Understanding SEVP: Maintaining SEVIS Compliance

The start of a new semester can be an exciting and invigorating time for a college student, especially one who is participating in a study abroad program.

For college admissions and enrollment professionals, with each new college semester comes a new class of students participating in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). And the start of a new semester means it’s time for designated school officials to make sure that the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS, is accurately updated.

So, what exactly is an institution of higher education responsible for when it comes to SEVIS compliance?

Let’s go over some of the basics. All colleges and universities that participate in an F-1 or M-1 foreign student program must report certain information and activities in SEVIS. For example, institutions must register new students in SEVIS within 30 days of the program start date, and must report student registration and enrollment at the beginning of each semester. Failure to properly maintain SEVIS records in a timely manner can cost a school it’s SEVP certification, leading to massive headaches for both nonimmigrant students and the institution.

But reporting in SEVIS is not only essential for SEVP certification, it’s also necessary to ensure that students do not have their F-1/M-1 status revoked. Did you know that just failing to report status milestones in SEVIS has the potential to cost a student their F-1 or M-1 visa? It’s one of the reasons why updating and maintaining SEVIS is so crucial when it comes to overall SEVP compliance.

Speaking of compliance, here’s what schools schools must document in SEVIS to remain SVEP eligible:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Country of citizenship
  • School ID number
  • Residential and mailing addresses
  • Credits, grades, course ID code, and term for each course taken
  • Date of withdrawal from any course
  • Cumulative credits or clock hours
  • GPA: cumulative and for each term
  • Unabridged academic transcript
  • Written application
  • Documentation of student acceptance
  • Documentation of student payment and expenses
  • Medical documentation used to substantiate reduced course load

School officials must keep documentation of those items for three years after program completion for each foreign student. Failure to do so can lead to penalties, such as the loss of SVEP certification.

And don’t forget about making updates! Each institution is also responsible for reporting the following information in SEVIS:

  • Change of student’s legal name or address
  • Early program completion
  • Any failure to maintain F-1 status
  • Serious disciplinary actions
  • Changes to program dates or requirements
  • Change in Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) and Designated School Officials (DSO) assignments
  • Change in I-17 information
  • The school’s loss of accreditation or licensure
  • School closure
  • Substantial changes in school curriculum affecting the FSP

If any of the above changes should occur, they must be updated in SEVIS within 21 days to remain in SEVP compliance.

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of maintaining SEVIS compliance, here’s another scenario to think about:

What happens to a student’s F-1 visa status if they decide to transfer to a different institution in the United States?

The short answer: It should not be affected at all, that is of course if all the proper steps are taken in SEVIS.

To begin the transfer process, the DSO at the school from which the student is transferring must release the SEVIS record to the school to which the student is transferring. A DSO may not refuse to transfer records for a student accepted by another SEVP-certified school for any reason, including financial or business reasons.

If the SEVIS record was in active status at the original school, the DSO at the new school must create a new I-20 and print and sign it for the transfer student. The DSO must then register the student and create an active record within 30 days of the program start date.

Now, If the SEVIS record was in terminated status at the time of the transfer, the DSO at the new school must create a draft I-20 and print a reinstatement form I-20. The student must immediately file an application for reinstatement with USCIS unless the DSO at the original school put the student into transfer status erroneously. In this case, the DSO should call the SEVP response center to request a data fix.

We know that’s a lot of information to consider when thinking about SEVIS compliance, but taking the time to properly and accurately report all information, without missing deadlines, can make life a whole lot easier for your institution’s foreign student program.

Need some assistance with SEVP compliance? Let us know. We’re here to help.

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