- Faith & Family
International students at Florida Memorial University (FMU) faced the possibility of having their plans to return home for the holidays threatened after the University was recently denied its application for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). But thanks to some quick thinking by school officials and with much-needed assistance provided by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, it looks like the situation has been resolved.
“The goal of the University and President Henry Lewis was to address this issue in a timely manner,” said Dr. Adriene Wright, vice-president of institutional advancement and communication. “We used our resources to reach out to people we knew who could help our students. And we held a few forums to keep students up-to-date on the issue.”
SEVIS permits international students enrolled at FMU to travel abroad and return to the University under student visas. But with the University’s application being denied, students faced uncertainty related to traveling as their visas would have expired on Jan. 12, 2012.
Wilson, 69, District 17, stepped in on behalf of more than 200 students.
“After an unfortunate oversight of federal paperwork during a routine recertification process, FMU will soon return to active status and comply with all federal immigration regulations,” Wilson said. “My office has contacted the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fast track FMU’s application and ensure that student visas will remain unchanged and that there is absolutely no risk of deportation. We got the call from Florida Memorial and realized this was the least that we could do to help their students. I didn’t want anything to interfere with the education of our students. This was a number one priority for us.”
The State Department recently announced that it has temporarily stopped accepting any new sponsors and will limit the number of future participants receiving visas to about 103,000 students as a part of a review process. Under the J-1 program, foreign students are granted visas for up to four months. Participation has risen from about 20,000 students in 1996 to a peak of more than 150,000 in 2008 —roughly one million foreign students have taken advantage of the program in the past decade.
By Randy Grice