Screening for foreign students heightened

As the United States continues to tighten security, Yale Federal Relations Officer Richard Jacob said he is “cautiously optimistic” that recent government action regarding international students and sensitive areas of study will not adversely affect Yale.

Ann Kuhlman, the director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said her office will comply with the federal government’s new Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS. The system will enable the electronic monitoring of the visa statuses of students and scholars.

Yale intends to purchase software which will facilitate this process, Kuhlman said.

She said that approximately 600 schools have already enrolled in SEVIS, but added that Yale is waiting until the Immigration and Naturalization Service further explains the new system and may enroll in October or November, though compliance is not mandatory until January 2003.

“We’ve been speaking with registrars and deans about what SEVIS will mean for the institution,” Kuhlman said. “As soon as we’re clear on what it means for students, we will begin communicating with them. We hope SEVIS will be basically transparent for students.”

Until SEVIS is fully operational, Kuhlman said, institutions are required to submit electronic evidence of enrollment or employment to the Department of State before the department issues visas. Another new requirement is that schools have to notify the INS within 30 days of the start of school if a student has not registered, Kuhlman said.

She added that there is also a change in the way non-citizens receive Social Security numbers.

“The Social Security Administration will verify with INS the legal status of an individual applying,” Kuhlman said. “[This] will result in the delay of numbers being issued to international students and scholars.”

Yale President Richard Levin said one of the main changes is the difficulty of receiving visas, which he said has little to do with SEVIS.

“It’s unfortunate, but this is the world we live in,” Levin said. “Obviously we would hope that we are taking students of outstanding caliber — people who would be highly desirable for this country to let in, but the University has to trust that the government is weighing all the appropriate information.”

U.S. President George W. Bush has formed a panel to establish guidelines for sensitive areas of study, Jacob said, adding that Yale has been in contact with the Bush administration to advocate the views of the higher education community in relationship to new regulations.

“We expressed the general view that we wanted to be cooperative and helpful but did have the strong view that — the real screen ought to occur when [people] apply for a visa, before they enter the U.S.,” Jacob said. “Once they’re admitted, he or she should be able to take advantage of [all of the opportunities of] the institution.”

Jacob said he thinks the Bush administration is heeding this advice and will screen applicants before entering the country, rather than requiring institutions to monitor areas of study after a person has been admitted to the country.

“The idea would be that they wanted to limit access to sensitive areas of study that were uniquely available in the U.S.,” Jacob said. “[Such as] techniques or study for developing nuclear weapons, or weaponized grade biological agents.”

So far, the government has not issued a list of what those sensitive areas of study are, Jacob said.

One area of concern, Jacob said, is how the government will handle the volume of information required to screen visa applicants so specifically.

“How they’ll handle that volume of information in the application process and keep the application process moving along at a reasonable schedule isn’t clear to anybody yet,” Jacob said.

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