(Student Exchange Visitor Information System)
SEVIS is one of the first databases immigration has used to convert a “forms” environment to an “electronic” environment. The primary impetus behind the creation of SEVIS, and its primary purpose, is for certain federal agencies to have immediate access to accurate, current, and sufficient information about non-immigrant students in the United States. This allows the agencies to fulfill their statutory requirements, achieve agency initiatives, and contribute to the nation’s defense and immigration policies.
National security, formulating trends in education and student traffic and tracking of individuals who may have violated the terms of their visa, are all presented as explanations and justification for how SEVIS has been developed and employed. Schools have been required to report certain data elements, like name, date of birth, major, level, etc., since the creation of the international student visa category. Previous agency attempts to collect, manage, and interpret international student data submitted by schools have met with embarrassing and tragic failure. But with the advent, and subsequent widespread use, of the electronic transmission and managing of large amounts of data via personal computers and the internet, it was not unexpected for the federal government to require that schools collect and submit a greater amount of relevant data. Fortunately, most schools already had some data collection mechanisms in place, and generally had the technology, personnel, and inclination to assist and advise international.
The collection of certain data elements has been specified in detail in the various laws passed by Congress over the years; others have been added by regulation, and still other required elements have become “required” as a matter of practice in SEVIS. It simply is not possible to progress to certain screens in SEVIS without entering information in those fields marked with an asterisk. Some fields already present in some of the SEVIS screens, but currently without the asterisk denoting a required field, give an indication of what fields are required in the future (e.g., there are fields for name and location of an Optional Practical Training employer even though that information is not a necessity in the current regulations).