DHS Implements Improved Screening of Arriving Students04 Jun 2013
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented changes at U.S. ports of entry (POEs) intended to prevent improper admission of students and exchange visitors. The need for improvements in the data systems was brought to light after the Boston Marathon bombings. The new system will provide relevant government officials access to more up-to-date information needed for proper screening of foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States in F, M, and J statuses.
Background: System Weaknesses
As explained in the MurthyDotCom article, New Procedures for Arriving Students (14.May.2013) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers responsible for the initial or primary inspection of those seeking admission to the United States did not have access to the database used to track F-1, M-1, and J-1 foreign nationals. This tracking system is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). While CBP officers in secondary inspection could check SEVIS information, individuals only undergo secondary inspection if the primary inspection officer identifies an issue requiring additional, more intensive scrutiny. As a result of the discovery of this flaw, DHS initiated changes intended to improve U.S. border security.
New Procedures in Place
According to the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA), CBP now has a system in place that provides them with a “lookout” alert for those foreign nationals who no longer have active SEVIS records. That is, SEVIS records change when an individual no longer holds F, M, or J status. Awareness of certain actions in the SEVIS records alerts the primary CBP inspector of the need to refer the individual to secondary inspection. Prior to this change, the matter may have gone undetected and the individual may have been readmitted without further scrutiny.
Under the new system, CBP’s database will receive daily updates regarding SEVIS changes. Additional improvements to the system are expected shortly that will further streamline communication capabilities between the various departments and agencies responsible for immigration benefits and related security. For instance, and upgrade in the connectivity between the SEVIS system and the Arrival Departure Information System (ADIS) is expected. Another enhancement will give the U.S. Department of State (DOS) access to SEVIS information.
Under the new system, CBP’s database will receive updates regarding SEVIS changes. Additional improvements to the system are expected shortly that will further streamline communication capabilities between the various departments and agencies responsible for immigration benefits and related security.
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