Changes due to the events of September 11

As a result of the events of September 11th, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), US Consuls, and US Border and Airport Inspectors have tightened inspection and visa procedures. They are giving more careful attention to all visa and entry applications. In addition, the INS has proposed several changes to the rules regarding non-immigrant admissions. Below are the most recent proposals that are about to go into effect.

Final rule for international student reporting is announced

The final rule maintained the mandatory compliance date of January 30, 2003, after which all authorized schools must use the system to issue SEVIS Forms I-20 to all new students, as well as for current students who need a new Form I-20 because of a reportable event. Other significant changes from the proposed to the final rule include:

  1. Sets August 1, 2003 as the date by which schools must enter data into SEVIS about those students who were enrolled prior to January 30, 2003.
  2. Requires schools to report both a student's physical and mailing address when the two addresses are different.
  3. Clarifies the rules regarding the authorization by schools of a student taking less than a full-time course load for medical or academic reasons.
  4. Clarifies the rules regarding the transfer of students.
  5. Clarifies the rules regarding the authorization of optional practical training.

SEVIS is scheduled to be operational on January 1, 2003.

Certification rule for schools wishing to admit international students

All schools currently approved for admission of international students are required to apply for INS review for continuation of approval and access to SEVIS no later than January 30, 2003. Any school that has not filed by January 30, 2003 will no longer be allowed to accept foreign students.

To date, 2,163 schools are currently in various stages of SEVIS while 483 are awaiting approval to use the system.

New rule to assist part-time commuter students

The INS announced an interim rule to allow Mexican and Canadian commuter students to study on a part-time basis at schools located within 75 miles of the United States border. This new rule will clarify that Mexican or Canadian nationals who reside outside the United States and regularly commute across a land border to study may do so on a part-time basis within the F-1 or M-1 nonimmigrant visa category.

New information reporting requirements

Schools will be required to use the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to issue documents to foreign students and report information to the INS. SEVIS is an internet-based system that lets the government, and schools exchange information about foreign students and their dependents.

The new regulations will require schools to report the following information to the INS:

  1. A student's enrollment or failure to enroll at the school;
  2. The start date of the student's next term or session;
  3. A student dropping below a full course of study without authorization;
  4. Any other failure to maintain status or complete the program;
  5. A change of the student's or dependent's legal name or address;
  6. Any disciplinary action taken by the school against the student as a result of the student being convicted of a crime; and
  7. A student's graduation prior to the listed program end date.

The preliminary enrollment period to enable INS approved schools to begin using SEVIS to accept foreign students began on July 1, 2002.

Prohibition on attending school prior to approval

Non-immigrants admitted under B-1 or B-2 visitor visas are prohibited from pursuing a course of study at a school in the United States prior to receiving approval from the INS to change their status to that of an F (academic) or M (vocational) student. To help this process, the INS has set a target processing time of 30 days for all requests to change or extend non-immigrant status.

New requirements for change of status

Foreigners planning to attend school in the United States are expected to obtain the proper student visa prior to their admission to the US. However, the INS does recognize that some prospective students will want to visit the US first for a legitimate reason, such as touring campuses or interviewing with schools. Therefore, new requirements for B-visa visitors, who want to become students, will be established. Visitors admitted under B status will still be able to change to student status, but only if they stated their intent to study in the United States when they initially applied for admission and presented any I-20 forms they may have been issued. INS inspectors will be required to note that the visitor is a prospective student and make the proper notation on the Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure.

No more minimum admission period

The current minimum six months admission period for B-2 visa visitors will be eliminated and replaced with "a period of time that is fair and reasonable for the completion of the purpose of the visit." When B visa holders apply for entry to the US, they will be required to explain to an INS inspector the purpose of their visit so the inspector can determine the appropriate length of stay. When the time needed to accomplish the purpose of the visit cannot be determined, the visitor will be granted a 30-day period of admission.

Changes to conditions for extension of stay

The conditions under which a B-visa visitor can obtain an extension of stay and the maximum extension period that can be granted will be limited. Visitors in B status will be be able to extend their stay only in cases that have resulted from "unexpected or compelling humanitarian reasons," such as medical treatment or a delay in the conclusion of a business matter. The maximum extension that can be granted will be reduced from one year to six months.