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Improving Communication for SEVIS Compliance: Effective Strategies for International Students

Jun 21, 2023 | 0 comments

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Jun 21, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

“Background Information About SEVIS Regulations and its impact on students and International Educational Effectiveness”

The capacity to track foreign visitors better within the United States is a continued priority of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) (Calvillo, 2014). Manifestations of this are the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) system’s improvements designed to enable efficient tracking of international students attending institutions in the United States. According to SEVP & USICE (2000), the efforts began on July 1st, 2002, when the INS granted permission to colleges and universities to use the SEVIS database. This information system facilitates the data transmission on M-1 and F-1 students and exchange visitors of J-1 to and from the federal government. SEVIS was born based on a pilot program – the CIPRIS (Coordinated Interagency Partnership Regulating International Students (the United States, 2002).


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According to Arnone (2002), colleges complained that the system permitted entering information only by hand and did not allow colleges to connect their databases to SEVIS. Additionally, Arnone mentioned that it was also incapable of processing J-1 visa applications, which most international professors and researchers have. Technical guidelines to help colleges connect their databases to the system became available in August 2002. Thus, SEVIS entered into production on that same date.

To put this into perspective, the most significant challenges encountered three years ago at one of the Minnesota State Colleges, and Universities (MNSCU) schools were student communication, as the only way the international office used to share federal information with the international students was via email (Siskin & Library of Congress, 2004). The email communication did not prove to be very reliable, as the students complained about not receiving the emails; some did not have a computer and did not have access to email. NAFSA et al. (2003) indicated that not every student entering the United States is aware of the F-1 visa rules and regulations, leading to severe problems. For instance, Homeland Security officers arrest many students who do not have proper work permits (Markel, 2013). Typically, those students are not aware of the regulations.

Understanding most of the rules is easy, but the problem is often miscommunication between students and international offices within the colleges. According to SEVIS, many students do not know they cannot work on campus for more than twenty hours a week and can work full time in summer as long as this is also on campus. When students work outside the campus and are caught by homeland Security, they are sent home and cannot return to the United States (SEVIS, 2013).

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), another common problem is correctly applying for classes. The international students must register for each semester at least twelve credits. If a student chooses to withdraw from a class, he or she must also register for another class as the F-1 student visa still requires twelve credit hours (USCIS, 2013). Similarly, several students do not recognize that they must provide notice within ten days whenever their address changes.

There are many strategies that colleges may use for improving information flow to students. For example, 450,000 students enrolled in City University of New York (CUNY) in 2013; nearly 23,000 were international students from 165 countries around the globe (CUNNY, 2013). Generally, one out of every three students who enroll in CUNY was born outside the United States (CUNNY, 2013). As part of these students, there are many things the international students need to know about attending a CUNY college, obtaining and maintaining their immigration status, and seeking employment in the United States. Therefore by reviewing some of their students, they firmly believe that the workshops are helping them to understand the academic system, regulation by having experts to answer their questions, students from their own country for them to talk to and help them to choose the suitable classes, also CUNY communicates with their students through writing services. If a student has any problem, he or she can write to the International Office and receive a reply (CUNY, 2013).

Shiraev & Boyd (2014) pointed out that currently, for the 2014 fall semester, Winona State University hosts a population of nearly 390 international students from 40 countries around the world. All international students hold an I-20 form, which is the official document for non-immigrants and serves as the student’s key to enter and study in the United States. With their most recent SEVIS (visa) status, students need to be aware of the rules and regulations and keep their SEVIS record active at all times. SEVIS is a government database set with real-time parameters that do not allow for spontaneous change, much less negotiation of deadlines. Therefore, the most challenging aspect nowadays is the time-sensitivity of data entering.

Purpose of Statement:

The purpose of this study is to identify the most effective method of maintaining appropriate communication between WSU`s International Office and WSU`s international students. The study will get information from other universities, Winona State University staff, and a literature review.

Research question

What is the most effective method of maintaining appropriate communication between WSU`s International Office and WSU`s international students to ensure compliance with the SEVIS regulations?”


SEVIS– exchange visitor information system; this is the database user to collect international student information between universities and immigration centers.

CPT– Curricular Practical Training is an authorization for work that permits F1 students to take part in practicum or internship courses as they continue working towards the achievement of their degrees in different fields of study

Optional Practical Training (OPT) – this is temporary employment related directly to a significant area of study of an F-1 student. Under the previous rules, authorization was granted to an F-1 student to receive practical training of up to a total of 12 months either before and after completion of studies.

