The Department of Homeland Security has just published regulations implementing a $200 SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) fee for international students and Exchange visitors (visiting scholars). The US government [DHS] is imposing this fee in order to help fund SEVIS, as authorized by the 1996 legislation establishing the SEVIS program. The University of Michigan, like all colleges and universities authorized to admit F-1 and J-1 students and J-1 Exchange Visitors, has been required to participate in the SEVIS system since January, 2003.
International students and exchange visitors will have to pay the fee before obtaining an F-1 or J-1 visa. The fee does not affect people applying for other types of visas (H1-B, etc.) Also, the fee will only affect students and exchange visitors whose I-20 or DS-2019 forms for "initial attendance" or "begin a new program" are issued after September 1, 2004.
Continuing students and continuing Exchange Visitors will not, in general, be subject to the fee. Very few, if any, incoming Fall 2004 F-1 and J-1 students will be affected by the fee, since their I-20 or DS-2019 forms will have been issued before the September 1 date.
Students and exchange visitors will be able to pay the fee by submitting Form I-901 (Fee Remittance for Certain F, M and J Non-immigrants) either through the internet using a credit card or through the mail using a check or money order.
Although the fee will be the responsibility of the student or the Exchange Visitor, third parties will be able to pay on behalf of a student or exchange visitor if they choose to do so. For example, a U-M department could, if they wanted, use a department P-Card to pay the SEVIS fee for a J-1 scholar they were inviting to U-M. This would be an individual department decision.
Information about the SEVIS fee , including information about payment options, is available at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm
The regulations themselves are available at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/06jun20041800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2004/pdf/04-14961.pdf
For more information, please contact the International Office at (313) 583-6600.
SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitors Information System. SEVIS is an Internet-based database system maintained by the Department of Homeland Security that is designed to provide users with access to accurate and current information on nonimmigrant foreign students, exchange visitors and their dependents. SEVIS-approved schools and exchange visitor programs will use SEVIS to issue visas and track extensions, transfers, authorized employment, reduced course loads and other reportable information. SEVIS simply requires that the federal government maintain this information in a Internet-based computer system rather than in paper files by individual exchange visitor programs, schools, colleges and universities.
Please note that nonimmigrant aliens who are employed at the University pursuant to H visas are not subject to the SEVIS tracking and reporting requirements. SEVIS applies only to those nonimmigrant aliens who are in the country on either a F, J or M visa. The University does not issue any M visas.
Participation in SEVIS is mandatory for all schools and exchange visitor programs that desire to enroll students entering the country on a F, J or M visa. Because of the University's commitment to enrolling International students and scholars, it is mandatory that the University participates in SEVIS.
Once SEVIS is fully operational this database system will link all US embassies and consulates, all ports of entry in this country, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, authorized employees of exchange visitor programs and authorized employees of every academic institution that sponsors international students and scholars.
SEVIS is the result of three federal laws. These laws are:
- The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), Public Law 104-208, September 30, 1996.
- The USA Patriot Act, Public Law 107-105, October 26, 2001.
- The Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, Public Law 107-173, May 14, 2002.
Copies of these laws can be retrieved from http://uscis.gov/graphics/index.htm, under the Laws, Regulations and Guides Section. The Department of State (J-visas) and the Department of Homeland Security-USCIS (F-visas) are responsible for issuing regulations to implement these laws.
All schools and exchange visitor programs that issue F, J, or M visas must be enrolled in SEVIS by January 30, 2003. By Fall 2003, the University will be required to have all current and continuing International Students and Scholar information in SEVIS.
The information that the University provides to the federal government through SEVIS is information that the University has long been required to maintain and report to the federal government regarding foreign students and visitors. At the beginning of each term, the University will be required to report to SEVIS the academic status of all F and J visa holders at the University, including whether (a) the student/visitor is enrolled, dropped below a full course of study without prior DSO authorization or failed to enroll; (b) the current physical address where the student/visitor and dependents reside; and (c) the start date of the student's next term.
