What is SEVIS Fee for International Students?

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Anand Patinge

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SEVIS is a web-based system that the US Department of Homeland Security uses to keep track of F, M, and J nonimmigrants in the country. It is authorised by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. For those of you asking, ‘what is SEVIS fee for international students?’, let’s take a deeper look into the subject. 

What Is SEVIS?

It is the acronym for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. The system contains the following information:

  • SEVP-certified schools and the list of F-1 and M-1 students attending those schools
  • U.S. Department of State-designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsors
  • J-1 visa Exchange Visitor Program participants

The system is crucial in maintaining US national security while also allowing legal entry of F, M and J nonimmigrants to the US for cultural and educational exchange. 

The SEVP-certified schools use the system for the following functions:

  • Updating school information
  • Applying for school recertification (required to issue Forms I-20 and Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status)
  • Issuing Form I-20 to nonimmigrants enrolled at the school
  • Reporting student information like address, enrollment, courses of study, etc. 
  • Transferring student records to other institutions if necessary

F, M And J Nonimmigrant Visa

Under US immigration law, the type of visa you need depends on the purpose of your intended travel and other supporting information. An applicant will have to meet all requirements to receive the category of visa for which they’re applying. 

When you submit your application at a US embassy, a consular officer will decide if you are eligible for the visa. If you are eligible, the officer will also determine which visa category is appropriate for your case. 

The below table will help you decipher the jargon involved in obtaining a visa to the US.

F, M And J Nonimmigrant Visa

Student Visa

A citizen of a foreign nation will have to obtain an F visa or M visa to pursue higher education in the US. Your choice of school and course of study will determine which of the two types you’ll need. 

The below table will give you a clear idea of the requirements for the two types of student visas. 

Type of course or institution Visa category:
Universities/colleges F
High Schools
Private elementary schools
Other academic institutions (including language training programmes)
Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions (excluding language training programs) M

Source: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/student-visa.html

Applying For A Student Visa

There are numerous steps that you will have to go through to apply for a visa. The order of these steps may vary based on the US Embassy or Consulate. 

We suggest visiting the consulate or embassy website. 

The general steps include completing the online visa application and scheduling an interview. Here’s a list of points to keep in mind while applying:

  • Complete Form DS-160 and print the application confirmation page. You’ll need that during the interview. 
  • Follow the photograph requirements when uploading your photo while completing Form DS-160. 
  • Visa applicants will have to go through an interview. But applicants of some age groups are exempted. Refer to the table below to learn more. 
Age Group Interview Required?
13 and younger No
14 – 79 Yes (there are exceptions for renewals)
80+ No
  • F and M visas may be issued 120 days before the start of your course if you’re a new student. But you will not be able to enter the United States until 30 days before the start date. 
  • If you’re a continuing student, an F or M visa can be issued at any time as long as you are currently enrolled at a SEVP-approved school and in SEVIS. You can enter the US any time before the start date too. 
  • You will have to pay an application fee of $160, but the issuance fee differs with nationality. 

Visa issuance fee details for F (top) and M (bottom) visas to the US. 

Visa issuance fee details for F (top) and M (bottom) visas to the US. 

Source: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/India.html

Exchange Visitor Visa

If you’re an individual approved to participate in the exchange visitor programs in the US, you can apply for a J visa. You should keep in mind that these visas are issued only for nonimmigrants. 

The first requirement to apply for a J visa is to get accepted into an exchange visitor programme through a sponsoring organisation in the USA. Once accepted, you will be registered for the SEVIS and have to pay the SEVIS fee for international students. More on that later. 

Here’s a list of categories that are eligible for an exchange visitor visa:

  • Au pair and EduCare
  • Camp Counselor
  • College/university student
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor 
  • Physician
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Secondary student
  • Short-term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

Applying For An Exchange Visitor Visa

Applying for an exchange visitor visa requires the same set of procedures mentioned earlier for the student visa. The only difference is that you’ll have to be accepted into an EVP instead of a degree or course. 

J visa issuance fee and other details for the citizens of India.

