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March 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 K-12 Best Practices
5 SEVIS Update
6 Contact Us

 

Director's Corner

SEVP Director's Corner: Implementing GAO Audit Recommendations

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

As we settle into 2019, I would like to highlight the findings of the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) audit of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The audit of SEVP, published earlier this month by the GAO, focused on potential fraud risks resulting from program oversight and school recertification. In the audit, the GAO made seven recommendations on improvements SEVP should make to reduce the potential for fraud. As the GAO recognized in its report, SEVP has already taken significant steps since its last audit in 2012 to strengthen SEVP’s fraud risk-management efforts and to address any vulnerabilities. In response to the latest audit, SEVP plans to implement their recommendations within the next two years.

Thus far in 2019, we have already made steps to address the GAO’s feedback by beginning the process of hiring new adjudicators in an effort to shorten school recertification processing times. As part of the onboarding process, all incoming adjudicators will participate in a comprehensive four-week long adjudicator training initiative developed and released in 2018. Adjudicators will learn from representatives from various offices across the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about program-specific information, such as SEVP’s mission, purpose and intra-agency collaboration. They’ll also hear about adjudicator-centric information, such as regulations governing students and schools, school accreditations, site visits and case trackers. Ongoing SEVP adjudicators will have access to continued training sessions to provide them with the very latest in-depth training on legal writing and regulations analysis, along with other topics to enhance their knowledge and work productivity. 

SEVP’s proposed changes to the current fee structure will also help us address program vulnerabilities identified in the GAO audit. This spring, we anticipate the publication of the final fee rule and the implementation of the new fees. The proposed fees are an estimate of the current and projected costs of funding needed to continue enhancing SEVP’s capability to support national security and prevent immigration fraud. 

For complete details on the proposed fee adjustments, how we made these decisions and our program priorities moving forward, I encourage you to read the full proposed rule on the Federal Register.  We will continue to keep you up to date on the progress we are making to address the GAO audit, as well as the status of the final ruling.  We will communicate any updates through SEVP Broadcast Messages, Study in the States, our social media channels and ICE.gov/SEVP updates. 

We appreciate your feedback and thank you for your continued support. 

Sincerely, 

Rachel Canty 
 

 

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What's New on Study in the States

Share the Study in the States Facebook Chatbot

The new Study in the States Facebook Chatbot provides prospective international students with resources on how to become and maintain status as an F or M international student in the United States.

The chatbot, which is accessible via the Study in the States Facebook page, provides information on several topics, including:

  • Studying in the United States.
  • Finding an SEVP-certified school.
  • Financial ability and where students can find financial aid information.
  • Paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee.
  • Other student and nonimmigrant visas.
  • PDSO/DSO responsibilities.

To access the chatbot, students must visit the Study in the States Facebook page and click the “Send Message” button or navigate to the Facebook Messenger app using a mobile device.

Although the chatbot’s resources are geared toward prospective international students, the tool is available to all Facebook users.

Students with case-specific questions are still encouraged to contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program Response Center (SRC) for assistance.


Visit the Updated Trends and Improvements Section

As a result of stakeholder feedback, the Trends and Improvements section on Study in the States recently added a topic on updated student reporting processes and responsibilities.

Stakeholders informed SEVP that some designated school officials (DSOs) found it burdensome to update Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records for F and M students engaged in post-completion optional practical training (OPT) who had graduated and were no longer enrolled in school. In response, SEVP launched:

  • The SEVP Portal, which allows F and M international students participating in post-completion OPT to report accurate and timely information directly to SEVP.
  • SEVIS Release 6.41, which allows SEVIS to calculate the total number of unemployment days a student accrues while participating in post-completion OPT.

To learn more about the SEVP Portal, SEVIS Release 6.41 and additional resources developed to improve student reporting, visit the new Student Reporting Responsibilities page.

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Field Representative Unit Update

Download Latest SEVP Resource Guide for New DSOs

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) latest resource PDF, Resources for New DSOs, is now available on the Study in the States Resource Library.

Field Representatives recommend this downloadable resource as a helpful starting point for new designated school officials (DSOs) at SEVP-certified schools to understand the international student process, successfully manage school and student records and fulfill their reporting obligations.

To help new DSOs learn more about the international student and school certification life cycles, Study in the States and ICE.gov resources are divided into three sections: General Resources, Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Resources and Contact Information.

This new resource directs new DSOs to useful information on how to:

To access this free, downloadable resource and to access additional SEVP resources and tools, visit the Resource Library on Study in the States.

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K-12 Best Practices

Transferring K-12 Records in SEVIS

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.

If your K-12 F or M students plan to graduate and continue their education at a different SEVP-certified school, you are responsible as a designated school official (DSO) for the transfer of student records in SEVIS. This applies for the transfer of records at any educational level, such as the transfer from middle school to high school or from high school to a U.S. college or university.

When transferring student records at any education level, it’s important to:

  • Remind your students to keep track of when their visa expires and to renew their visa as needed to ensure a smooth and complete transfer process.
  • Make sure that a student receives their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” from their new SEVP-certified school if they plan to leave the country before their next program’s start date.
  • Remind your students to keep their Form I-20, even if expired, in a safe place. DSOs may not keep old student records and a student may need an expired Form I-20 to apply for benefits from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

For more detailed information and step-by-step guides on transferring records in SEVIS, visit the Transfers page on the SEVIS Help Hub or these resource pages for instructions on how to:

 

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SEVIS Update

Thank You for Completing Your Annual Verification

March 2, 2019, marked the end of the annual Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) verification period. As of that date, 98 percent of schools completed annual verification and a total of 48,437 school officials were verified in SEVIS.

SEVP thanks the principal designated school officials (PDSOs) who completed their annual SEVIS verification on time. If you are a PDSO who has not yet completed your school’s SEVIS verification, please contact the SEVP Response Center immediately.

SEVP Portal Release 1.5 and 1.6

SEVP recently upgraded the SEVP Portal to Releases 1.5 and 1.6. These latest releases include changes for students who currently use the portal and information that designated school officials (DSOs) will want to communicate to portal users.

As a result of Release 1.5, students can now reset their own accounts if they have been locked. Instead of contacting their DSO to reset their account, students can now use the “Password Reset” option on the SEVP Portal login page. In addition:

  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) optional practical training (OPT) students will now see their reporting and self-evaluation requirements after logging in to the portal.
  • STEM OPT students will receive an email notification from the portal when an employer end date changes while the student is in an Active period of STEM OPT authorization.

As a result of Release 1.6, students will now receive emails from the portal reminding them of important deadlines and changes to their SEVIS record.  When a student’s email address changes in SEVIS, the portal will send an email to the old email address and new email address.

STEM OPT students will also receive portal email notifications:

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Contact Us

SEVP Contacts

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (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 SEVISHelpDesk@ice.dhs.gov.

ICE Contacts

To report national vulnerabilities or national security concerns, contact ICE's Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit at CTCEU@ice.dhs.gov.

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 www.ice.gov.

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

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