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Preparing International Students for Campus Emergencies
A message from Rachel Canty, Director of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program
Back in August, I had the opportunity to visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters and sat in on their morning operations brief. It was impressive to understand the level of preparation and number of moving pieces FEMA coordinates on a nationwide basis. As we reach the end of National Preparedness Month, and especially as we are still in hurricane season, I encourage you to take advantage of the emergency preparedness resources available throughout the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—including FEMA and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) resources.
National Preparedness Month, recognized each September, reminds us that we must prepare ourselves and our families for unfortunate circumstances now and throughout the year. This year, DHS focused on the theme, “Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.”
By preparing for emergencies with your students, you help build a more resilient school better positioned to respond to a disaster and recover quickly. As a designated school official (DSO), you are the subject matter expert whenever international students are involved in an emergency event.
First, it’s important to make sure your school’s emergency operations plan takes international students and their unique needs into consideration, as F and M students must maintain their nonimmigrant student status, even during emergency events. This means F and M students should continue to take all of the necessary actions to remain in status, to the extent possible under the circumstances, and communicate with their DSO about the emergency plans on their campus.
In addition, I encourage you to remind students to sign up for notifications from your campus’ alert system and from FEMA. It may also be helpful to introduce your international students to your campus and local law enforcement before or during orientation to ensure students understand that local law enforcement agencies have the most reliable information to keep them safe during emergency events.
I hope you will familiarize your students with the SEVP resources available in the event of an emergency. The SEVP Response Center serves as their point of contact and provides emergency contact services during disruptions. SEVP will also share updates and reminders for you and your international students, in the event of an emergency, on Study in the States’ social media pages. Finally, please take a moment to visit Ready.gov for additional resources as we reach the end of National Preparedness Month.
As always, thanks for doing your part to enhance national and campus security.
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What's New on Study in the States
Understand Your Record Keeping Requirements
The new resource for Record Keeping Requirements and the SEVP Ask the Experts Webinar: What DSOs Need to Know about Record Keeping page on Study in the States can help you understand your federal requirements to maintain accurate records for your F and M students in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and in your school files.
As a designated school official (DSO), you are required by federal law to update and maintain student records for your F-1 and M-1 students in SEVIS. The information you report, update and manage in SEVIS is used by various U.S. government partners throughout your students’ time in the United States. It is important that you input this information accurately and promptly, as the government relies on accurate SEVIS data to ensure national security and confirm the nonimmigrant status of your F and M students and their dependents.
In addition, your school is required to keep records containing specific information and documents for each F and M student you enroll. You must have access to each student’s records should a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official request these records. To learn more about your record keeping requirements, explore these resources on Study in the States.
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Field Representative Unit Update
Protect Your SEVIS Password
Kelly Pilleux-Petronia is the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) field representative for Territory 30, serving the Chicago, Illinois, region. She served as a designated school official (DSO) for more than 10 years before joining SEVP’s Field Representative Unit in 2014.
“Unauthorized or improper use or access of this system may result in disciplinary action, as well as civil and criminal penalties.”
Does this message sound familiar? It should, as it is a part of the “Department of Homeland Security Consent” that all DSOs agree to each time they log in to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). By clicking “Login,” you agree to the Security Consent.
SEVP vets and authorizes each SEVIS user before sending them a SEVIS login and temporary password used to create their own password. This user name and password must be kept secure and used only by the individual it was issued to, as it protects sensitive information. Not keeping your password secure or sharing it violates the law, compromises SEVIS data, system integrity and therefore our own national security.
If a current principal designated school official (PDSO) or DSO is tempted to delegate SEVIS duties to another DSO or to other non-DSO staff, this is a good indication that it may be time to add additional DSOs to comply with reporting requirements.
In submitting the Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” a school certifies that all DSOs signing the form have read and understand U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations relating to SEVP, SEVIS and international students.
As a reminder, SEVIS:
- Passwords are case sensitive. If you create a password using a mix of upper and lowercase letters, you must always enter it the same way.
- Users may not reuse their previous eight passwords.
- Passwords must be changed every 90 days.
To learn more about SEVIS password requirements and best practices, visit the SEVIS Passwords page on the SEVIS Help Hub.
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K-12 Best Practices
Back-to-School Reminders: Register Your Students 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.
Have you registered your new and continuing international students in SEVIS? Among many other back-to-school responsibilities, designated school officials (DSOs) must register international students in Initial and Active status in SEVIS within 30 days of the start of the school session.
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. In this step-by-step video demonstration, you will learn:
- How to determine if your F-1 students are eligible for SEVIS registration.
- How to complete registration for your F-1 students in Initial or Active status.
- Definitions of key terms and important dates to remember for SEVIS registration.
- SEVP regulations and policies related to SEVIS registration.
After you watch the demonstration, bookmark the F-1 and M-1 Registration User Guide for detailed SEVIS registration instructions, links to relevant federal regulations and more.
Want to learn how to use the mass registration feature in SEVIS to save time registering students? Watch the Demonstration on How to Perform Mass Registration of Nonimmigrant Students and read the Mass Registration User Guide, all available on the SEVIS Help Hub on Study in the States.
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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.
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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