Oh Look, More Acronyms to Memorize! SEVIS, SEVP, and DHS

Vol. 6 No. 10

riskmanager eletter Vol6 No10 SEVIS

If your school has an international student program or is considering one, you might be well aware of the acronyms SEVIS, SEVP, and DHS. For those not familiar with the acronyms, as you might have guessed, they relate to the nitty-gritty, compliance side of international student programs. These acronyms need to be universally understood throughout your Business, Admission, and School Head’s offices. Although the enrollment process may start and conclude in the Admissions Office, all offices are involved in the comprehensive process.

SEVP stands for The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, and DHS stands for Department of Homeland Security.

The Basics

All schools looking to enroll international students need to be SEVP-certified and are required to have at least one employee dedicated to international students enrolled. This employee is referred to as the Principal Designated School Official (another acronym—PDSO) and is responsible for not only the visiting students, but is also the key administrator for SEVIS—the centralized database DHS uses to maintain visiting student information.

In addition to schools having a PDSO, they can elect multiple Designated School Officials (DSOs) to the international student program team. They are employees dedicated to visiting students, but not responsible for maintaining SEVIS. In fact, to help reduce risk of exposure or error, it is recommended that only your PDSO and School Head have access to SEVIS.

PDSOs use SEVIS to:

  • Update school information and apply for recertification
  • Issue I-20 forms to students looking to obtain F or M status while enrolled at the school
  • Fulfill the school’s legal reporting responsibility regarding student addresses, course of study, enrollment, employment, and compliance with the terms of student status
  • Transfer the student SEVIS records to other institutions

SEVIS Help Hub is a central location for school officials to access information regarding student records, school records, and SEVIS release updates.

Note: NEVER give your school’s international student broker access to your SEVIS portal. These tasks are the responsibility of the PDSO NOT your school’s broker.

SEVIS tracks more than one million F, M, and J nonimmigrant students studying in the U.S. each year. Maintaining school SEVIS-certification and managing your school’s portal are not only critical for your international student program success, but also for compliance. Schools failing to maintain SEVIS-certification or manage records according to DHS protocol can be fined and/or have their SEVIS-certification revoked. Once SEVIS-certification is removed from a school, it is nearly impossible to have it reinstated.

Getting Certified

Starting an international student program isn’t as romantic as it sounds. There are many reasons for wanting to welcome foreign students into your student body. However, not all of them are the right reasons. In fact, schools are putting themselves at great risk by not having a solid, mission-appropriate vision for adopting an international student program.

Before starting the SEVIS-certification process, make sure your international team has a solid vision for what your program will look like from day one and how it will evolve in the years to come.

Also, make sure your team has a solid communication plan for both international families and domestic families that will have questions regarding your program's effects on the overall student culture. Domestic students often get lost in the details of international student programs and this can be a risk to your schools culture, values, and reputation.

With your team, vision, and motivation in hand, you can then begin the SEVIS-certification process by completing the online I-17 form. There is a $1,700 fee that comes along with completion of this form, and another $655 per campus for the site visit before SEVP can process your application. For more information about completing the I-17 visit the Homeland Security site.

If your school doesn’t already have an established exchange or international student program—or you’re looking for ways to strengthen yours—we offer a school year workshop dedicated to understanding your risks and knowing your “why.” This year, we’re running it in four different cities throughout September.

Additional ISM resources of interest
The Source for Private School News Vol. 13 No. 2 “Welcome! Bienvenue! Huanying!”—Three Benefits of International Students
The Source for Admission Directors Vol. 12 No. 3 Developing Your International Students’ Networking Skills
The Source for Private School News Vol. 13 No. 3 International Recruitment Strategies
International Student Accident and Sickness Insurance

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