DSO– Designated School Official

INS– Immigration and Naturalization Service

MNSCU– Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

CUNY- City University of New York

WSU– Winona State University

NAFSA– National Association for Foreign Student Advisers

ELC– English Language Center

BSU– Bemidji State University

CBP- United States Customs and Border Protection


The essay identified some limitations to the study, which include time, costs, and distance. The limitation of time deals with how the SEVIS is updated. The data reporting in the SEVIS system is time-consuming and also needs maximum accuracy. This will be a significant limitation identified by the essay since many processes are involved, and much accuracy is required, which consumes a lot of time. I am the Designated School Official (DSO) at WSU; federal law and regulations require me to update and maintain the SEVIS records of non-immigrant students holding an F-1 visa. I have to work cheerfully with international students and update their requests in SEVIS at specific times. Automatic functions of SEVIS take place after the passing of the legal time limits for an individual to be allowed to update the student’s records. They do not prolong the legal limits of time and are not intended to make replacements of the timely action by a DSO to conform to reporting responsibilities (Danley, 2010).

Distance is another limitation to the study because we have students attending classes on three campuses: Winona, Rochester, and the English Language Center at Bemidji University. These campuses need information in a timely fashion. From my experience, I see WSU faculty are ill-informed about SEVIS recommendations as the current system of communication between emails and websites are currently being used; I need to improve how can face encounters with students, as we need to schedule more face to face opportunities and workshops to present the information to all students and might be a good idea to invite some faculty either through monthly orientation or through assigned workshops. However, this might be a challenge because of the distance limitation (Janet, 2009).

The cost was another limitation of this project. To begin, there is a significant initial budget for the system that outlays the actual budget for SEVIS interface software installation and the business practices changes. Moreover, other involved costs include expenses and maintenance fees. This study covers a wide range of subject matters that need to be addressed in different universities. It encompasses collaboration between Winona, Rochester, English Language Center in Bemidji University, the international students.

Moreover, other activities require a large number of funds for them to be executed. They include the organization of educational conferences with the international students, production of educational materials and information for the international students, and funds for intensive orientation of the international students when they arrive at the campuses. Similarly, there is a cost involved in the facilitation of meetings and collaborations of the institutions involved. All these may be costly to the project and may pose a challenge (Calvillo, 2014).


The first assumption the study made was that most of the international students from different countries have language barriers and therefore face difficulties understanding the rules and regulations of SAVIS. This assumption has been adopted because international students do not use the English language as their first language. Therefore, they may not be able to understand the rules.

Another assumption of the essay was that different countries have different technologies. Therefore the country of origin of an international student determines the way of communication he or she is well versed with. One form of communication by SEVIS may not be enough because different students from different countries may prefer emails. In contrast, others may prefer Facebook, phone calls, and others’ use of websites.

Another assumption is that the faculties in WSU are ill-informed about the recommendations of SEVIS. Therefore, there is a need for building strong relationships with the faculties so that all international students from different faculties will be informed of the proper SEVIS rules and regulations.

Literature Review

Current school:

Federal law and regulations require DSO to maintain and update the non-immigrant students’ SEVIS records holding an F-1 visa. Working with international students and update their requests in SEVIS at specific times. Automatic functions of SEVIS take place after the passing of the legal time limits for an individual to be allowed to update the student’s records. They do not prolong the legal limits of time and are not intended to make replacements of the timely action by a DSO to conform to reporting responsibilities. With all the reporting that needs to be done in SEVIS, the penalty for giving false or misleading information to the SEVIS database is significant. Winona State University could lose its ability to sponsor international students and scholars on F-1 visas. SEVIS is very unforgiving when it comes to errors. Therefore, only the authorized WSU Designated School Officials and Responsible Officers have access to SEVIS.

Washington State University (2014) is a public research university, per NAFSA conference (2013). WSU has a growing community of 1,900 international students and around 600 scholars.

According to Hansen(2014) (phone call interview), the director of Washington State University, the most effective method to communicate with international students is using iCoug Tutorial, pre-arrival online orientation with a module on “Visa and Immigration, Maintaining student status,” Hansen provided me with the login to their system to test it.

One of the seven MNSCU (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities) uses the Batching process from ISRS to SEVIS. For example, all the information entered in ISRS by any registrar staff or any administrator can cause a problem for international students because it is batched with SEVIS overnight. I am working with Bemidji State University, The English Language Center (ELC) situated at Bemidji, and offered by WSU, provides training in the English language to international students who wish to satisfy the requirements of English language for admission to BSU, Winona State University, or other US colleges and universities.

