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Institute Meets Aug. Deadline For SEVIS

By Emily M. Craparo

The International Students Office has met the government’s Aug. 1 deadline to enter continuing international students into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, said Christine L. Colburn, an international students advisor.

But it has not been easy for the ISO to deal with the SEVIS system, which Isaac M. Colbert, the dean for graduate students, described as “bulky.”

“It’s been a race,” Colbert said. “We’ve been scrambling.”

Universities across the country have faced difficulties in dealing with the hastily constructed SEVIS system, which, said Colbert, has contained “all kinds of ongoing operational problems.” These problems included records being deleted or duplicated with partial information, and some students were accidentally associated with the wrong universities.

Colbert credits the staff of the International Students Office and the International Visitors Office for MIT’s ability to meet the deadline successfully.

“We started early designing our database to interface with SEVIS,” Colbert said. “We’re blessed with a very capable staff.”

“They’ve done a remarkable job, as befitting MIT,” he said.

International students generally agreed that the SEVIS reporting process was relatively painless. Basel Y. Al-Naffouri G, of Saudi Arabia, found the process trivial. International Students’ Association president Sisi Liu ’05 agreed, saying that it “didn’t give me any trouble.”

Some still missing from system

As of July 31, Colbert said, there was still “a small handful of people we can’t find.” In cases like this, Colbert said, it may be a student who is missing from the system, or a dependent.

Liu said a lack of understanding of the process on the part of the students may have contributed to these omissions.

She said many students were unaware that once a registration form was requested, it would not arrive for two weeks. Thus, some students applied for forms within two weeks of their scheduled departure date and did not receive them in time.

Additionally, Liu said, the students could use an old form to exit the country, but were required to have a new form in order to return.

While the International Students’ Office will try to gather enough information on these individuals to allow them to get a six-month visa, Colbert said, some students who miss the deadline may need to embark upon a more lengthy process of applying for a visa through the Department of Homeland Security.

Anticipating delayed arrivals by some students because of the visa process, the Graduate Students Office issued a set of guidelines for handling such situations to all departments and laboratories. While the guidelines encourage faculty to exercise all possible administrative devices to allow delayed students to proceed unhindered, they do acknowledge that serious problems may be caused by delays, especially where housing, research funding, and teaching appointments are concerned.

Minimal information reported

MIT continues to maintain its policy of reporting only the minimum of information required by the government.

“We’re not doing anything we don’t absolutely have to do,” Colbert said. “We’re not volunteering anything.”

“Anything that’s asked for that’s not required [by law] is an optional field, and we don’t put that in,” Colburn, the international students advisor, said.

A “watchdog group” formed by the Undergraduate Association for the purpose of monitoring MIT’s reporting policies appears to be defunct. Graduate Student Council member Christian Struve G said that “as far as I am aware of, the watchdog group is nonexistent for practical purpose on the GSC side.”

No undergraduate members of the watchdog group could be reached for comment.

However, Struve was optimistic that MIT followed through with its policy.

“I don’t think that MIT students should be worried about what kind of data the ISO submits to SEVIS since Danielle [Guichard-Ashbrook], the director of the ISO, has made it abundantly clear that she will only report what is absolutely required by law.”