SEVIS improving system that tracks foreign students

Matthew Gruchow

Now in its second year, government officials claim the federal electronic tracking system for international students is improving.

Yet some at the University said they believe the program makes foreign students shy away from studying in the United States.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System now tracks nearly 770,000 international students, according to the program’s Web site.

Fewer complaints have been reported this year about SEVIS, Tim Counts, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office spokesman, said.

The program is constantly being upgraded, he said, and monitors foreign students’ activities in the United States.

It tracks the students’ activities and information such as their course loads, locations and financial statuses.

SEVIS and visa policies have been partially blamed for declining numbers of foreign student enrollment in universities nationwide, including the University, Andrea Scott, the University Graduate School admissions director, said.

“There’s a lot of competition from other countries now,” Scott said.

She also said she expects enrollment numbers to decline this year in part because of visa restrictions.

But the international students who still try to get educated in the United States might be more serious about their studies, Scott said.

Kay Thomas, the director of International Students and Scholar Services, said some students have experienced problems with immigration procedures such as SEVIS.

Aditya Malhotra, a senior engineering student and vice president of the Minnesota International Student Association, said he understands the tightened security.

“I haven’t had any problems really, but I know some people have,” he said.

Some students fear being rejected for re-entry into the United States if they return home for some time, Malhotra said.

Because U.S. immigration authorities suspected he might try to stay in the United States, Malhotra said, he was once denied re-entry after he returned to India for a time.

“It’s like a whole new process every time you come in,” Malhotra said. “They can reject you if they feel like you won’t be staying.”

Many students such as Malhotra have been scrutinized, but students shouldn’t feel singled out by the government, Counts said.

“The information collected by SEVIS is the same information that’s been collected on students for the last 50 years,” he said.

This year, international students will pay a $100 fee for the SEVIS system.