Additional Information from State Dept. Regarding F, J and M Visas

Excerpt from email from Tim Smith of the State Department:

Please read carefully as this e-mail contains important information regarding the Interim Student and Exchange Authentication System, available at  which is being launched today in order to satisfy the legal mandate in Section 501(c) of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002.  Attached at the end of this message is the text of a cable that was dispatched to all consular posts on 10 September.  While the cable is intended for consular officers, it does provide information of value to academic institutions and exchange program sponsors, as well as background on the legal mandate.  Please disseminate widely.

The instructions in the cable supercede the public announcement of yesterday, which some of you may have seen or heard.  While yesterday's message stated in part that for the first 30 days of ISEAS implementation the State Department will continue to process F, J and M visas. our final legal interpretation of the Act is that we have no legal discretion and must require electronic authentication of all F. J and M visas - including dependents - from September 11, 2002 through the life of ISEAS (I.E. when SEVIS is fully implemented on 1/31/03).   So, In a nutshell, as of today, no F, M or J visa may be issued without sponsoring institutions providing consular officers overseas electronic notification that the visa applicant has been accepted to the educational institution or exchange visitor program.  ISEAS has been created by State for entering and submitting this information and is the best tool available to you.  For the first 30 days of ISEAS implementation, our consular sections will accept e-mail notification of F, M or J status in a cases of students/exchange visitors who apply for visas before their sponsoring organizations have had an opportunity to enter the required data into ISEAS.  In these cases, the VISA APPLICANT  will be instructed to contact the sponsoring organization/school and advise the appropriate office of the need for an electronic authentication.  In most cases an ISEAS entry remains the best option, although FOR THE FIRST 30 DAYS ONLY of ISEAS implementation, we will accept an e-mail to the appropriate consular section.  (Applicants will be provided with an e-mail address to use.)  In rare cases, the consulates abroad or the Visa Office may contact the sponsoring organizations for such authentications.  We ask that you limit e-mail communication to ONLY those cases in which a visa applicant has contacted your organization regarding the need for electronic authentication.

The Department appreciates the burden that this places on all of your programs and we are working hard to implement ISEAS given the time constraints and legal mandate under which we are working.

All other visa processing regulations, including namecheck requirements, the 60/90 day rule etc, remain unchanged.