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DOJ Finds SEVIS Operation Still Problematic; SEVIS Q & As

March 27, 2003

In a second evaluation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that the new database, developed by the federal government to track foreign students, is not yet fully operational. The March 2003 report was prepared by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General.

INS was required by the USA Patriot Act of 2001 to develop a database for processing and tracking all foreign students and visitors that would begin on January 1, 2003. Responsibility for SEVIS was officially transferred on March 1 from the former INS to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where it specifically resides in the Bureau of Investigations and Customs Enforcement.
While SEVIS was officially activated earlier this year, the report concludes that INS failed to ensure that the system was fully operational by January 1, 2003, as mandated by Congress.

According to the DOJ report, INS did not complete certification reviews for all institutions that submitted applications to use SEVIS. Other key findings include:

  • INS did not adequately train and supervise the contractors hired to perform on-site campus visits to ensure that schools are bona fide institutions.
  • INS did not adequately train the federal adjudicators -- those charged with making the final determination to approve an institution for participation in SEVIS.
  • INS has not yet developed procedures to identify fraud within SEVIS.

The report includes the responses of INS to each of DOJ’s findings.

SEVIS Meetings

In an effort to assist institutions with SEVIS compliance, INS held a series of meetings earlier this year, in conjunction with the Department of Education and campus administrators, to answer questions about the system. The American Council on Education (ACE) has compiled the first set of queries from the regional meetings and the responses of agency officials, and posted them on its Web site.

A second round of questions and answers from the SEVIS regional meetings will be posted in the coming weeks.

The DOJ report is available on the Web at: http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/inspection/I-2003-003/final.pdf.

The ACE Web site is located at http://www.acenet.edu.