As previously reported, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the deployment of field representatives to serve as direct day-to-day liaisons between SEVP and SEVP-certified schools or schools seeking initial SEVP certification. On November 17, 2014, SEVP reported that it deployed 14 additional field representatives to territories across the country that week. The field representatives serve as liaisons between the nearly 9,000 U.S. schools that enroll international students and SEVP. The program, housed within ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), certifies schools to enroll international students and protects national security by overseeing those students for compliance with U.S. laws.
The field representatives serve as a key resource for schools on the SEVP certification and recertification processes, and they educate schools on the program’s rules and regulations and federal laws governing international students studying in the United States. They also protect national security by improving the data integrity of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that houses information on international students and exchange visitors while they are in the United States. This data is used by government agencies to ensure compliance with U.S. laws.
With the new class, SEVP now has field reps based in 21 states across the country. Some states, based on the number of SEVP-certified schools, have multiple field representatives. The new field representatives will build on reported successes achieved by the first class that resulted in greater compliance with government regulations.
Before deploying to their respective territories, field representatives complete an eight-week training course in Washington, D.C., where they learn about federal laws and regulations and the SEVP school certification process. In addition to classroom instruction, the field representatives spend time at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of State and HSI’s Counter Terrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit to see how the various agencies’ units work together to vet international students studying in the United States.
Field representatives manage territories in one of three regions – eastern, central and western. They work with schools in the field four days a week and spend one day per week at their home office. Once fully staffed, each region will have 20 field representatives for a nationwide total of 60. SEVP determined the size and location of the 60 territories based on the number of SEVP-certified schools in a specific geographic area.
Once deployed, a field representative has 30 days to contact designated school officials in their territory. Field representatives must meet twice a year with each certified school in their territory with active international students. If a school is SEVP-certified, but does not have any current international students, the field representative will reach out to that school via an annual visit, phone call or email.
SEVP monitors approximately one million international students pursuing academic or vocational studies (F and M visa holders) in the United States and their dependents. It also certifies schools and programs that enroll these students. The U.S. Department of State monitors exchange visitors (J visa holders) and their dependents and oversees exchange visitor programs.
Both use SEVIS to protect national security by ensuring that students, visitors and schools comply with U.S. laws. SEVP also collects and shares SEVIS information with government partners, including CBP and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, so only legitimate international students and exchange visitors gain entry into the United States.
HSI reviews SEVIS records for potential violations and refers cases with potential national security or public safety concerns to its field offices for further investigation. Additionally, SEVP’s Analysis and Operations Center reviews student and school records for administrative compliance with federal regulations related to studying in the United States.