Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SEVIS Fee-Collection System Flawed, Higher Education Groups Say

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SEVIS Fee-Collection System Flawed, Higher Education Groups Say

Article excerpt

The way the U.S. government wants to collect fees from international students for a foreign-student tracking system is flawed and could hinder foreign-student enrollment at American colleges and universities, according to a coalition of higher education groups.

Last month the American Council on Education and 21 other higher education groups sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, suggesting changes to the department's proposed plan for collecting fees for the electronic tracking system, known as the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System, or SEVIS.

A rule posted in the Federal Register on Oct. 27, 2003, said students interested in obtaining F (student), M (vocational) or J (exchange) visas to study in the United States would have to pay the SEVIS fee before applying for the visa. The $100 fee would have to be paid in American dollars by mail with a check or money order, or with a credit card online. After processing the fee, the DHS would send a receipt to the student by mail or online, and the student would have to present a hard copy of the receipt when he or she applied for a visa.

But the higher education groups raised several objections.

The provision asking students to pay the fee before applying for a visa is especially cumbersome, they said, because it's not something required by current law. "This provision ... will only exacerbate the administrative complexities lacing individuals who seek to study or conduct research in the United States," according to the letter.

Lance Pressl, a senior associate for government relations at ACE, said the current law requires that the SEVIS fee be paid before the visa is granted--not before the application process begins. If a visa is not approved, Pressl said, the student wouldn't be refunded the application fee.

Mailing a receipt to an applicant would be too time-consuming and result in delays "to an already lengthy visa application and review process," the letter says.

The groups objected also to the idea of there being any paper involved in the process at all, because SEVIS was supposed to be an all-electronic system to sharpen the security of the visa process. "The proposed rule will, ironically, decrease the security of SEVIS. Paper receipts can be lost or stolen," the letter says.

To avoid some of these problems, the groups offer several suggestions. …

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