Indiana Daily Student

Database to track IU international students

INS grants extension amid program glitches; IU's program already up-and-running

IU's 4,500 international students are now being monitored by a government computer program designed to protect Americans from attacks against foreign terrorists studying in the United States.\nThe creation of SEVIS, a single system nationwide that monitors all of America's 74,000 international students, was part of Congress' response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Two of the hijackers entered the country on student visas.\nUniversities were expected to comply Thursday or lose the ability to admit international students, but the INS extended the deadline to Feb. 15 this morning amid technical concerns.\nLynn Schoch, the associate director of the office of international services, said IU went online with the new program, monitored by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, last week.\nUniversity spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said IU already had systems in place to make the transition smoother than at many other institutions.\n"We had been prepared to meet the deadlines and comply," Jankowski said, adding the University already had its own system to collect information on IU international students.\nIU, along with a host of major universities consisting of thousands of international students, have encountered glitches with SEVIS in a rush to get universities to meet the Jan. 30 deadline.\n"With so many schools suddenly approved in the last week, we're all trying to work with the real-time interface," Schoch said of the Web-based program. "Sometimes, it will take hours, then the pages will lock. Then it will take five minutes to save a page and move on. These are bugs to be sorted out. The INS is working through them."\nIU's international population might not immediately realize the effects of the new system, but the repercussions of a small misstep are drastic.\nAny violation of the terms could result in deportation of the student.\nThe new system does not include policy changes, according to the INS. International students must be full-time students at a U.S. institution and be limited to a 20-hour per week on-campus job, among a host of other regulations.\nBut SEVIS, which stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a means to enforce the INS rules under a strict zero-tolerance policy. \nFor instance, if a student taking 14 credit hours drops a class without approval from the Office of International Studies, they could be deported for losing their full-time student status. The same goes with an off-campus job without the proper paperwork.\nSchoch likens SEVIS to a credit agency.\nAnything inputted into the system stays on file forever. \n"We have a very powerful capacity to destroy someone's 'credit', so to speak," Schoch said. "So we, and students, need to be very careful."\n"Where I find myself getting upset is with the notion that everything has to be a certain way. That if there are mistakes made, it is the students fault," Schoch said. "They should be here for what they are here for, to learn -- not how to learn how to run their immigration records."\nInternational students who renew their I-20 visa -- their document authorizing entrance into the country -- will be inputted into the new system. The Office of International Services has until Aug. 1 to re-issue new I-20s from the SEVIS system for all international students, whether or not it has expired.\nSchoch said the new I-20 will be more efficient for students re-entering the United States after trips home because they will include a scannable bar code.\n"It will definitely speed up the process for students at the border," Schoch said. "They won't have to deal with stamps and paperwork. They'll just scan their I-20."\nDietrich Willke, Union Board vice president and a German with Brazilian residency, said the new regulations won't stop terrorists from entering the country. It will, however, keep some international students from making ends meet, Willke said.\n"It creates hassle and creates problems," Willke said. "The reason there are some people working more hours is because they need the money to live here. But they're still good people. And they will not catch the people they intend to"

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