The third resource comes from Bobson College, Nicosia, N. International Student, and Scholar Advisor for the last few years; I have built a good relationship with other schools, especially Bobson College adviser since we met at an immigration workshop.

And the fourth recourse with the administrator of WSU, and see how they communicate with domestic students and which database they are using.

This regulation affects three campuses that need this information in a timely fashion.

Winona state university:

WSU faculties are ill-informed about SEVIS recommendations.

As the current communication system between emails and websites is currently being used, we need to improve how we can face encounters with students, as we need to schedule more face-to-face opportunities and workshops to present the information to all students. It might be a good idea to invite some faculty either through monthly orientation or through assigned workshops, also how WSU technology assists in establishing better communications with our international students using blog hang out and other technologies for sharing information online.

Student’s responsibility and WSU

International students, while studying in the United States, have an independent responsibility in maintaining lawful status. This includes becoming knowledgeable on reporting updates and requirements and the international center of reportable events’ timely notifications and maintaining the current contact information with the registrar. The penalties for scholars and international students are also significant. According to SEVP & USICE (2000), failure by international students to provide up-to-date information may lead to the student being deported or becoming out-of-status, which may negatively impact future applications for visas to the United States.

For the international students to maintain their immigration status each semester, they must enroll for full-time studies and meet with the DSO at, beginning and end of each semester. Any change in the duration of studies must be completed in not less than 60 days before their study program ends- based on the date stipulated on their I-20. Students may not become employed on or off-campus until they have received authorization and approval in their I-20. Address changes also need to be reported within ten days of the move. The researcher must submit every student’s request for changes in their I-20 by a specific time to the DSO, and the DSO must complete the student’s requests promptly to capture all students’ status in the SEVIS database (the United States 2002).

The U.S. government takes individuals working illegally very seriously. CPT is a work authorization that allows an F-1 student to engage in an employment opportunity that is an essential part of a curriculum established. At Winona State University, this language is inferred to mean that the student either engages in an internship that is a mandatory part of their degree program or the international student is engaging in an optional practice for which they are registered in a practicum or internship course before they graduate. By regulation, students need to complete one academic year before requesting CPT unless required immediately for the student’s major (Bray & Falstrom, 2007).

Registering for the class is not enough reason for them to start working on CPT. They must first register for the required class and then submit these documents to the International Services Office; a letter from their employer that indicates the title of the job, employment start and end dates, wage or salary, number of hours per week, and location of employment (NAFSA et al., 2013). Once a student has obtained and submitted these documents, if approved, the DSO will authorize CPT and make the fitting notation on the current I-20 of the student. Another type of employment that will allow international students to work after they have earned their degree is OPT (Optional Practical Training), an opportunity for an F-1 student to gain work experience to complement their academic program.

Time constraints when applying for OPT are based on the completion of the student’s degree. An application for OPT can be submitted as early as their program end date by 90 days (For instance, if the graduation of a student is on May 15, the student can apply for their OPT as early as the 15th of February). Also, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must receive the student application not later than 60 days after the day the student completes his or her program or the program end date indicated on the student’s I-20, whichever occurs first. However, students cannot start working in the U.S. until they have received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS. Working without an EAD can negatively affect a student’s immigration status now and in the future (Siskin & Library of Congress, 2004).

Differed Culture:

Therefore many international students experience culture shock upon arriving in the United States. These students must understand the cultural differences and how to we should deal with them. The article by Araujo (2011) reviewed the concerns of the adjustment issues experienced by international students enrolled in American universities and colleges. The three issues were English fluency, social support, and length of study in the U.S.

According to Hansen, the Washington State University director, the most effective method to communicate with international students is using iCoug Tutorial, pre-arrival online orientation with a module on “Visa and Immigration, Maintaining student status.”

Stanford University uses Facebook office hours. So far, they said the experiment has been successful, which is apparent by the number of questions being asked by the faculty members – and by the number of positive reviews, the practice has received thus far.

Media is an easy way to communicate with students all around the world. They can be shown all involved with the F-1 visa, utilize it properly, and ensure the regulations are not violated. The researcher can share articles, news, and photos quickly and without delay.

In a statement made by Nicosia (2014), the International Student and Scholar adviser at the University of Babson, “The most effective tool we use is setting up automatic emails reminding students to do specific things at particular times of the year. More specifically, we remind them about travel signatures, full-time registration, and employment authorization deadlines”.

