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International Students with Visas Face Tougher Security Measures

STUDENT VISASPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) – In the wake of the Boston attacks the U.S. government is taking a closer look at visas for international students.

It’s the first security change directly related to the bombings.

Effective immediately border agents at places like the airport or another entry point to the country will verify every international student making sure they have a valid student visa.  It’s something that’ll impact the thousands of international students in Western Mass.

“It was pretty stressful, but luckily everything was good,” explains American International College freshman Colton Cyr who’s from Vancouver, Canada.

Colton says the process was extensive to get into the county and he’s not surprised the federal government is tightening up even more following the Boston Marathon attacks.

“Obviously something like that happens then (there) is gonna be repercussions and people are responsible for that, which is good.  Make it safer for the future,” notes Colton.

John Debonville is the International Student Advisor at AIC.

He helped Colton get his visa and has done the same for countless other students during his 32 years with the college.

“There is a fairly thorough system on the part of the Department Of Homeland Security,” explains Debonville.

He says in order for an accepted student to get a visa they need to speak English, submit school transcripts, and have financial resources.

After that they fill out several forms and go to a U.S. Embassy to apply for the visa.

Debonville adds the process is ongoing, ”Every semester I have to register the student with the Department of Homeland Security, indicate the student is taking the necessary number of courses and is in fact registered here as a full time student.”

If a student is no longer enrolled the information is updated in the student and exchange visitor information system called SEVIS.

The call for boarder agents to now check this system for all international students comes after a student accused of hiding evidence for one of the Boston bombing suspects was let back into the country despite the fact status as a student at UMass Dartmouth was terminated.

“Under the new procedures, border agents will verify a student’s visa status before the person arrives in the U.S. using information provided in flight manifests.  If that information is unavailable, border agents will check the visa status manually with the agency’s national targeting data center.