Exchange Visitor VisaSource: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/India.html

Things You Should Know About A Nonimmigrant Visa

  • It is a temporary visa issued to foreign nationals for tourism, medical treatment, business, etc.
  • Mere issuance of a visa does not mean that you are guaranteed entry into the US. 
  • At the port of entry, a CBP officer will inspect you to determine if you are eligible for admission.

What Is SEVIS Fee?

The department requires your university (sponsor) to register with the system if you’re a student. Your university does the same and provides you with a SEVIS number. You will have to pay the SEVIS fee to facilitate this process. The SEVIS fee for international students currently stands at USD 350. 

It is recommended that you pay the SEVIS fee before you start filling out your DS-160 form (visa application form). This is because the SEVIS fee receipt is sent by post, and it might take around two weeks to reach you. Also, preserve the receipt carefully since you’ll have to submit the original as a document. 

How Do I Pay The SEVIS Fee?

You will need a credit card to pay the SEVIS fee for international students online. You can also pay using a bank cheque, which will only delay the process for at least 3 weeks. So, it is highly recommended that you use a credit card. 

Here are the step-by-step instructions you’ll need to pay the fee:

Paying it online:

  • Log on to the SEVIS fee processing site
  • Fill in your Form I-901 online (make sure you put your name in exactly as in your I-20)
  • Fill in the card information and make the payment
  • Print a copy of the online receipt

Pay using Western Union Quick Pay:

  • Complete your Form I-901.
  • Use the unique payment coupon number to pay the fee at Western Union. 
  • You will have to fill out the Quick Pay Form and present it along with the coupon to process the payment. 

Do I Have To Pay The SEVIS Fee For International Students?

You should pay the SEVIS fee in the following circumstances:

  • You’re a student with an I-20 starting an IU programme 
  • You want to change your nonimmigrant status to F-1 while in the US
  • You have been out of status while in the US for over five months and want to file for reinstatement

You do not have to pay the SEVIS fee in the following circumstances:

  • You’re an F-1 student transferring schools within the US
  • You’re a dependent of an F-1 student, and you have an F-2 status

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: Are all US colleges and universities included in the programme?

Answer: US colleges and universities must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enrol students from other nations. Most higher education institutions in the US have received this approval, but it would be best if you checked the list of approved schools before you hunt for a college or programme.

Question 2: What payment options can I use to pay the SEVIS fee?

Answer: Although you can use a cheque to pay your SEVIS fee, we highly recommend you don’t. Please use a card to make the payment since it is quicker, and you get a receipt right after you’ve paid the fee. The following cards are accepted:

  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • American Express

Question 3: Can someone else pay the SEVIS fee for me?

Answer: Yes, a third party can pay your SEVIS fee. It can be a sponsoring agency, school, department, friends, or family. But make sure you are in constant touch with the third party. You will have to get a receipt and proof of payment too. 

Question 4: What is the validity of the SEVIS fee? Do I have to repay?

Answer: The initial SEVIS fee is valid for 1 year. If you do not get a visa within 1 year from the date of payment of the SEVIS fee, you will have to pay it again. 

Also, you will have to pay the SEVIS fee once again if you are a student or exchange visitor. 

Question 5: Is the SEVIS fee transferable between schools?

Answer: Yes, you can do so if you paid the fee using forms from one school and would like to attend a different school. You can submit an I-901 fee transfer request directly from fmjfee.com. 

If you have more questions about transferring your SEVIS fee, please visit the US Department of Homeland Security website’s FAQ section. 

Question 6: What if I’m having problems with the SEVIS fee payment process?

Answer: There are four sources of help one can contact if there’s an issue related to paying the SEVIS fee for international students.

  1. SEVP website (https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/
  2. SEVP Response Center: 1 (703) 603-3400
  3. Your sponsor
  4. Email: [email protected]

We hope this article clears up all the doubts you’ve had about what SEVIS is and the SEVIS fee for international students. 

Picture of Anand Patinge

Anand Patinge

A master storyteller, Anand has enriched multiple entities with captivating designs, compelling messaging, and impactful media campaigns. Beyond work, you can find him feeding stray dogs, exploring art, and watching insiprational documentaries.

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