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Currently, WKU has four individuals authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to issue immigration documents and provide regulatory advisement for students and scholars (and any dependents) on F1 and J1 visas . Individuals authorized to work with F1/F2 visas are Designated School Officials (DSO's) and those authorized to work with J1/J2 visas are Alternate Responsible Officers (ARO's). Each SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified school must have a Primary Designated School Official (PDSO) and Responsible Officer (RO). The PDSO and RO roles require significant knowledge and experience with F and J immigration regulations found in the Code of Federal Regulations so that they may train the ARO's and DSO's. These roles are normally filled by a Director of a school's international student office.
Our office works closely with the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security and its branch offices - United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The DSO serves as a link between nonimmigrant students and SEVP and plays a central role in ensuring the nonimmigrant students at their school maintain status while in the United States.
Each DSO utilizes the SEVIS database (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). This database allows the Department of Homeland Security to maintain an audit trail of transactions and track students and scholars while in the United States.
The RO must ensure that the following requirements are followed:
- Size of program—Sponsors, other than Federal government agencies, must have no less than five exchange visitors per calendar year.
- Duration of program for other than Federal government agencies—The minimum period of program participation in an exchange visitor program is 3 weeks, with the exception of the category of Short-term Scholar and Secondary School Student.
- Reciprocity—Sponsors must make a good faith effort toward reciprocal exchange, with Americans going abroad.
- Cross-cultural activities—Sponsors must make cross-cultural programs or activities available to their exchange visitors in order to expose them to American society, culture and institutions.
- Maintaining up-to-date information about the school in SEVIS
- Thorough knowledge of the Code of Federal Regulations as pertains to F nonimmigrant students (§ Sec. 214.2(f))
- Setting up SEVIS records for F nonimmigrant students admitted to one of the school's programs of study
- Activating SEVIS records for nonimmigrant students who register for a program of study at the school
- Maintaining SEVIS records for the duration of a student's enrollment at the school, any optional practical training, and the grace period before the student departs
- Approving or requesting approval for student benefits, such as: Employment, Reduced Course Load, Reinstatement of F nonimmigrant status, and Extension of stay in the United States
- Releasing SEVIS records to a new school when a student transfers
- Processing change of status requests within the U.S.
- Completing student SEVIS records when students finish their program of study and leave the country
- Terminating student SEVIS records when students fail to maintain nonimmigrant status
- Understanding and applying applicable regulations in the administration of their programs
- Establishing institutional procedures to ensure institutional compliance with record keeping, retention, and reporting requirements
- Providing students with information needed to make informed decisions regarding maintaining nonimmigrant student status.
DSOs are responsible for recording and reporting on these activities. By carefully attending to the details of the information and the student's record, a DSO may be able to alert the student to issues that might jeopardize their nonimmigrant status or make it difficult for them to re-enter the United States to continue their studies.
Selection of participants—Sponsors must ensure that a logical and equitable system is in place for selecting participants for their exchange visitor program. Sponsors must ensure: The program is well suited to the exchange visitor's background, education, needs, experience or training—will the program objectives be met? If applicable, admission to an educational program (secondary school student or college/university student)—has the exchange visitor met all requirements for enrollment into the program?
Proficiency in the English language—does the exchange visitor possess adequate English language skills to enable him/her to successfully participate in the program and function independently in the community?
Pre-arrival information—All participants must be given information that will assist them in preparing for their stay in the United States. The following information must be provided:
- The purpose of the Exchange Visitor Program;
- Information on the two-year home residency requirement (Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act);
- Travel information, to help the exchange visitor know what documents to carry when he/she travels, and what to expect at the U. S. port of entry;
- Arrival information to help the exchange visitor know what to do and where to go upon arrival in the United States, including contact information for the sponsor (RO/ARO) and other points of contact;
- Housing— Unless housing is provided, an explanation of housing options in the community, with approximate costs;
- Fees payable to the sponsor and fees likely to be incurred by a participant—An explanation of all fees and costs the exchange visitor may be required to pay, including the SEVIS and visa fees;
- Living expense estimate—A breakdown of the costs of housing, transportation, food, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses so the exchange visitor will know what to expect;
- Health care and health insurance policy information, including detailed information on the mandatory requirement that all exchange visitors (and any dependents) hold health insurance (refer to 22 CFR 62.14 for more information);
- Other information, such as sponsor contact information and other information that will assist the exchange visitors in their preparations.
Orientation—All exchange visitors and any accompanying family members (spouse and/or unmarried, minor children) must be provided information to assist them in settling into the local community.
Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Form DS-2019)—Sponsors must ensure that only the RO/AROs issue Forms DS-2019 and have access to SEVIS. NOTE: Sponsors for whom ROs or AROs have been found to have shared with anyone, either on a transitory or permanent basis, their SEVIS logon IDs and passwords, will be subject to sanctions as set forth in 22 CFR 62.50.
Monitoring exchange visitors—Sponsors must take responsibility for their exchange visitors and monitor their progress
and welfare, ensuring that they arrive at their destination and engage in the activity
listed on their Forms DS-2019. It is the DOS-designated sponsor, not any agents or third
parties providing services, that holds ultimate responsibility for their exchange
program and the exchange visitors whom they sponsor.
SEVIS - Sponsors must ensure that the information contained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is accurate and current. SEVIS records biographic and program information about each exchange visitor, the exchange visitor's actual and current U.S. address (local residence) and physical location where the activity is to be performed ("Site of Activity" fields in SEVIS). The sponsor must require the exchange visitor to report any changes of address within 10 days of a move, and the RO/ARO must update SEVIS within 21 days of being notified by the exchange visitor. A sponsor's failure to update the actual and current U.S. address information with 21 days may be grounds for revocation of their Exchange Visitor Program status.
The Department of State has the right to request information, reports, documents, books, files, and other records related to their exchange visitor program. [22 CFR 62.10(f)]
All ROs and AROs must:
- Be thoroughly familiar with the Exchange Visitor Program regulations and policies;
- Ensure that the SEVIS sponsor information is updated to reflect any changes in address, telephone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, and names of new RO and ARO(s) before the official leaves;
- Validate in SEVIS the arrival and participation of each exchange visitor in their program activity as soon as possible but within thirty days of the program start date, updating the current U.S. address of each participant.
- Require and verify that all exchange visitors have health/accident insurance in place for themselves, their spouse, and any dependents. [See 22 CFR 62.14.]
- Ensure that Forms DS-2019 are issued responsibly. As stated in the Regulations, "The responsible officers and alternate responsible officers shall act as custodian for the control, issuance, and distribution of Forms DS-2019...." [22 CFR 62.11(d)]. Forms DS-2019 may only be completed, printed, signed and issued by an RO or ARO who is physically present in the United States or a U.S. territory at the time of the Form's production [22 CFR 62.71(a)], and they may only be sent to the exchange visitor "either directly or via an employee, officer, or agent of the sponsor, or to an individual designated by the exchange visitor" [22 CFR 62.12(d)].