Student tracking begins July 1

On July 1, some U.S. colleges and trade schools will begin using a nationwide computerized system to track foreign students for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is expected to inform INS promptly — and electronically — when foreign students enroll in, drop out of or are expelled from school. INS also will be informed of address changes, name changes and even changes in fields of study.

Congress ordered SEVIS in 1996, but colleges and other schools resisted it until after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Several of the terrorists had attended U.S. flight schools on student visas.

Use of the computerized reporting system by colleges and technical schools will be voluntary beginning July 1, but will become mandatory Jan. 1, 2003, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

SEVIS replaces a paper-based reporting system that requires documents to be mailed between schools and INS, and data then to be entered into a mainframe database. In an announcement Friday, Ashcroft called the system "a slow, antiquated, paper-driven reporting system" that is incapable of keeping track of the more than 1 million foreign students who enter the United States each year.

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