Citing “privacy, security and fraud prevention” reasons, the agency released a memo explaining that the Form I-20 must only be released to the “nonimmigrant students, their dependents, or, for minors, to their parent or legal guardian”.
“Earlier the I-20s were kept at agents office and students suffered”
The document is released by school officials when students are accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school. Students then use the Form I-20 to apply for a student visa and to enter the US.
“It is neither routine nor model practice to intentionally release forms I-20 to a third-party recruiter,” said David L. Di Maria, associate vice provost for International Education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and advocacy chair at American International Recruitment Council.
“For most institutions, this is not ground-breaking news and it will have no impact on their current operations,” Di Maria explained, however, it may require some institutions and third-party recruiters to adjust their current business practices.
Designated School Officials tend to mail Form I-20s to addresses provided by students, he explained.
“It is not uncommon for students to list the address of their current school, agency, employer, sponsor or other third-party, particularly when students have concerns about whether or not the document would reach their home address,” he said.
Institutions with representative offices abroad sometimes prefer to send batches of the documents to the staff in those offices rather than ship each document individually to the students. This helps in-country staff to follow-up with local students, and ensures delivery is more likely and postage less expensive.
“As acceptance of third-party recruiters increases across the US, many DSOs find themselves developing new procedures related to agents. This guidance is both timely and helpful.”
At the 2018 AIRC conference, the US Department of State endorsed the use of education agencies. A survey of US institutions that pay bonuses to agents, 77% said that they “strongly agree” agencies aid international recruitment.
AIRC’s publicly available resources, including its Certification Standards, may also help colleagues, Di Maria added.
Founder and managing director of Career Mosaic, Abhijit Zaveri, welcomed the memo noting that the policy improves operations in favour of where students choose to enrol.
“This is a good move, earlier the I-20s were kept at agents office and students suffered because of this,” he told The PIE News.
“All the genuine agents are happy on this policy. The ones not happy are the ones that had intentions on promoting a particular school that paid more and promoted their I-20s and kept the other ones in their office,” he added.
“The power of decision [when] choosing a school has just moved to the students now.”