On October 29, 2001, President George W. Bush issued the Homeland Security Presidential Decision Directive-2 "Combating Terrorism Through Immigration Policies" that detailed measures the government would take to strengthen the nation's immigration policy while helping to secure international borders. The Directive called for a program to end the abuse of the student visa system and prohibit certain international students from receiving education and training in sensitive areas of studies. The Directive calls for increased tracking of foreign students who receive a visa by collecting the following information: proposed major course of study, status of the individual as a full-time student, classes in which the student enrolls, and source of funding for the student's education.
The Directive mandated a program to identify sensitive courses of study, such as the development and use of weapons of mass destruction, and limit access of certain international students to these courses. In May 2002, the Administration announced the Interagency Panel on Advanced Science and Security (IPASS), which is charged with providing another level of review for all specialized visas, including student, postdoctoral, research, and vocational programs visas. The panel will be jointly led by a person appointed by the Attorney General and person appointed by the Secretary of State. The group will also include representatives of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, intelligence and counterintelligence agencies, law-enforcement agencies, the Education Department, the Agriculture Department, the Defense Department and the Energy Department. As part of the implementation of the Directive, IPASS will review visa applicants that fit a certain criteria, including the person's previous education and training, the person's country of origin, the specific area of study - "uniquely available in the U.S" and in "sensitive areas" - and the nature of the research being conducted in that field at the institution. IPASS will also review current visa holders if they seek to change their course of study. IPASS's role is to be strictly advisory in assisting the State Department in making appropriate visa decisions and will take no formal action itself.
Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, members of Congress and the Administration called for the fast implementation of the previously enacted SEVIS, an electronic database that tracks foreign students and maintains current information about them and their dependents. Congress mandated the implementation in the Enhanced Border Security Reform Act and the Justice Department has moved forward on regulations for the full execution of SEVIS. On May 16, 2002, the Justice Department published a proposed rule that includes a January 30, 2003 deadline for all colleges and universities to begin using the system. Penalties for universities not using the system include not being able to admit foreign students.
Enhanced Border Security Reform Act (Public Law No. 107-173)
This legislation calls for the full implementation of SEVIS, and outlines temporary procedures to ensure secure borders during the implementation. The "transitional" period will take effect 120 days after enactment (September 11, 2002), and continue until the full implementation of SEVIS. In addition to the implementation, the following provisions of this legislation directly impact higher education institutions:
- An F, M, or J visa may not be issued to an alien seeking to attend a higher education institution unless the State Department has received electronic evidence of acceptance from the institution.
- INS must notify the institution when an alien that is accepted for admission has entered in the United States.
- No later than 30 days after the deadline for registering for classes, the institution must notify INS of the failure of an alien to enroll or begin participation.
The INS and the State Department will be required to conduct reviews once every two years to determine that institutions and exchange visitor programs are in compliance with record keeping requirements. Failure to comply with such requirements would result in suspension of at least one year or termination, at the election of the INS Commissioner or the Secretary of State, of the institution's or exchange program's approval or designation to receive foreign students or exchange visitors.