Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Field Representatives to Work with U.S. Schools That Host International Students

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Field Representatives to Work with U.S. Schools That Host International Students

Article excerpt

More than 1 million nonimmigrant international students are enrolled in almost 9,000 academic and vocational schools throughout the United States. Keeping up with their statuses and addressing questions that arise is not always a simple matter for school officials overseeing their compliance with U.S. laws.

To ensure that schools have access to current regulations, policies and procedures, those that are members of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will be issued field representatives that will serve as a key resource "to help [the schools] on a daily basis adhere to all the regulations and laws that govern nonimmigrant international students," says Steve Acton, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program's field representative unit chief. The first crop of 15 field representatives began work in mid-April, deployed to territories around the country. When fully staffed, the program will employ 60 representatives, 20 for each of the three regions--eastern, central and western.

Field representatives will work with schools four days per week and spend one day at their home office. The size and location of the 60 territories are based on the number of SEVP-certified schools clustered in a specific geographic area, says Acton, who is based in Northern Virginia.

SEVP, housed within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, "certifies schools to enroll international students and protects national security by overseeing those students for compliance with U.S. laws," according to the SEVP. The program launched in 2003.

Nonimmigrant international students can come to the U.S. under two types of visas: F-l and M-l. F-l visas are reserved for students pursuing full-time academic study, and M-l visas are granted to vocational and technical school students.

Acton says field representatives are coming from the pool of Designated School Officials, called DSOs, or they have experience working in SEVP headquarters. They are "subject-matter experts who have knowledge of laws governing international students." Their primary duties include going over laws, policy guidelines and directives, and talking about student issues that institutions face on daily basis, he explains.

Before being deployed to their designated territories, the new field representatives complete an eight-week training course in Washington, D.C., where they learn about federal laws and regulations and the school certification process. …

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