On August 15, 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unofficially confirmed that it is no longer stamping students’ Form I-20 at the Port of Entry (POE). The Form I-20 is the document which supports a student’s F-1 visa status and, in the past, has been stamped by CBP upon entry into the United States. Recognizing that certain benefit granting agencies (such as motor vehicle agencies) look for a stamp on these documents before granting a benefit, USCIS is conducting extensive outreach to ensure that these agencies are aware of this change.
Since CBP has not yet publicly announced this important change in procedure, the correspondent Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)’s factsheetis not yet updated to reflect this change. The current factsheet available is from 2004 (http://www.ice.gov/sevis/factsheet/100104ent_stdnt_fs.htm ) and still reads in part that “Once your inspection is successfully completed, the inspecting officer will: Stamp your SEVIS Form for duration of status (“D/S”) for F visa holders; Stamp your SEVIS Form for 30 days beyond program end date for M visa holders.”
This change in procedure follows the CBP announcement from August 7, 2012 (http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/i-94_instructions/i94_data_entry.xml ) regarding delays of 30 or more days in entering I-94 data into DHS systems, while CBP works to streamline entry data processes. Both changes come at a time when schools are busy receiving and registering students for the new school year.
These changes are causing delays in students’ receipt of their social security numbers, since the Social Security Administration must first verify the applicant’s visa/I-94 information the system, which is now taking more than a month to become available.