Georgetown will begin implementing new policies for its international student population in light of recent changes in national immigration regulations. The university will soon transition to the use of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, designed to better track international students. Kathy Bellows, assistant dean and university director of OIP, said OIP will start entering information into SEVIS in January 2003. From then on, colleges will enter information into SEVIS, and the government, rather than the college, will issue I-20 forms.

Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced SEVIS as part of the “Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Bill,” according to the senator’s official Web site. It is an Internet-based system that will allow information about foreign students and their dependents to be shared with the government and educational institutions (“System to Track Foreign Students,” THE HOYA, Sept. 10, 2002, p. 1).

“It will be interesting to see how this works out after Tuesday’s election,” Bellows said. “There are fairly conservative folks [in the Senate].”

Bellows said the legislators’ attention was drawn to international students when officials found out that Mohamed Atta, one of the 9-11 hijackers, was trained in Florida using a student visa. A Justice Department Report released in May blamed Immigration and Naturalization Service for sending student visa approvals for Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, according to a CNN report from May 20.

She added that the head of the Iraqi Nuclear Engineering Program got his Ph.D. in California, and I-20 forms were sold in California as well. I-20 forms have been issued by American colleges so that students can obtain student visas from their local American consulates.

“We will notify students in a systematic way [about the new I-20 forms] in spring semester. We are hoping to verify the info with the students prior to sending it,” Bellows said. If the student’s I-20 form is over a year old, the office might request financial documentation again.

The students will not need to fill out change of address forms anymore after transition to SEVIS. They will need to notify OIP within 10 days of address change, however.

The students also need to get OIP’s authorization prior to dropping below a full course load, which is below 12 credits for undergraduates and nine credits for graduates. At the end of the Add/Drop period, OIP has to enter students’ schedules into SEVIS.

“If the office does not do its job, they can suspend GU from admitting international students for a year,” Bellows said.

Bellows also gave information about Special Registration. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan or Syria have been going through Special Registration when entering the U.S.; they have been fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed.

Bellows guessed that Special Registration will be expanded to include citizens of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

On Nov. 6, the INS expanded the requirements of Special Registration. Now, not only non-immigrants who enter the country, but also those who are already in the U.S., should “appear before and register with the INS pursuant to the special registration requirements,” according to Immigration Update 5, an e-mail from the university to international students.

If the individual has made “unexplained trips” to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan, Indonesia or alaysia, he or she may be subjected to Special Registration, too.

Bellows said Georgetown students should call OIP or the Department of Public Safety if they are having serious difficulty at the port of entry. She asked the students to remain calm during Special Registration, but to go to OIP and share their experiences afterward.

“We know inspectors and people at the headquarters of INS. We also know Madeleine Albright,” Bellows said. “The pendulum is at the extreme. It should come to the center; it can’t go any more extreme,” she added.

Students should have their I-20 forms signed by OIP as soon as possible for re-entry to the U.S. after the winter vacation, she said. If the students need to renew their visa in six months to a year, they should report to OIP now.

Bellows also said international students may apply to INS to work off campus – as long as the work is directly related to their academic studies. The time limit for work is 12 months. They can find the Optional Practical Training Packet and assistance from an International Student Advisor at OIP.

Bellows asked the international students to constantly check the INS Web site (www.ins.usdoj.gov) and OIP Web site (www.georgetown.edu/programs/oip/isss) to be aware of new regulations, which are likely to be announced over the next few weeks.

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