Advising International Students
SEVIS: the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System—Regulations for SU International Students
In compliance with a new INS ruling, Seattle University, along with every other educational institution in the U.S., is implementing a new internet-based, electronic system for gathering and reporting required data on international students. Replacing a paper-based model, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS allows for a rapid exchange of data on international students between institutions, State Department, and other government agencies in addition to the INS. Along with the implementation of this system, certain regulations and reporting requirements have been updated, reinterpreted, and tightened. January 31, 2003 is the national mandatory compliance deadline for SEVIS.
The Role of the International Student Center (ISC)
Advisors at the International Student Center function as Seattle University’s Designated School Officials (DSO’s), and it is their responsibility to regularly report all pertinent student information to the INS via SEVIS. ISC Advisors must be contacted before a student acts on any plans that deviate from INS rules or that may require additional processing to be approved.
Your Role as Advisor & Teacher
All faculty members work with international students at one time or another and need to be aware that SEVIS regulations impact numerous routine matters that arise with students, both in the classroom and in advising. Although it has always been important for international students to maintain their status requirements, it is even more critical now. Any deviation from his or her normal course of studies towards completion of a degree program needs to be reported by the student to the International Student Center. A student’s failure to get appropriate approval for such deviations can result in a loss of legal immigration status.
Key Issues to Keep in Mind When Working with International Students
If you have any questions concerning this information or need additional assistance with handing a SEVIS related issue, contact the International Student Center at (206) 296-6260. You can read the full text of the regulations at: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/lawsregs/fr121102.pdf
- Changes from full-time status: International students must register for and complete a full course load of 12 credits (9 credits for graduate students) or more each quarter during the academic year. Plans to drop or withdraw from courses causing the course-load to fall below full-time status must be reported to a designated school official (DSOs) at the International Student Center and authorized before taking action. Authorization by DSO’s for reduced enrollment fall into three categories: an illness or medical condition, enrollment in the final quarter of study, and academic difficulties. New rules stress the importance of receiving permission in advance from the designated school officials DSO’s to enroll in a reduced course load, or drop from a full to a reduced course load. Be aware that the exceptions for which DSO’s may authorize reduced course loads are stricter, and there are time limits to the period allowed for a reduced course load.
- Change of major or program: Plans for a change of major or degree program must also be reported to a DSO/advisor at the International Student Center.
- Students with severe academic difficulty: The new stricter requirements will make it very difficult for a student with severe academic difficulties to succeed in completing their program of study within the allotted timeframe given on the admission I-20 form. The rules state that “academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extensions.”
- Extension of stay for program completion: The new law states that “an international student who is currently maintaining status and making normal progress toward completing his or her educational objective, but who is unable to complete his or her course of study by the program end date on the Form I-20, must apply prior to the program end date for a program extension”. The DSO is authorized to grant program extensions.
- Estimated program completion date: With the new rule requirements, DSOs are not allowed as much latitude in estimating the completion date on the I-20 at the time of admission. The new rule states that program duration on the Form I-20 given at the time of admission should be based on the time an “average student” would need to complete a similar program. Prior rules allowed the school to add an extra year to the “normal” period of study on an initial I-20 form.
- Activities outside of the classroom related to education, training experience or work: Planning for all such activities should be discussed with the DSO to ensure that legal status is not put at risk. Special regulations or procedures can apply to working on or off campus, optional training or practical training to meet degree requirements, study abroad, distance education courses, duel enrollment and transferring to another institution.
Some Practical Pointers
- Direct international students to the ISC for answers: As a rule, as indicated in each situation discussed above, students should rely exclusively on the advice they get from their Designated School Official at the International Student Center in all matters, routine or exceptional, related to maintaining their legal status. On the whole, international students keep fully informed on their responsibilities and stay in strict compliance with regulations. Nonetheless, it’s a good practice to regularly ask if a student or advisee is contemplating any change in their educational objectives, and make sure they fully grasp their options and responsibilities with any issue at hand. Again, the new rules stress the importance of consulting a DSO before taking any action, and of prompt and timely compliance with all regulations and/or procedural requirements, both routine and exceptional.
- Poor classroom performance: Do alert those students who exhibit poor academic performance in your class as early as possible that they need to take action to improve the situation. ISC and the Center for Student Success should also be informed so that advisors from these programs can intervene and work with the student to improve performance or explore other options before the student has no choice but to withdraw or fail the class. Students put their legal status in jeopardy when they fail a class, and will lose their legal status if they are absent from class for 12 days or more.
- Advising international students who are performing poorly or are on probation: As stated above, these students are at greater risk of jeopardizing their legal status. Wherever possible, schedule course combinations that ease the pressure or that balance the amount of reading, writing and lab work required. Be pro-active about helping to arrange visits with the various support services on campus that students may feel hesitant about using.
- Advising Holds: If your department does not place advising holds on their majors during advising periods for registration, you may want to take extra measures to make sure that your international student advisees see you for advising.