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Foul-ups test foreign students and schools

Congressional committee hears tales of ongoing problems with visas and SEVIS.

Willie Schatz(willie@schatzgroup.com)

WASHINGTON, DC — The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) for tracking foreign students is: 1) technologically flawed; 2) functioning poorly; 3) a disaster; 4) a crisis; or, 5) all those and more, according to witnesses who gave testimony March 26 at a House Committee on Science hearing on visa backlogs.

Committee members and witnesses discussed the importance of foreign students, particularly graduate students, to US science, as well as specific incidents involving foreign students blocked from entering or returning to the US because of visa-processing problems. But particularly unhappy testimony focused on the new SEVIS student-tracking system.

"The damn thing doesn't work," David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, told The Scientist, after the hearing Wednesday. "It's a great idea, but there's been no meeting of the minds among the agencies that are supposed to make it work.

"It was unrealistic to expect a computer...

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