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Hearing on Tracking International Students in Higher Education, 
Policy Options and Implications for Students

October 31, 2001

Good morning. Thank you all for being here today and for your patience. As most of you know, this hearing was originally scheduled for last week Wednesday, and I appreciate our witnessís flexibility and their willingness to be here for this important hearing.

Today, we are seeking insight and expertise with regard to the rules and requirements for international students studying in the United States. This is important in better informing members of Congress about the process for an international student to gain entry into institutions of higher education in the United States.

Since September 11th, there has been a great deal of focus on 19 individuals and how they were able to enter the United States and why we were unable to know more about where they were and why they were here. Based on information we have received from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, two of the 19 were admitted to the United States as students, with one individual having overstayed his authorized period of time in this country. It is still unclear as to whether the second individual here on a student visa was in a lawful status on September 11th.

We are here today to learn from you so that we can gain valuable knowledge as to what may have gone wrong with the system in place to monitor visas provided to visitors to the United States. We are NOT here to imply that international students are a problem or to prevent these students from coming to the United States to participate in an education system that is second to none. The impact of international students on American campuses is great. International students receive an unparalleled education, while also exposing American students to world cultures. The relationships that are built and the understanding of other cultures that is gained is a gift and should be encouraged.

The larger goal for the federal government, however, is to protect all students and the citizens of the United States. We need to be sure that those who come to the United States for the specific purpose of educational study do in fact carry out that purpose.

When an international student is granted a visa for study in the United States, it is for a specific purpose and time frame. Institutions of higher education have records of those students who are accepted for enrollment but do not actually attend classes, as well as those who attend and then drop out or transfer. Therefore, if someone enters the U.S. for study at a particular school and fails to attend, the school, it would seem reasonable, could report that information to the proper authorities. My understanding is that transfer of this vital information does not occur on a regular basis, unless the INS requests it. We ask you as experts here today to educate us about what systems are in place to accommodate this information and what is done, or should be done, if a visaís term expires.

We would also like to learn more about the Coordinated Interagency Partnership Regulating International Students system (CIPRIS), which is now known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). There have been some problems with the implementation of this electronic system as well as timing issues associated with the cost of bringing it fully on-line. It seems that this system would be a good first step toward strengthening the process for monitoring student visas. We look forward to your insight on this and other processes the State Department and the INS are undertaking to address some of the concerns raised about individuals gaining entry to the United States for a supposed legal purpose but potentially carrying our other goals.

I will now turn it over to my friend and Ranking Member of the Select Education Subcommittee, Tim Roemer, for his opening remarks.