- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

The Immigration and Naturalization Service established a Web site this week that allows schools to register foreign students, marking the first step in the government's plan to keep an eye on students with temporary visas.
"The attorney general made it very clear after September 11 that we have to track foreign students in a more succinct manner, and this is the first step to achieving that goal," said Terrance M. O'Reilly, associate commissioner for field service operations, in a press briefing yesterday.
The U.S.A. Patriot Act of October 2001 stated that all American schools from grade schools to colleges seeking to register foreign students must be certified under the Internet-based Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
After Jan. 30, 2003, schools will be unable to accept foreign students without registration under SEVIS.
In its first day of operation Monday, the Web site recorded 730 visits and issued 260 temporary user IDs to various schools and accredited institutions. Those schools are now eligible to complete a preliminary registration process for the program. The INS will begin adjudicating these applications July 15.
Up until last year, a total of 74,000 schools had signed up to admit foreign students.
The preliminary enrollment period will end on or after Aug. 16, when the INS plans to issue interim guidelines for a more permanent certification process.
SEVIS will not change the criteria for schools to admit foreign students, but the program will require the INS to devote more resources to monitoring them. It must pursue those who do not show up for the first day of classes or who fail to re-register for each new college semester.
If a foreign student with a visa does not return to school, the school has 30 days to report it to the INS before enforcement agents are dispatched.
"I would like to get as many [agents] as possible out on the street," Mr. O'Reilly said, though he called the INS enforcement program "overburdened" and underfunded.
An INS official estimated yesterday that 5 to 10 percent of foreign college students do not report for the first day of classes. Prior to the September 11 attacks, the INS did not track them carefully.


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