However, she points out that the best thing they have done is to clear away the barriers between students and academic advisors. They have been building good relationships with their academic advisors to minimize problems on that side of the house.

Workshops provide a means for the International Office to explain the F-1 visa rules.

Given the large body of my research on the workshops, I offer a way to create training and include the dean and academic advisor. These workshops will build a good relationship between WSU administrative and international students.

NAFSA (2014) conference, NAFSA conference is supporting scholars and International Students, there are a lot of new regulations that need to be addressed to our students, one of NAFSA meeting were disused Ebola virus disease …and how we should deal with our students who are coming from West Africa, Larry Minner is one of the CBP United States Customs. Border Protection spoke about serious issues that they are dealing with; travelers are transporting food into the United States for personal use. The international office must inform the international student’s travelers who must declare all their food products. Failure to make a declaration of their food products can result in up to $10,000 in penalties and fines.

Communication with international students

According to the United States (2004), there have been many changes in the policy and legal landscape surrounding the education of international students. The international students that wish to study in the United States continually face several hurdles in the SEVIS, especially in communication between them and the international office. Shiraev & Boyd (2014) asserted that contradictory information and lack of communication from the Department of State (DOS) and DHS regarding changing requirements and restrictions of SEVIS, mainly when they affect the status of the students, has continued to frustrate many international students in different campuses.

In trying to find out the most effective method of maintaining appropriate communication between the international office and the international student, to ensure compliance with the SEVIS regulations, the essay will discuss the experiences and methods that different schools have adopted in trying to communicate appropriately with the international students to comply with the SEVIS regulations.

Washington State University (WSU)

WSU first successfully integrated the SEVIS data requirements into the business processes of the institution’s departments that are responsible for SEVIS compliance. Bray & Falstrom (2007) pointed out that even though the SEVIS compliance responsibility is under the International Students Office, other offices such as the undergraduate Admissions, the Intensive America Language Center, the Graduate School, and the other three campus branches all have Designated School Officials (DSOs) currently. Danley (2010) stated that these DSOs assist internal students’ offices with SEVIS processes, especially in communicating with international students.

Additionally, WSU created the SEVIS coordinator position to ensure that reporting of data is done in a timely fashion and accurately. This has eased implementation, compliance with SEVIS regulations, and communication with the international students.

Jane (2009) noted that international students, through assistance with the efficient and established method of communication between the international office and the relevant DSOs in different departments and campuses, are now well aware of their responsibilities for frequent contact maintenance with the International Student Office to protect their status. Moreover, Calvillo (2014) indicated that the intensive orientation is given to the international students on arrival to any of the campuses of WSU assists the international students to understand the requirements of SEVIS.

University of Idaho (U of I)

To ensure efficient communication between the international student’s office and e international students for compliance with the SEVIS regulations, the U of I’s International programs office has adapted to SEVIS, including staffing changes. To improve communication and get in touch with the international students, I added more staff and trained more for their 17 campuses, such as the DSOs.

According to SEVP & USICE (2000), the international students at U of I are aware of the SEVIS requirements. Moreover, the International Programs Office sends to the international students repeated and frequent updates and reminders fortnightly, and this is helpful to the students in compliance with the SEVIS regulations.

Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC)

In LCSC, the International Programs Office is concerned with supporting international students and constantly communicate with them, especially on the regulations of SEVIS. According to United States (2002), to effectively communicate with international students, the international programs’ office of LCSC created a chain of command with a detailed process for communicating notifications and solving issues and problems that may arise, especially on SEVIS regulations.

However, NAFSA et al. (2003) noted that the changes faced by staff in LCSC in a bid to stay abreast with the latest changes in SEVIS regulations and data requirements for a small school are taxing. With much work and minimal staff, it is hard to relay some information to international students. However, international students tend to comply with the requirements of SEVIS status. Moreover, Siskin & Library of Congress (2004) noted that the international students from Africa and Asia exhibit significant stress and fear of failing the SEVIS status that their data reporting is always on time and correct.

Walla Walla Community College (WWCC)

United States (2004) noted that the communication between the international students and the college has been efficient because the process of admission and preparation of 1-20s is much smoother. The college uses email alerts for faster and efficient communication with international students, especially n alerting them to any changes to the SEVIS requirements. The staff and the WWCC faculty assist new international students in understanding the regulations and rules of SEVIS. Therefore, generally, international students at WWCC appear to comply and understand the requirements of SEVIS without complaints.


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