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US launches tracking system for foreign students
( 2002-07-03 14:47 ) (7 )

The US Immigration and Naturalization Service has implemented an Internet-based tracking system to monitor foreign students and more easily catch those who violate their visas, officials said Tuesday.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS, which started operating Monday, is part of Washington's effort to boost surveillance of visitors to the United States.

Schools hosting foreign students are required to enroll in the system by January 30, forcing them to prove they are able to provide the education those students entered the United States to receive.

"SEVIS promises to revolutionize the way information about foreign students is shared between schools and the INS," INS Commissioner James Ziglar said.

Some 660,000 foreigners held visas to study in the United States last year, and many are able to elude efforts to police their activities.

Earlier this year, US lawmakers mandated better tracking by 2005 of the 35 million foreign visitors who land in the United States annually, in the wake of deadly terror attacks September 11 by Islamist militants who entered the United States legally.

In addition, 41 of the 47 foreign-born individuals who were charged, pleaded guilty or were convicted of involvement in terrorism on US soil in the last 10 years had been approved for a visa by an American consulate overseas.

Schools will use the system to alert immigration officials of the status of foreign students, including anything that might violate their visas.

One college administrator said she looked forward to using the system, even though at first she found it difficult to master.

"When all the kinks are worked out, it's going to be better, because it will offer us a better way of keeping track of them ... I'm kind of excited about it," said Peggy Hudson, enrollment director of Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois, which has 10 foreign students.

However, schools with large foreign student populations preferred to wait until the system can accept hundreds of records simultaneously -- right now records must be entered one-by-one on the site.

"We're dealing with about 2,200 people - 1,200 students and 1,000 scholars - and so the only way we can do this is through the batch process," said Kathy Steiner-Lang, director of the Office for International Students and Scholars at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.



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