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US Modernizes Student Visa Tracking System

The U.S. Justice Department is about to put in place a new system to keep track of people who may come to America on student visas. Up until now, immigration authorities have been unable to keep track of the one million foreign students in the United States.

The new system, announced on Friday, will require schools and universities to let immigration authorities know immediately over the Internet whether someone admitted to the United States on a student visa fails to enroll in school or drops out.

For too long, Attorney General John Ashcroft said, the only way to track foreign students has been through a slow, antiquated, paper driven system "incapable of ensuring that those who enter the United States as students are in fact attending our educational institutions. Today, we begin the process of bringing our student visa system into the 21st century," the attorney general said as he announced the new procedures.

Currently, the government has no way of verifying whether someone admitted to the United States on a student visa is in fact studying, and not, as in the case of one of the September 11 hijackers, plotting terrorism or otherwise abusing their status.

Beginning in July, schools and universities will be notified when one of their students arrives in the United States. Those schools then will be required to report to immigration authorities within 24 hours if that student does not show up on campus.