New US Visa Guidelines for Students

Washington, DC: The US Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday issued new guidelines for about 200,000 foreign students and exchange visitors expected to arrive in the United States for the spring semester.

The policy is particularly important for countries like Pakistan that send hundreds of students to the US but have been discouraged by the tightening of visa restrictions after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks.
The new guidelines are intended to ensure "quick processing of legitimate students" at US ports of entry. The department has also posted a comprehensive list of answers to frequently asked questions about the new Student Exchange and Visitor Information System, better known by its acronym SEVIS. The answers can be read at two DHS Web sites, ice.gov and cbp.gov.

SEVIS is a web-based program that maintains information on international students with F/M visas and exchange visitors with J visas. It also applies to their dependents residing in the US and is administered by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student Exchange and Visitor Program.

US Customs and Border Protection officers also use the new system for processing student and exchange visitors visas at ports of entry. Michael J. Garcia, DHS Assistant Secretary for ICE, urged all students, exchange visitors, and school and program administrators to review the program requirements and "take responsibility for making sure their records are updated and correct."

"The failure to do so may lead to denial of entry into the United States and may adversely affect their academic programs," warned an immigration lawyer Fauzia Shah. Students who come to the United States legally but somehow fail to update their records in SEVIS "may end up on the wrong side of the law," she said.
International students must register with SEVIS within 30 days of the issue date on their visa, or the system designates their program as cancelled. They must also report all transfers and changes within the specified period.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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