SEVP Draft Guidance on Pathway Programs

On September 26, 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) posted draft guidance on pathway programs, seeking comment from stakeholders. It is the third in a series of related guidance documents. The September 26 guidance addresses postsecondary programs of study combining non-remedial and remedial coursework to prepare a foreign national student who is unable to meet the requirements of admission into a degree program. The purpose of this draft guidance is to clarify SEVP regulations and ensure uniformity of interpretation. SEVP will accept public feedback until November 10, 2014.

The draft guidance provides various definitions and lays out the requirements for SEVP certification of pathway programs that allow for the enrollment of F-1 students, including the following:

  • The program must contain non-remedial coursework and must not consist of any sessions of only ESL coursework.
  • A program for which ESL is the proficiency reason or in which ESL composes any part of the program must comply with the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act (Accreditation Act).
  • An ESL course may count as a non-remedial course only if all ESL course credits in the program are  transferrable towards meeting the graduation requirements of the certified degree program of study into which the student intends to enroll at the school, if the student is in a bridge program, or the graduation requirements of that degree program, if the student is in a bridged degree program.

Once the guidance is in effect, any school that intends to enroll F-1 students in a pathway program will need to update its Form I-17 consistent with the guidance prior to issuing Forms I-20 to any foreign national students for such a program. Note that this draft guidance is not yet in effect. Therefore, it does not require schools to take any actions at this time until SEVP publishes final guidance. However, schools that administrate pathway programs should continue to follow this issue closely and may wish to send public comments to SEVP regarding any concerns related to the draft guidance. The full text of the guidance and instructions for comment can be found here.

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