US issues draft guidance on conditional admission

24 July, 2014

The US Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has issued a second round of draft guidance in relation to conditional admission and pathway programmes for international students.

The newly enhanced Study in the States website

SEVP’s concerns relate to the issuance of I-20 forms by institutions, which are used by students in their F-1 visa applications. Long-standing legislation states that the school must check a student meets all requirements for the course of study before issuing an I-20 form.

In 2012, SEVP began to address the issue of schools issuing a single I-20 form to students that have been offered conditional admission and need to take a pathway programme or course of English language study prior to commencing the full programme of study at the institution.

The new draft guidance states designated school officials (DSOs) issue forms “only to a prospective F-1 or M-1 student who has met all standards for admission, including any English proficiency requirements, for the programme of study for which the student has been admitted and been accepted for enrolment in a full course of study.”

The guidance further states, “In order to ensure legal issuance of the form and to remain in compliance with SEVP regulatory requirements, a DSO must issue the Form I-20 for a programme for which the student has met all standards for admission.”

The likely outcome of the guidance is that universities and colleges will need to issue separate I-20 forms for pathway/bridge programmes and for the subsequent full programme of study.

SEVP originally posted draft guidance related to this issue in June 2013, and as previously reported, educational bodies such as EnglishUSA, the association of intensive English programs, raised some concerns over the initial draft guidelines when they were published.

Following public feedback on the issue, SEVP has commenced a second round of more detailed guidance, and following the current conditional admission guidance, a further series of specific guidance documents will follow based on: English proficiency; I-20 issuance; and pathways/bridge programmes.

The conditional admission guidance document is open for public comment until August 25. All guidance remains in draft form only until final guidance is issued by SEVP.

In other news, SEVP has launched enhancements to the Study in the States website, including: an interactive glossary of definitions to the most-used terms in the international student application process; an “ask a question” section; an enhanced search facility of SEVP-certified schools; and a new “mobile-ready” version of the site for use on smartphones and tablets.

SEVP Director, Lou Farrell, said, “Being an international student is a complex process that involves several government agencies, and the new Study in the States tools will help students and schools easily find the latest news, information, interactive guides and videos they need.”

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