Over 580,000 students come to the U.S. annually and all of these students must register in a government system designed to track their entry, departure and legal status. While the current system is flawed and complicated, a new one is soon to be launched: SEVIS II.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is run out of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), under the Department of Homeland Security.  The original system was launched in 2002, as mandated by the PATRIOT Act in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11. Three of the terrorists involved in the attacks had been in the U.S. on student visas, one of which was invalid.

However, SEVIS was put into operation before it was ready. Glitches occurred frequently and the student visa system continued to be abused.

In March 2003, at a Senate Committee hearing on Science, president of the American Council on Education David Ward gave testimony.

“We have repeatedly indicated a concern that this system was being implemented before it was fully operational,” Ward said. “Sadly, as we feared, SEVIS was not ready, and campuses are experiencing enormous difficulties.”

Of the problems experienced, perhaps the most major one was a case of forms meant to be printed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a secured government facility, that were actually printed at a proprietary school in San Francisco. Other malfunctions have resulted in extensive delays in issuing visas.

SEVIS II is designed to ensure these malfunctions no longer occur. The new system will be completely paperless and streamlined onto a singular online platform that can be accessed by all participating entities: government institutions, school and students.

Student profiles will be singular — one student, one record. Under the current system, students may have multiple records, both on paper and online. SEVIS II will have students create a profile that can be updated and maintained by all participants, whether it’s a customs agent checking the validity of a student’s visa upon entry or a student updating their U.S. address. This will allow for real time admissibility information, hopefully preventing mistakes like allowing persons to enter or stay with an invalid visa.

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