Until they received a last-minute extension, U.S. colleges and universities that request student visas faced a deadline of today to implement a new database system allowing the federal government to access their records on all international students.

Any school not incorporating the database, called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, will no longer be able to accept foreign students who want to attend it on student visas.

The University already has its system online.

Last night, the Immigration and Naturalization Services granted a 15-day grace period for schools experiencing difficulty with the transition.

Under the new rules, international students will be required to notify the International Center of any change in their name or address within 10 days. They will also not be allowed to drop below a full coarse load.

“If anyone wants to initiate paperwork or invite an international student, they will have to go through SEVIS,” said John Godfrey, assistant dean of international education at Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

SEVIS’s primary function is to provide INS with an automated system to access existing electronic files on international students.

“This is the kind of information we’ve always kept, but because INS’s system’s were so antiquated, they couldn’t access it,” Godfrey said.

“We began using our end a week ago,” he said yesterday. “We went live this evening. … We will go to an entirely new environment, one that hasn’t been fully tested.”

Doubts about SEVIS’s reliability are serious, Godfrey said. “We’ve heard rumors that the software isn’t very robust, that there’s a lot of bugs.” Purdue, the first university to have the system up and running, was unable to even connect with INS, he added.

In spite of the problems it might encounter, the scope of SEVIS goes unquestioned, as does the work that was put into it.

“SEVIS is a remarkable undertaking,” Godfrey said. “It’s cost a lot of time and staff.”

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