentially be considered out of status for exceeding permissible periods of unemployment while participating in OPT.

This year, SEVP and DHS have continued to battle OPT fraud through an ongoing law enforcement operation called OPTical Illusion, aimed at targeting individuals attempting to exploit the student visa system. By supporting this operation, SEVP helped ensure the continued integrity of the OPT program.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone that provided comments on the proposed rule to establish a period of authorized stay for international students. SEVP will provide timely updates on the status of the final rule through Broadcast Message, Study in the States blog posts, social media updates, GovDelivery emails and more.

Thank you for your support and everyone at SEVP wishes you a safe, restful and joyful holiday season.

Rachel Canty

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