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Follow-up Review on the Immigration and Naturalization Service's Efforts to Track Foreign Students in the United States through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System

Report Number I-2003-003
March 2003



  U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service

HQADN 70/2.2

425 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20536

March 5, 2003

FROM: Michael A. Garcia (original signed)
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
SUBJECT: Follow-up to Draft OIG Report on the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

On March 1, 2003, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) merged into the Department of Homeland Security. As part of this transition, responsibility for SEVIS changed from what is now the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This memorandum presents the views of both new entities.

SEVIS Implementation: We are pleased to advise that by January 1,2003, the INS successfully developed and deployed all facets of the SEVIS system. SEVIS is part of the overall Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which encompasses other critical components such as, re-certification processes, a fee payment system, a dedicated budget, and training. By design, the use of SEVIS by schools and the computer-based entry of student information tracks the actual deployment of the technical system. Thus, the required use of the system by schools was planned to occur in phases, with reporting related to new students mandated first, followed by reporting related to continuing students. This multi-phase approach was described in proposed regulations published in May 2002, highlighted in the INS' fall 2002 congressional testimony, and codified in our December 2002 final regulations.25 As a result, we respectfully disagree with the OIG's finding that SEVIS implementation was insufficient because of the phased-in schedule. As stated earlier, SEVIS was deployed fully and in a timely manner consistent with the schedule previously announced.

Additional issues:

Schools not approved for timely access.

As of January 31, some schools had not received final decisions as to their applications. Here it is important to note that not every application filed in SEVIS by November 15, 2003 was ready for adjudication. In fact, the majority of filings were incomplete (e.g.; they did not include the appropriate fee or necessary evidence). Of the 893 pending schools cited in your review, 347 had problems related to payment amounts, and an additional 152 schools were subject to outstanding requests for additional evidence. This resulted in 394 schools reporting no final action by January 30. Prior to January 30, the INS contacted each of these schools to determine if they needed to issue the Form 1-20 immediately. Most schools indicated that it would be entirely acceptable to have the Form 1-20 issued by the end of the following week. Ultimately, all of the schools were fully adjudicated by February 13. On January 29, INS granted a grace period for schools to issue non-SEVIS I-20's until February 15, 2003.

Compliance audits not properly performed.

The on-site reviews developed for initial approval of schools in SEVIS aimed to provide a summary of each school's understanding of relevant regulations and their past compliance with record-keeping and reporting requirements. The decision to review five student records at each school was not intended to establish the comprehensiveness of respective SEVIS records, as the schools had not yet been entered in that system. Separate regulations will be published regarding the requirements for future re-certifications in accordance with the Border Security Act, to include procedures for identifying criteria for a school's compliance with SEVIS.

Additional training and guidance for adjudicators/inspectors.

With regard to training effectiveness, the INS conducted two extensive training sessions including all District Adjudication Officers to ensure the dissemination and full understanding of information related to the SEVIS. During the week of December] 7, the INS' three regional offices, and offices in Buffalo, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Houston and Honolulu offered pilot training sessions. Approximately one month later, during the week of January 13, the INS provided detailed SEVIS training to a total of 107 sites (including those nine selected for the initial pilot test), with instructions on current guidelines, regulations and processing protocols reflecting the new SEVIS Forms 1-20 and DS-2019. Training participants reported satisfaction with the information supplied and opportunity for interactive questioning. In the future, the Department of Homeland Security through the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will continue to provide effective, . periodic training to all SEVIS personnel.

Sufficient resources needed for enforcement procedures.

We agree that more resources are critically important to ensure proper enforcement of SEVIS. Unfortunately these resources are not presently available. We seek approval of a student fee regulation that would provide funding for the SEVIS program.

If there are additional questions or concerns, please contact Maura Deadrick at 202-353-3065 or via cc:Mail.


  1. The primary reason for the phased approach to enroll continuing students was to ensure program integrity. Schools needed adequate time to review and convert the considerable data on their continuing students to SEVIS. Additionally, Consular officers and Service officers can readily determine the validity of documents if one date for compliance is established.