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Archive for the ‘Foreign Students & Scholars’ Category

You may have heard that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has shifted course in its efforts to improve the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

SEVP has decided to step away from plans to develop a new “SEVIS II” system, and instead explore options that would enhance the existing SEVIS system. The agency will be working to develop alternative approaches to closing what it sees as security vulnerabilities in the system while also enhancing the value of SEVIS to designated school officials and schools.

I’m pleased to announce that I have been appointed a principal member of the SEVP’s SEVIS Modernization Analysis of Alternatives Oversight Board and will be involved in the development and consideration of these alternatives. I will be joined by NAFSA Director of Regulatory Practice Liaison Steve Springer, who will serve as an associate member of the board.

The board was recently chartered by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is made up of senior federal agency officials and several members of the stakeholder community. With your feedback and input, we will provide valuable guidance to the agency as it works to develop and evaluate alternatives for improving SEVIS.

We welcome your ideas for improving SEVIS. Your voice plays a critical role in our liaison and advocacy efforts, and will be a valuable asset as NAFSA participates in this analysis of alternatives process. As always, we invite you to provide your input to NAFSA staff by visiting IssueNet: Report an Issue.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated as the board moves forward.

For more on SEVP’s progress in modernizing SEVIS and expectations for the analysis of alternatives process, see the SEVIS: The Way Forward FAQ and SEVP Director Louis M. Farrell’s opening remarks in the July 2014 SEVP-Spotlight. For more information on how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) generally uses the analysis of alternatives process, see the Analysis of Alternatives Methodologies: Considerations for DHS Acquisition Analysis report.

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Did you see the news earlier this week that the British government has a new strategy to recruit 90,000 more international students by 2018? This means a 20% increase in international students in five years. Why are they taking this bold step? Because British lawmakers see international education as an important growth sector that provides widespread economic, cultural, academic, and diplomatic benefits for the country.

The United States could, and should, do the same. NAFSA has long advocated for an inter-agency international education strategy from the federal government. But a different opportunity presents itself right now – the opportunity for commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform that would make the United States more competitive and more welcoming to international students.

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As the immigration debate shifts gears to the House of Representatives, international educators now have new data and a new web-based, interactive tool to use in educating their representatives on the economic value international students and their dependents contribute to the U.S. economy. The International Student Economic Value Tool shows that the 764,495 international students studying across the United States supported nearly 300,000 jobs and contributed $21.8 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2011-2012 academic year. Further analysis shows that for every 7 enrolled international students, 3 U.S. jobs are created or supported as a result of spending in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance. With the tool’s interactive map, users can easily find the data for their individual congressional districts.

“For years I’ve been using NAFSA’s economic data on international students to show my members of Congress why they need to invest in what we do,”said Sherif Barsoum, director of International Student and Scholar Services at Vanderbilt University and NAFSA Vice President for Public Policy and Practice. “This interactive tool presents the data in a new way that will help my fellow advocates and me paint a better picture of the value of international education to our elected officials.”The United States is in a global competition for talented international students and scholars with other nations that have friendlier immigration policies. According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) findings , the number of international students studying worldwide nearly doubled from 2.1 million to 4.1 million over the past decade. According to Institute for International Education Project Atlas data during that same time frame, the number of international students studying in the United States grew by 31%, while the percentage share of international students worldwide studying in the United States decreased by 10%.

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In an important symbolic victory, the Senate voted 84-15 yesterday to move forward on S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” the commonsense immigration bill being debated in the Senate now. Over the next three weeks as the Senate debates and amends the bill, we need to let senators know there is strong public support for a “yes” vote when it matters on final passage.

This is our chance to get changes to current U.S. immigration law in order to improve our ability to recruit, integrate, and graduate the best and the brightest international students. We are the voice of the global education community and it is critical that we speak out and drown out the negative voices. No one knows this better than NAFSA’s 2013 Advocate of the Year Ken Reade. Reade is associate director of the Office of Visa and Immigration Services at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire made news this week as she stepped forward and publicly endorsed the Senate immigration bill.

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Robin LernerWe recently posed this question to Robin Lerner, deputy assistant secretary for private sector exchange at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and her staff.  As part of our regular agency liaison, NAFSA staff and David Elwell, chair of NAFSA’s International Student and Scholar Regulatory Practice Committee (ISS-RP), met with  Ms. Lerner to discuss her vision and plans for the Exchange Visitor Program, which she oversees, and to convey the needs and concerns of the academic community.

Ms. Lerner accepted NAFSA’s offer to host a teleconference so that she could engage with the academic community, and we hope that you will participate. It’s a great opportunity for members of the academic community who have an interest in the Exchange Visitor Program to learn how the program will be managed going forward.

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International students and their families contributed more than $21.8 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2011–2012 academic year, according to a new NAFSA report released yesterday. California, New York, and Texas welcomed the largest numbers of international students, and those and other states across the country saw substantial benefits from spending by these students and their families on living expenses, tuition, and fees.

The compelling, real-life stories about the positive impact international students make on our campuses and communities often come from the experiences of international educators who work with them every day. Today we have a post about international students in Pennsylvania from Jennifer Figueroa, director of International Student Services for Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. If you would like to share your own story, visit the Share Your Story page on Connecting Our World.

Bicycling to Sustainability
By: Jennifer Figueroa

Somehow, I am lucky enough to have a really unique job. I work in higher education, specifically with students that come to study in the United States from all over the world. I travel vicariously through them, and occasionally travel for real when the opportunity presents itself. I’ve mentored, supported, and advised students from far-flung places, nations, and cultures including the Ukraine, Brazil, Rwanda, Honduras, China, Nepal, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Macedonia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, The Netherlands, Madagascar, Yemen, and Tibet. What is the best part of it all? Getting to know them as individuals and seeing the influence they bring to our campus. Each student brings a vibrant and unique perspective to campus, lending new ideas and concepts to classroom discussions and enriching campus programs through cultural experiences.

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Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney sparred over immigration policy in their televised debate on Tuesday night, the second of three debates. In a testy exchange, the candidates touched on each of the three pillars of comprehensive immigration reform: enforcement, visas, and the undocumented. While Romney and Obama may disagree on details, both said they would seek major revisions to federal law in the next Congress.

The truth is, today’s world of global mobility bears little resemblance to where we were generations ago when the basic structure of U.S. immigration law was created. We need a new, sustainable national policy now. NAFSA supports comprehensive immigration reform that is based on facts, fairness, and a shared future. True comprehensive reform must address the three pillars of border security and enforcement, broad visa reform, and resolution of undocumented persons.

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