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What is SEVIS?

International Scholars > What is SEVIS?

SEVIS is the "Student and Exchange Visitor Information System."

Mandated by federal regulation, SEVIS was designed as a government tracking system that allows various agencies of the U.S. government (overseas U.S. consulates, border patrol agents at the U.S. borders and airports, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies) to see up-to-date information about international students and scholars in F, J, and M visa status, their academic activities, and their accompanying family members.

In order to issue visa eligibility documents that permit international scholars to come to MIT in J-1 status, the International Scholars Office (ISchO) must enter data into SEVIS. These data must include information about the scholar's upcoming MIT appointment (title, dates, funding sources, field of research or teaching), as well as biographical information about the scholar and accompanying family members. Once the data is submitted to SEVIS, the ISchO awaits the return of the data. Once it comes back to the ISchO, we print a J-1 eligibility document for the scholar and J-2 eligibility documents for family members (Forms DS-2019) which the scholar and family must then take to a U.S. Consulate abroad after paying the required SEVIS fee to apply for their J entry visa stamps.

Upon entry to the United States and arrival at MIT, all international scholars and family members in J-2 status must register with the ISchO. This is especially important for J-1 and J-2 exchange visitors. The regulations say that the ISchO must "validate" their program participation by reporting their arrival in SEVIS. Individuals who are in the United States but whose records have not been "validated" within 30 days of the start date on the Form DS-2019 are subject to immigration enforcement.

If an incoming scholar knows that her/his visa will be delayed and/or that she/he cannot arrive by the start date on the Form DS-2019, that scholar should contact the inviting MIT department, laboratory, or center to let them know the new anticipated date of arrival. The department, laboratory, or center will confer with the ISchO. The ISchO will then update the start date in SEVIS and decide if a new Form DS-2019 should be issued.

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Continuing J-1 scholars

Federal regulations require that other "events" be reported in SEVIS on an on-going basis during the period of J-1 and J-2 stay in the United States. Changes of title, department, work site, financial support, and address must be reported to the ISchO. The ISchO will enter the information in SEVIS and determine if a revised Form DS-2019 should be issued.

Early departure from MIT (more than 30 days prior to the end date on Form DS-2019), change to a different visa type, or change to a different employer must also be reported to the ISchO. Early departures will be reported in SEVIS. A change in J-1 sponsor will require that the "transfer" process be done through SEVIS.

MIT hosts over 800 J-1 Exchange Visitors each year. The ISchO must comply with SEVIS regulations or its J-1 program will be revoked. We therefore appreciate Institute-wide cooperation with regard to foreign nationals. The requirement that information and changes be entered into SEVIS in "real-time" makes it impossible for us to accommodate imprecise information, retroactive actions, retroactive leaves, or processing scholars' terminations long after the actual end date of MIT affiliation.

International scholars should always review the ISchO Travel Advisory before traveling. Also, they should visit the ISchO well before travel outside the United States. The ISchO needs to make sure their SEVIS records are in order before their departure.

You can find out more about SEVIS by going to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.

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Last Updated: October 2008

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