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New rules for international students, faculty

By Cindy Bank / Washington, D.C. Office

As many departments around campus have learned, recent changes in laws and regulations are affecting how visa applications for foreign students, staff, visiting scholars and faculty are being handled by the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and other agencies.

The changes already have slowed down the visa process, so it now takes longer for some international students and faculty to get into the country.

One of the biggest changes involves the tracking of foreign students and scholars under the Student and Exchange Visitors Information System (SEVIS). U-M and all other colleges and universities that admit international students are expected to be in compliance by Jan. 30.

The Internet-based system will enable the State Department, INS and schools to share information electronically about the status of foreign students’ visa applications and their academic progress. The University will be required to report such information as when students drop below full-time status without prior authorization, change of academic level and employment authorization.

On campus, a task force has been formed to plan, communicate and direct the University’s compliance with SEVIS. It is co-chaired by Rodolfo Altamirano, director of the International Center, and John Godfrey, assistant dean of international education at Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

The International Center has followed SEVIS implementation requirements closely and has worked with other affected U-M offices, such as admissions, the registrar, Michigan Administrative Information Services, the general counsel and others to ensure a smooth transition.

SEVIS is based on the Coordinated Interagency Partnership Regulating International Students, which Congress enacted in 1996 in response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

In addition to SEVIS, the State Department is requiring additional security clearances for some visa applicants, which adds four to eight weeks to the process. All male applicants between the ages of 16 and 45, regardless of nationality or country of visa application, are now subject to this additional security procedure.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced a new policy that will require the INS to review immigration documents for anyone applying for a Social Security number and to verify that the person’s paperwork is in order before the SSA can process the application. Federal law does not require a Social Security number for people before they start working, but individuals need the numbers to file tax forms.

The White House announced in May that the new Interagency Panel on Advanced Science Security (IPASS) will screen foreign student applicants seeking to study sensitive science and technology programs.

IPASS will be triggered when applicants fit certain criteria, such as being citizens of countries known to sponsor terrorism and applying for study in specific areas of study that are uniquely available in the United States and are in sensitive areas. These criteria have not yet been fully defined.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy—which has worked with the State Department, INS and other security and science agencies to develop IPASS—has consulted with the higher education community. The White House is expected to release an executive order in the near future to implement the program.

For more information, contact Cindy Bank at the U-M Washington, D.C. office, at; Rodolfo Altamirano at; or John Godfrey at

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