A study of how the Student and Exchange Visa Information System influences the influx and study of graduate international students in science and engineering in the U.S

The influx of international graduate students in science and engineering to the U.S. has changed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The implementation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and related F-1 visa policies have required a higher level of scrutiny of the student visa procedures, and introduced strict student monitoring policies and measures. In addition, the SEVIS monitoring and compliance system has altered the operation of international student service offices, affected the students they serve, and the operation of the universities enrolling international students. This study investigated the effects of SEVIS on graduate programs in science and engineering and their students. Information was gathered from respondents from the 60 universities having the highest population of international students in these fields, according to NSF. Respondents included department administrators, admissions officials, and SEVIS professionals. Data were collected from 75 on-line survey respondents and in 21 semi-structured interviews. The results of this study suggest that many international students are negatively affected by SEVIS, impacting their ability to remain in-status and to understand how the system works. To counter this, department administrators, SEVIS professionals, and student advisors have increased their level of support for these students, providing them guidance on how to remain in-status and how to improve their social and academic experience in the United States. As a result, relatively few international students are deported for falling out-of-status in SEVIS. The data also made clear that program administrators and admissions officials have little knowledge about SEVIS, F-1 visa policies, and their influence on international enrollments. Finally, this study provided evidence of an increased workload for international student advisors and SEVIS professionals. Universities have had to hire additional staff, increase their information technology investment in linking home-grown student service systems with SEVIS, and proactively anticipate any hurdles that international students may have and resolve them as expeditiously as possible.

Marcus Goncalves Dissertation