Feb 032003
 
Authors: Amy Bergstrom

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Just as at other universities, the CSU Office of International Programs needs more time to electronically track international students in accordance with federal regulations.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System was expected to be installed and working by Jan. 30, however the Immigration and Naturalization Service has extended the deadline until Feb. 15.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the grace period is intended to ease the frustrations of colleges facing technical problems with the system.

CSU has faced some of these technical problems, said Jerome Bookin-Weiner, executive director of International Programs. The main problem was not being able to send a system test through to the INS, he said.

SEVIS will collect biographical data, passport and immigration information, and academic information about international students at CSU.

“This converts a very inefficient paper system that has been criticized for years to an electronic data reporter,” said Mark Hallett, director of International Student and Scholar Services.

CSU and other institutions of higher education are required to comply with regulations from the USA Patriot Act of October 2001, in order to continue hosting foreign students and visiting professors.

So far, the tracking system has been mostly administrative, without involving students.

“The main effect on (international) students is that we’re going to be collecting a lot more information from them,” Bookin-Weiner said.

Hallett agreed that the tracking system should not have a large effect on students. “For the most part, most (international) students have heard of SEVIS, but they haven’t been affected,” Hallett said. “Students with a Muslim background have most closely been affected.”

This is because of another new regulation, called “Special Registration,” which requires men from 26 Arab and Muslim countries to register at the INS. These students are photographed, fingerprinted and required to show that they are full-time students.

In December, six Colorado students, including one student from CSU, were arrested due to problems with their paperwork while trying to register with the INS. Last month, The Collegian reported that the CSU student, whose name has not be released, had problems with his transcripts, resulting in the arrest.

CSU International Student and Scholar Services is attempting to counteract the problems resulting from the new requirements. “We are helping students in the registration process and working with Muslim students to manage these challenges,” Hallett said.

Another problem that has surfaced since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is that the State Department has had increased security measures when granting visas for coming to the United States. These have significantly delayed the granting of visas, and some students have had difficulties returning from breaks, Hallett said.

“After 9-11, there were a lot of Middle Eastern students who were already accepted by CSU and had problems getting visas,” said Aydin Kocabas, a junior business management student from Turkey. “Last semester, some of my friends couldn’t get a visa, and they lost a whole semester because of that.”

While it is too early to determine if fewer students are coming to the United States as a result of these new regulations, Hallett says that from talking to current students, many have decided to get their advanced degrees in Canada and other countries. In addition, prospective students, particularly those from the Middle East, are also looking at other countries.

“It is inconvenient and challenging for our international visitors,” Hallett said. “The vast majority are good folks, here to study and grow. All of us should be sensitive to the challenges they are faced with.”

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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