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March 31, 2005

Pitt will reimburse internationals’ fee

Pitt now will reimburse students and researchers from foreign countries who have to pay a new $100 federal fee to work or study here.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee was instituted Sept. 1, 2004, to pay for the increased costs of maintaining information on international students and exchange visitors.

SEVIS was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It is administered by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

In the wake of federal fees on internationals and the difficulty of securing visas, American universities and colleges have been trying to help international students and scholars make their way here. Such difficulties have been cited for causing the national downturn in international students studying in the United States. (See Nov. 24 University Times.)

“We don’t want to discourage qualified international students and scholars from applying to the University,” said Robert Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, of the University’s decision to offer reimbursement for SEVIS fees.

“The fee seemed like a needless additional charge to lay on them from our point of view,” he added.

Pack expects about 500 students and up to 400 scholars to take advantage of Pitt’s reimbursement.

Generally, there are large numbers of international scholars in the School of Medicine and a concentrated pool of international students in engineering and chemistry.

Depending on which school an international is enrolled in or employed by, the SEVIS fee will be reimbursed by either the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences or the Provost’s office, Pack said.

Pitt’s Office of International Services (OIS) outlines the criteria for SEVIS fee reimbursement:

• International students must have been issued a form I-20 or form DS-2019 by OIS for the purpose of initial attendance or to begin an undergraduate or graduate degree program commencing during or after fall term 2005. International students in non-degree or student exchange programs, or who are issued a form I-20 or form DS-2019 for purposes of reinstatement are not eligible for reimbursement of the SEVIS fee.

• International scholars must have been issued a form DS-2019 by OIS with a start date on or after July 1, 2005, to begin a new program as a J-1 research scholar or a J-1 professor. Additionally, the international scholar must be receiving remuneration from the University or have an appointment with Pitt for at least six months. International scholars in J-1 short-term scholar or J-1 specialist categories are not eligible for reimbursement.

Those eligible for reimbursement should contact OIS at 4-7120 or

—Mary Ann Thomas

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