DOS cable UNCLAS STATE 079909 (April 30, 2005), the Department of State's annual field cable to consular sections, addresses topics such as Data Fixes and SEVI hits, and the SEVIS I-901 fee.

Cable Text


R 300143Z APR 05
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS STATE 079909


TO CONSULAR SECTIONS FROM ASSISTANT SECRETARY MAURA HARTY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS
SUBJECT: STUDENT VISA UPDATE

REF: (A) 04 STATE 274054  (B) 04 STATE 265431  (C) 04 STATE
154060  (D)  04 STATE 70079

1.  I would like to thank consular officers world-wide for all
your efforts last summer and fall in ensuring that applicants
for student and exchange visitor visas had the opportunity to
apply for visas in order to arrive for their programs in the
United States in time.  Although applications for student visas
declined by seven percent between FY 03 and FY 04, the number of
student visas issued actually increased one and one half
percent.  We expect this decline in student visa applications to
reverse itself and resume its normal growth pattern this year.

2.  I would like to pay special compliments to those consular
officers who have been active in outreach to the student and
academic communities in your host countries.  We are very
interested in reports from consular officers who have made
efforts to speak to student groups in the past, or who have
plans in place to do so as the student visa season kicks in.

Accessibility to Student Applicants Is Important
------------------------------------------------

3.  Reftels have stressed the importance of making sure that
students, either first-time or continuing, have every
opportunity to apply for a visa in time to make their program
start dates.  In many countries, the high season for students
corresponds with the high season for travel in general.  Some
countries continue to have longer waiting periods for
appointments.  It is vital that students and exchange visitors
know that they can get priority scheduling for their visa
applications.  Managing consular officers should make sure that
the information on how to obtain a priority appointment is
clearly visible on the consulate web site.  In addition,
consulates that employ off-site call centers or other agents to
schedule visa interviews should make sure that the staff working
at these agencies are alert to this policy and know how to
provide a priority appointment for students and exchange
visitors.  Of course, any applicant looking for a priority
appointment should have an I-20 or DS-2019 already in hand.


Data Fixes and SEVI Hits
------------------------

4.  I'd like to alert consular officers to the possibility that
you may see an increased number of student applicants with SEVI
hits.  As described in REF A, the SEVIS database automatically
tracks students, and if for some reason the record is not
properly updated or if there is a technical problem, the system
eventually will change the student's status from "active" to
"terminated."  Based on this information in the SEVIS database,
the ICE Compliance Enforcement Unit places a TECS lookout on the
student, which then generates a SEVI hit in CLASS.  The student
or exchange visitor may actually be maintaining proper status in
the United States and may be unaware of the hit.

5.  At present, schools cannot correct their own records; they
must ask DHS' SEVIS office to enter the data fixes.  While DHS
is working to correct these data errors in SEVIS, a large number
of inaccurate SEVI hits are being added to the lookout system in
the meantime.  The SEVI hit is not an ineligibility in and of
itself; rather it is an indicator that the subject may have
violated status.

6.  Consular officers need to examine all available information
to determine if a violation has occurred.  Individuals with a
SEVI hit who are applying for an F, M, or J visa may or may not
have a current SEVIS record in active status.  (While ordinarily
we should not issue visas to persons with SEVIS status other
than "INITIAL" or "ACTIVE," if a data fix is pending the record
will not yet have been reactivated.)  If the student or exchange
visitor can demonstrate that he or she has been maintaining
status, such as through an academic transcript showing
continuous full-time student status, or a letter from a school
indicating that they have properly filed paperwork for a data
fix for this particular student, consular officers may issue an
F or J visa over the SEVI hit.

7.  Posts can also contact the ICE Compliance Enforcement Unit
(CEU) for information about the basis of an
individual SEVI entry.  The CEU will make every effort to
respond to any inquiries within one week.  If a new visa is
issued over a SEVI hit, post should also notify ICE/CEU so that
the CEU can remove the lookout.  Provide as much information as
possible on how the determination was made, that no violation
occurred and that issuing a new visa was warranted.

8.  If posts have been seeing a large number of unjustified SEVI
hits, or have had problems in resolving them, please notify
CA/VO/F/P.


The SEVIS I-901 Fee
-------------------

9.  Consular officers more and more will be encountering
students who must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee before applying for
their F, M, or J visas.  If you encounter students or exchange
visitors who have problems paying the SEVIS fee please refer
them to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in DHS
that administers the I-901 fee payment process.  The e-mail
address is [email protected]  The SEVIS fee only applies to
students and scholars beginning a new program of study or
research from September 1, 2004.  Continuing students and
scholars whose program start dates are prior to September 1,
2004, are not subject to the fee.  The program start date on the
I-20 or DS-2019 is controlling.  Consular officers should make
sure that consular staff and adjudicating officers understand
when the fee is required, and make sure that consulate websites
have correct information about SEVIS fee payment options.  The
best way to ensure that up-to-date information on the SEVIS fee
is available to your applicants is to hotlink the DHS SEVIS
webpage, www.ice.gov/sevis and SEVIS I-901 fee payment website,
www.fmjfee.com, with your own consulate website.  If consular
officers have any doubt as to whether an applicant is required
to pay, they may contact the SEVP office directly at
[email protected]

10.  Exchange visitors participating in a program sponsored by
the Federal Government whose program number prefix begins with
"G-1," "G-2," or "G-3" are statutorily exempt from the fee.
Applicants whose I-20 or DS-2019 was issued before September 1,
2004, to begin a new program or issued for a continuation of an
on-going program, are also not subject to the fee, even if the
actual form presented at the application was created after that
date.  Dependents of the primary student or exchange visitor
applicant are not required to pay the fee.  Aliens in the United
States who are studying while in another nonimmigrant
classification do not receive I-20s or DS-2019s and are not
subject to the SEVIS fee.


Fs vs. Ms - Not the Same Visa
-----------------------------

11.  Several schools have reported that some consular officers
are issuing F-1 visas to vocational students who should be
issued M-1 visas.  Consular officers should take care to ensure
that they are issuing the appropriate visa, either F-1 or M-1,
following information on the I-20.  While the old I-20 M-N form
was printed in yellow, both the academic and non-academic
versions of the I-20 are now printed through the SEVIS system by
the issuing schools, and consular officers must be careful to
distinguish between the two.


Many Options Available in U.S. Education
----------------------------------------

12.  Foreign students look to the United States for the
diversity and the wide array of educational choices we offer.
Consular officers should remember that different institutions
meet the needs of different students, from four-year colleges to
two-year colleges, vocational programs, English-language
programs and others.  Intensive English programs serve students
who have not benefited from an English-language background and
are a springboard to further academic study or serve as ends in
themselves for professional or vocational reasons.  Just as in
the U.S., many foreign students may wish to pursue two-year
degrees or begin their studies in community colleges before
transferring to four-year institutions to obtain other degrees.
In all cases, the key question remains whether or not applicants
can demonstrate that they are bona-fide students able to
complete their intended coursework.

13.  Many thanks, once again, for all of your hard work.

14.  Minimize considered.

RICE


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