Davis Urges Fix to Ensure International Students Can Study In-Person
Over 250 international students at UIUC and potentially tens of thousands more across the country may be adversely impacted
Last week, U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Senior Official Tony Pham urging them to establish protocol to ensure international students previously approved and set to attend universities in-person who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are able to do so without disruption. A common-sense fix to quickly update student records in the ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database is necessary, and critical so that students, teachers and faculty have the certainty they need to ensure academic success.
From Rep. Davis’ letter:
“I write to urge the Department’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to provide full and fair consideration to quickly remove a potential barrier facing international transfer students who wish to begin their university studies in person in the spring.
“International students contribute to the knowledge, research and cultural diversity of the universities in my district, while also creating jobs and economic growth. According to data from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students contribute over $540 million to Illinois’ 13th congressional district, and support over 7,500 jobs. The district includes the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) which, with over 11,000 international students, is one of the top destinations for international students in the country.
“As in previous years, a number of the international students who committed to attend universities for the 2020-21 academic year were already inside the United States and requested to transfer from their current school. As you know, SEVP closely tracks holders of F-1 student visas through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database. Accordingly, those students’ SEVIS records were transferred to their new universities so that they could begin a new program of study. However, some of these students left the U.S. before the school year began and ended up not returning to the U.S. for the new academic year, either by choice or because they were unable to travel due to the pandemic. In some cases, they opted to begin their program online overseas, while others chose to defer their studies to a future semester.
“Universities are required to keep SEVIS records up to date but they are unable to make changes in these cases as the records cannot be registered because the students are not currently in the U.S. and have not reported to school. SEVIS also does not permit Designated School Officials to defer the start dates of transfer students. Unless the records are updated in the coming days – within 60 days of when the students’ program began – they will terminate automatically. That will result in the students being flagged for having violated their status, potentially preventing
them from getting new entry visas or entering the US in the future to begin their studies in person.
“Unless SEVP takes immediate action to allow these records to be activated or deferred, over 250 students at UIUC alone may be impacted, and potentially tens of thousands more at universities across the country. Accordingly, I urge your full and fair consideration of taking swift action to find a solution that ensures those students’ records do not automatically terminate, and that universities do not face additional difficulty enrolling international students in the spring. I look forward to your response.
You can find a copy of Rep. Davis’ letter here.
In July, Rep. Davis led a group of lawmakers in opposing now-reversed ICE guidance that threatened the legal status of international students who conduct their higher education studies remotely rather than in-person. You can find a copy of that letter here. You can find a press release announcing that letter here.
Rep. Davis has spoken on the House floor in support of international students and the contributions they make to our country. You can find Davis’ 2019 floor remarks here. In June, he signed a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf regarding the Optional Practical Training program for international students. You can find a copy of that letter here.
Rep. Davis represents the campuses of 8 universities and colleges and 5 community colleges, including:
· University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
· Illinois State University
· Illinois Wesleyan University
· Millikin University
· University of Illinois at Springfield
· Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
· Blackburn College
· Principia College
· Heartland Community College
· Parkland College
· Richland Community College
· Lincoln Land Community College
· Lewis and Clark Community College