For directors of international programs, it means a daunting new role as government watchdogs. They worry that mistakes in advising foreign students or entering data, which might never have been discovered under the old paper-based system, could have drastic consequences for students.
Given Sevis’s instant nature, there’s no room to correct the record for errors, said Robert J. Locke of the University of North Carolina. That’s our biggest fear in the implementation of this, that students and scholars may unwittingly fall between the cracks and become illegal.
So far, the immigration agency has approved 3,900 institutions to use Sevis, but 1,748 more are still waiting for approval.
In addition to Sevis, I.N.S. offices are undertaking a separate registration, annually fingerprinting, photographing and interviewing men from 24 mostly Muslim countries.
Before Sept. 11, said Victor Johnson, an associate executive director at the Association of International Educators, international education was seen as a bridge to future leaders across the globe.
The attacks changed us into a country where there’s fear about these people coming in, Mr. Johnson said. While greater vigilance is certainly needed, this broad net is catching all kinds of people who are no danger whatsoever.”