GAO cites lingering problems with student visa system

The Homeland Security Department's online system for processing information about foreign students continues to pose problems for the students and the schools they attend, even though DHS has improved the application's performance over the past year, according to a Government Accountability Office report released March 17.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System's early days were fraught with growing pains that prompted criticism from the Justice Department inspector general [See GCN story], as well as GAO and Congress [See GCN story]. The department itself admitted that the two-year-old system had tangled foreign student's attempts to gain lawful admittance and gave unclear guidance to schools.

The report stated that DHS has reinforced help desk support for SEVIS. 'However, these educational institutions still cite residual help desk problems, which they believe create problems for students and exchange visitors,' the report said.

GAO auditors added that federal agencies had cooperated to reduce processing times for the related Visa Mantis program, which is intended to identify applicants who might filch sensitive technology for exploitation by foreign governments.

The report took the form of testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness.

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