On February 27, 2008 the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) notified schools that it was preparing to begin an OPT (Optional Practical Training) data validation exercise, which would involve schools updating the SEVIS records of students on OPT with the current name and address of the student, and the name and address of the student's employer.

An SEVP E-mail sent to PDSOs and DSOs stated that PDSOs would receive a second E-mail with "specific instructions for updating SEVIS and an Excel spreadsheet with the name and address of students currently on OPT information to make the task of contacting students easier."

Latest News

May 19, 2008
The KC ISSS Regulatory Practice Subcommittee has created a Practice Resource "OPT Validation Project" which provides examples of both electronic and paper-based reporting mechanisms from four institutions, as well as examples of communications to students.

April 1, 2008
SEVP sent a SEVIS notice to inform all schools that SEVP will send specific instructions and spreadsheets with student information to PDSOs no later than April 11, 2008. If you currently have students on OPT and do not receive an e-mail from SEVP by April 11, 2008, please send an e-mail to SEVIS.source[at]dhs.gov with "OPT Validation" in the subject. SEVP will respond to your e-mail within 2 work days.

The notice also includes additional information and further instructions for the OPT Data Validation project.

SEVP also provided guidance for additional "possible situations" and workarounds. See the chart in the Further Instructions for Institutions for the full list of possible situations and how to update SEVIS accordingly.

March 31, 2008
SEVP answered questions regarding the OPT number, adding fields, and password protection in relation to the Student Information Spreadsheet

March 27, 2008
NAFSA leaders and staff have continued to liaise with SEVP since the March 13 meeting with SEVP officials. As of the monthly SEVP Technical and Policy Conference Call March 26, 2008, here are additional updates:

March 16, 2008
NAFSA Liaison Activity
Following the notification E-mail sent to PDSOs and DSOs, NAFSA sent comments to SEVP, questioning the basis of the regulatory authority cited in the SEVP E-mail, and expressing other concerns, including limitations in SEVIS functionality, inability to batch employer information, and the timing of this request.

On Thursday, March 13, SEVP officials met with NAFSA Staff, NAFSA Regulatory Ombudspersons, and the Chair of NAFSA's SEVIS Subcommittee, during the annual Regulatory Ombudsperson training in Washington, D.C.

SEVP Updates
Extension of Deadline: The original E-mail notice stated that schools had to update SEVIS with current student name and address and employer name and address by May 15, 2008. In the meeting, SEVP said they intend to reset that deadline to June 15, 2008. NAFSA asked that they consider moving the deadline until the end of July.
F Schools Only: Though M-1 schools also received the original notification E-mail, the validation exercise is for F-1 schools only.
Regulatory Authority for Reporting Employer Information: On the topic of reporting employer name and address, SEVP said that they had vetted the issue through ICE legal counsel before sending out the E-mail.
Process: Regarding the process, SEVP plans to send a second email to the PDSO of any institution with students on OPT, sometime during the week of March 17-21, 2008 that will include:
  • A password-protected excel spreadsheet with student information contained in SEVIS (student name and address, employer name and address).
  • Detailed instructions for complying with the request, including workarounds within the current version of SEVIS.
  • A template letter to students that institutions could use, if they choose, to contact students.
SEVP will also send a broadcast message to all DSOs to notify them that the second E-mail has been sent to PDSOs.
Employer Information Updates in RTI Only: SEVP acknowledged that the current SEVIS API does not allow employer name and address to be uploaded to SEVIS through a batch interface, so the DSO will have to manually update the employer information via RTI.
Method for Contacting Students: SEVP will not require a specific method for an institution to contact the students. Institutions will be allowed to determine how best to comply with the exercise (e.g., by E-mail, phone, letter or postcard).
SEVIS II will allow students to update information: SEVIS II will have a view that will allow a student to update his/her name and address, email address, and employer/employment information directly through SEVIS II.
Effect on Institution's Certification: SEVP stated that the OPT data validation project should not affect an institution’s certification/recertification.
Effect of "non-response" on Student's SEVIS Status: SEVP also stated that a student’s “non-response” should not directly result in any change in SEVIS status.

Legal Authority for Notification Request Versus Ongoing Reporting Requirement

NAFSA leaders and staff recognize that there are two separate important issues raised by the notification e-mail sent February 27, 2008: the request for schools to participate in an OPT Data Validation Project, and ongoing reporting requirements related to employer name and address.

Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 214.3(g)(3)(ii)(E), SEVP/ICE has the authority to require institutions to respond to "any other notification request made by SEVIS with respect to the current status of the student." Per the supplementary information to the SEVIS final rule, NAFSA understands that the government’s position is that this section allows the government to request any information or documentation related to the current status of a student, including information that is not specifically required by law and by the SEVIS rule in particular. Since the status of a student while on OPT requires that a student be "engaging in authorized practical training," SEVP is asking for employer information as it relates to the current status of the student as part of a "notification request" under 214.3(g)(3)(ii)(E).

NAFSA leaders and staff have been working with SEVP to delay the deadline for the project and make the process as simple and clear as possible for schools, especially given the limitations of SEVIS to report and batch employer information. SEVP has considered these concerns and responded by making improvements in the process.

NAFSA is still evaluating statements by SEVP regarding ongoing reporting requirements and other possible changes in policy.
 

Next Steps

NAFSA plans to continue communication with SEVP and will post significant updates on this webpage and announce those updates through NAFSA.news or the ISTA network. NAFSA may also provide further guidance in the form of Practice Advisories and/or Practice Resources.

Please continue to report through IssueNet: Report an Issue.

Institutions may also send questions, comments or concerns on behalf of their institution (with institutional clearance to do so) directly to SEVP through sevis.source[at]dhs.gov.