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US gov releases solutions and timeline for key SEVP bugbears

The Department of Homeland Security has released a report outlining issues brought forward by international education stakeholders to Student and Exchange Visitor Program representatives at the NAFSA conference in May. The first of its kind report gives an important timeline for the resolution of key issues including guidance for pathway providers, curriculum practical training and temporary absence processes.

From March 31, the government aims to process all DSO and PDSO changes within 10 days

In the report, SEVP confirmed it will release a final guidance document on pathway programmes, conditional admission and English proficiency in “early 2016”.

“While SEVP’s ability to issue additional guidance is dependent on the program’s operational environment, including responding to Government Accountability Office recommendations and President Barack Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration, the programme remains committed to developing and releasing guidance on this subject to the academic community,” the report states.

SEVP confirmed it will release a final guidance document on pathway programmes, conditional admission and english proficiency in “early 2016”

The announcement comes as welcome news to providers, especially those who offer English language programmes, as they’ve been operating based on draft guidance issued in 2014 for bridge programmes and conditional admission.

EnglishUSA, the representative body of Intensive English Programs in the US, said it is pleased with the report.

“In the past, EnglishUSA (and similar organisations) independently compiled summaries from the SEVP sessions at conferences to distribute to members, which limited the scope and spread of the information,” executive director Cheryl Delk Le Good told The PIE News.

“In the report, SEVP summarises the status of the key issues relevant to our members and provides a long-awaited timeline for the release of additional information, for example ‘early 2016’ policy for pathways programmes.”

NAFSA: International Educators has said the response is a good start and understands government changes take time.

“This report is the first time in my two decades in international education when I’ve seen an agency address stakeholder issues and suggestions in such a comprehensive manner,” said Steve Springer, director, regulatory practice liaison at NAFSA: International Educators.

Spring said the meeting with NAFSA members and Lou Farrell and Katie Westerlund from the Student Exchange and Visitor Program was “significant, constructive, and thorough, as can be seen from the report”.

Since the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System was introduced in 2003, SEVP policy has reportedly been slow to respond to the changing needs of international educators, creating delays in admission processes.

At the NAFSA conference, stakeholders complained of backlogs to register SEVP required Designated School Officals and Principal Designated School Officials who are newly hired.

The report recognises the backlogs and says “SEVP has devised a process to identify and adjudicate all backlogged updates that are part of a package of multiple updates, or mixed updates, no later than close of business on March 25, 2016”.

“SEVP summarises the status of the key issues relevant to our members and provides a long-awaited timeline for the release of additional information”

From March 31, the government aims to process all DSO and PDSO changes within 10 days.

Delk Le Good said English USA is pleased with SEVP’s priority to keep educators up to date on the backlog.

“We also appreciate SEVP’s efforts in providing additional, enhanced resources and communication such as the February 9 ‘Ask the Experts’ webinar (overview of PDSO and DSO updates to the I-17) and the Summer 2016 webinar on pathway programs for IEP administrators who are unable to attend SEVP sessions at events,” she said.

Other significant events on the 2016 timeline include an enhancement to improve the efficiency of the reporting system in June, draft guidance clarifying curricular practical training and updates to reduced course load requirements.

Even though many educators have voiced complaints about students who immediately transfer once they enter the country, SEVP said it is in discussions to improve the transfer process for educators and students but nothing is planned yet.

“Current priorities are determined by the need to close vulnerabilities and keep up with regulatory changes and requirements,” the report says.

A this open meeting with SEVP’s Farrell is scheduled at the NAFSA conference in Denver this May with larger space allocated to accommodate the overwhelming demand seen last year, the organisation said.

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