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S.E.V.I.S, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System

What New Mexico Tech international students and exchange visitors (anyone in F or J status) should know about the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System

What is SEVIS?
SEVIS is an internet-based system that allows schools and the Department of Homeland Security to store and exchange data on the legal non-immigrant status of all F1 and J1 participants and their F2 and J2 dependents. Data entry is done by a Designated School Official (“DSO”) for F1/F2 or by a Responsible Officer (“RO”) for J1/J2. Information is transmitted electronically throughout the participant’s time in the United States. Eventually, all immigration offices, ports of entry/departure, and U.S. embassies and consulates will have access to the data in this system.

Is SEVIS new?
Yes and no. The requirement that schools provide the federal government with information on the status of their F1 and J1 participants is not new. Most of the information that will be reported to SEVIS has been required by federal law for many years. But the old paper-based system could not gather and manage the growing volume of information. In 1996, Congress passed legislation mandating the establishment of an electronic data-collection system, which has now evolved into SEVIS.

How does SEVIS work?
After a university admits an international student, SEVIS is notified electronically and an I-20 (for an F1 student visa) or a DS-2019 (for a J1 exchange visitor/student visa) is produced. The school sends this bar-coded paper I-20 or DS-2019 to the student. The student visits a U.S. consulate, and the consulate confirms electronically that the document is valid. If everything is in order, the consulate issues the visa.

The student then approaches his port of entry in the United States with his passport, visa, and I-20/DS-2019 document. Assuming that the CBP (Bureau of Customs and Border Protection) official finds nothing amiss, the student is admitted in the appropriate status and his admission is reported to SEVIS. His name appears on the school’s computer as a person who has entered the United States and is expected to appear and register at that campus. The school reports his attendance to SEVIS and continues to report regularly to SEVIS throughout the student’s academic career.

What data does SEVIS collect?
The university must report:

  • Whether the student has enrolled at the school, or failed to enroll;
  • Any change in the student’s or dependent’s legal name or address;
  • Program completion prior to the end date on the I-20 or DS-2019;
  • Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction;
  • Any drop below full-time enrollment without prior DSO or RO authorization;
  • Termination of study, with date and reason;
  • Other events that are part of standard procedures, such as program extensions, school transfers, changes in level of study program, employment authorizations, reinstatement requests, bringing dependents into the United States, etc.
  • Any failure to maintain status or complete the study program.

What does “failure to maintain status” mean?
For both F1 and J1 students, status is violated if you fail to maintain full-time enrollment in fall and spring without getting prior approval from the DSO/RO, if you do not attend the school you are authorized to attend, if you fail to report a change of address, or if you let the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 pass. In addition, all J1 exchange visitors (including scholars, professors, and researchers as well as students) must maintain a specified level of medical insurance for themselves and each dependent.

What are the consequences of failing to maintain status?
You lose the privileges of F or J status and become subject to deportation. You immediately lose all work authorization, you cannot change your status, and you may be denied visas and re-entry to the United States in the future.

Can a person who is “out of status” regain legal status?
Possibly, through “reinstatement,” but only if you were the victim of circumstances beyond your control or if you can show that failure to be reinstated would do you grave harm, and only if you were out of status for less than five months.

How will New Mexico Tech help students with SEVIS compliance?
Tech is committed to assisting you in ways that prevent status violations from occurring. As always, we prefer to spend our time and energy educating our international participants rather than trying to fix a situation after a violation has occurred. This is now more important than ever, because reinstatement is almost impossible to obtain. Please see the ADVISORY NOTE regarding the basic rules for maintaining F1/F2 or J1/J2 status.

What happens if New Mexico Tech fails to comply with SEVIS?
The government will be auditing each institution’s SEVIS compliance every two years. Failure to comply with federal regulations could result in Tech’s loss of certification to accept and educate international students.

Will SEVIS benefit students in any way?
Actually, yes. Once the system is fully implemented, students can expect that immigration forms will be produced faster, that applications for benefits such as practical training employment authorization will be simpler and approved more quickly, and that entry or re-entry into the United States will proceed more smoothly.

What can students do to make things easier?

  • Read all email updates from the Office of International and Exchange Programs and all issues of the International NEWSLETTER
  • Study the immigration regulations (ADVISORY NOTES!), learn how to maintain lawful status, and bring your questions to Student Affairs. The six words that cause the most problems are, “My friend at another school says…”
  • Keep all documents up to date. Travel validations, extensions, transfers, and changes in degree programs must be done on SEVIS documents and in a timely manner.
  • Feel free to come to Student Affairs for assistance at any time. New Mexico Tech is a better place because you are here, and we are committed to your success!
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