INS extends deadline for student tracking system

The Immigration and Naturalization Service yesterday extended the mandatory date for schools to use its new foreign student tracking system to Feb. 15. The INS had planned to require schools to use the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System as of today.

SEVIS automates a paper-based method of tracking foreign students with visas to attend U.S. schools, which some Sept. 11 terrorists used to enter the country. The USA Patriot Act passed in October 2001 accelerated the schedule for implementing SEVIS so that it would be mandatory by today.

INS said that during the grace period that ends in mid-February, it will encourage schools to use SEVIS to enter student information via a Web connection or batch processing. The agency will continue to accept paper forms during the grace period.

The agency has met several deadlines for launching SEVIS, including the rollout of its online operations on July 1, the rollout of the system's batch mode Oct. 15 and the full implementation of the system on Jan. 1.

INS said 72,000 schools have participated in the foreign student program. But according to a recent INS study, only 7,400 schools are actively bringing students into the United States. All schools that continue to bring students into the country must apply for SEVIS certification, during which the agency will review their operations. Schools will have to reapply for certification every two years.

INS has set up a help desk for schools using SEVIS and created training materials. The Justice Department's inspector general last year criticized the agency for ignoring SEVIS training and predicted that not all schools would meet the Jan. 30 deadline for participation.


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