The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently completed a review of the ICE SEVP program. This review was completed at the request of some Senators after SEVP withdrew the authorization of Tri-Valley State University to participate in the SEVIS program. The following are some highlights from the Report:
- SEVP’s fiscal year 2012 budget is $120 Million. As of December 2011, the program includes an authorized staff of 151 full-time government employees and approximately 600 full- and part-time contractors. The SEVP program currently has 7 branches, namely School Certification, Response, Policies Analysis and Operations Center, Field Representative Program, Mission, Support, and Information Technology.
- In 2011, ICE’s Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU) began tracking data on school fraud using increased resources funded with SEVP’s fee collections. In September 2011, CTCEU created its SEVIS Exploitation Unit, which analyzes SEVIS data to identify potential fraudulent activity among schools.
- The GAO stated that ICE faces some of the following challenges in identifying and assessing risks posed by institutions: (1) it does not evaluate program data on prior and suspected instances of school fraud and non-compliance; and (2) it does not obtain and assess information from CTCEU and ICE field offices during and after school investigations and outreach events.
- As of March 2012, ICE reported that it had withdrawn 860 SEVP certified school from the program since 2003 for various reasons, including compliance issues, voluntary withdrawals and school closures. ICE reported that it has withdrawn at least 88 of these schools since 2003 for non-compliance issues, such as a failure to report a change in ownership.
- SEVP has maintained a compliance case log since 2005. As of December 2011, the compliance case log consists of a list of approximately 172 institutions that SEVP officials have determined to be potentially non-compliant with program requirements. Of the 172 institutions, about 83% offer language, religious or flight studies, with language schools representing the highest proportion.
- From October 2011 through March 2012, CTCEU has conducted 314 outreach visits to schools as part of its Campus Sentinel outreach. As of March 2012, CTCEU initiated 2 criminal investigations based on information obtained as part of the Campus Sentinel outreach.
- The GAO report stated that SEVP was required to recertify all SEVP-certified school (as well as DOS’s J-1) by May 2004 and every 2 years thereafter. However, the report states that SEVP began the first recertification cycle in May 2010. This recertification cycle should have ended in May 2012. However, SEVP reported that as of March 2012, only approximately 19% of the SEVP-certified schools have been recertified.
- SEVP stated to the GAO that it plans on deploying SEVIS II in November 2014.