Issues of immigration and compliance affect companies and employers from all industries. However, higher education institutions face unique compliance-related issues and, in particular, compliance issues relating to the maintenance of student and exchange visitor program (SEVP) certification. As this article discusses, site visits and oversight of the higher-education industry have increased tremendously in the past several years, and colleges and universities should ensure that they have an in-depth understanding of the enforcement and oversight arms of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Further, they should create, memorialize and train employees with respect to compliance-related processes and protocols for handling site visits and the DHS correspondence.

Schools that wish to be able to accept foreign students in F-1 visa status must be certified by SEVP to use the student and exchange visitor electronic system (SEVIS), which is maintained and overseen by DHS. The criteria for eligibility for certification are set forth in the regulations at 8 C.F.R. Section 214.3. Specifically, the regulations at 8 C.F.R. Section 214.3(h)(2)(iii)(A)-(B) mandate the initial certification via the approval of Form I-17, petition for approval of school for attendance by nonimmigrant student, as well as a recertification process every two years to reaffirm the previously certified schools’ continued eligibility for certification, as well as to confirm continued compliance with record-keeping, retention, reporting, and other requirements.”

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