NAFSA Comments On SEVP Draft Policy Guidance On Annual Vacation

October 31, 2013 Download pdf

 

On October 31, 2013, NAFSA commented on SEVP’s Draft Policy Guidance for Adjudicators 1306-02: Annual Vacation. Public comment on SEVP’s draft guidance is due by November 16, 2013. NAFSA suggested in its comment letter that SEVP revise its draft guidance by:

  • Reproducing the full text of the regulation that is being interpreted by the guidance, so that adjudicators and the public are clear on exactly which regulatory language is being interpreted;
  • Redefining the core definition of annual vacation to distinguish between “Quarter and trimester schedules where students take only one vacation a year during any one of the quarters or trimesters instead of during the summer; and all other schools,” rather than between “Semester schedules and all other schedules";
  • Recognizing that the Department of Education’s definition of “academic year” for financial aid purposes might not cover intensive English language training programs or condensed terms and courses, where a student takes a full term’s worth of coursework through intensive delivery and work spanning less time than a full term;
  • Redefining the term “break” to encompass holiday breaks that occur during a term of study (for example, spring break); Break periods during which a school offers instruction on an entirely optional basis (for example, a “minimester” offered during a winter break between fall and spring semesters); and other between-term breaks set by a school’s calendaring policy;
  • Amending the draft guidance covering “Program end date with pending extension of status” to more appropriately cover the between-program periods associated with school transfers and changes of level;
  • Removing the phrases “authorized employment” and “suspension” in the definition of “vacation";
  • Clarifying the reinstatement provision;
  • Clarifying the “length and specific term” of vacation provision;
  • Clarifying the annual vacation quick reference chart to conform to the regulatory language;
  • Clarifying the reduced course load provisions, to provide that all RCLs be treated equally in terms of eligibility clocks for benefits such as vacation, practical training, work authorization, etc., namely, that a period for which a student has been properly authorized to engage in any reduced course load should be counted in the same way as a term in which the student is fully enrolled;
  • Clarifying the leave of absence provision to take the temporary absence guidance (1306-07) and the comments SEVP receives about it into account, especially on exactly how the “five-month temporary absence clock” starts and stops. The annual vacation guidance and temporary absence guidance should be closely aligned and fully cross-referenced;
  • Clarifying the post-completion optional practical training (OPT) language to stress that vacation taken while employed on post-completion OPT is not governed by the annual vacation provision;
  • Add the following citations to the list of authorities and references: 214.2(f)(8) [school transfer] and 214.2(f)(5)(ii) [change in educational levels, which is also applied when a student begins a new program at the same level].

SEVP is accepting public feedback until November 16, 2013. The draft guidance and instructions for submitting feedback are available at Study in the States. SEVP's broadcast message alerting SEVIS users to this comment opportunity indicated that to comment on the guidance, "e-mail SEVPFeedback@ice.dhs.gov with the title of the guidance in the subject line. Comments for each guidance document must be in a separate e-mail."