In addition, it is expected that the University will provide updates to the federal government, within 21 days of the following reportable events:
- Any student who has failed to maintain status or complete his or her program.
- A change of the student's or dependent's legal name
- A change in the US address where the student or his or her dependents physically reside.
- Any student who has graduated early or before the program end date listed on the SEVIS Form I-20.
- Any disciplinary action taken by the school against the student as a result of the student being convicted of a crime; and
- Any other notification request made by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Office to the DSO with regard to the current status of the student or scholar.
The penalties for giving false or misleading information to the SEVIS database are significant. The University could lose its ability to issue F and J visas. It is expected that SEVIS will be extremely unforgiving of mistakes. Only the authorized University Designated School Officials will have access to SEVIS. The DSOs are well-trained and experienced International student/scholar professionals.
Foreign students and scholars will not be inputting data into SEVIS. Foreign students and scholars, however, have an independent responsibility to maintain a lawful status while in the United States. This includes maintaining current contact information with the Registrar, becoming knowledgeable about reporting requirements and updates and timely notifying the International Center of reportable events. The penalties for foreign students and scholars are also significant. Failure to provide up-to-date information may result in a student becoming out-of-status and deported and may negatively impact future visa applications to the United States.
Only those employees of the University who are classified as either a PDSO or a DSO.
- Additional time for the issuance of SEVIS forms I-20s and DS 2019s. This will likely add 3 to 4 days to the current visa processing time.
- Decentralization of the issuance of J visas from the Ann Arbor campus. Each campus will be responsible for maintaining its own J-visa program. Please note that the current admissions functions will not change as a result of the SEVIS compliance program.
- Each campus will be responsible for SEVIS compliance for its own campus.
International students and scholars should expect the following changes for F and J visa holders:
a. Students/scholars will be required to report any changes in name or address to the University Registrar immediately but no later than 10 days after the change. This reporting requirement is in addition to any other reporting requirement of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services or Department of State.
b. Students/scholars will not be permitted to drop below a full course load without the prior approval of a University DSO. Students who drop below a full course of study without prior DSO approval will be considered out-of-status by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and subject to deportation.
c. Students/scholars will be required to attend an orientation session sponsored by the International Center at least once per academic year and possible every term they are enrolled.
d. F-1 visa holders should expect stricter scrutiny of applications for work authorizations.
e. Social security numbers will not be issued unless necessary for authorized employment.
Students/scholars and their dependents will continue to be responsible for staying in status with the terms of their visas. Accordingly, all F and J visa holders must stay information of current regulations that impact their immigrant status.
What do these terms mean?
Department of State:
The Department of State is a federal executive cabinet department that is responsible for implementing United States foreign policy. www.state.gov. The Department of State is responsible for approving exchange visitor programs, issuing J visas and tracking all J visa holders while in the United States.
A Designated School Official is a person who is certified by the Department of State to issue F and J visas.
This visa status applies to nonimmigrant (a person who is a citizen of a foreign country and intends to return there) foreign students who are granted permission to enter the United States to pursue a full-time course of study at an approved college, university or other academic institution. Those individuals entering the United States via an F-1 visa are issued a Form I-20 by the sponsoring academic institution.
This visa status applies to nonimmigrant ( a person who is a citizen of a foreign country and intends to return there) foreign nationals who are either a spouse or a qualifying child of an F-1 nonimmigrant.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
The USCIS is one agency of the Department of Homeland Security. uscis.gov/graphics/index.htm. The USCIS is responsible for administering the country's immigration laws, including F visas.
This visa status applies to nonimmigrant (a person who is a citizen of a foreign country and intends to return there) foreign nationals who have been selected by a sponsor designated by the Department of State to participate in an exchange visitor program in the United States, such as graduate medical education and training. Other examples of J-1 visa holders include professor or research scholar, foreign physician, international visitor, government visitor, camp counselor, summer student in travel/work program. Those individuals entering the United States via an J-1 visa are issued a Form DS-2019 by the sponsoring exchange program.
This visa status applies to nonimmigrant ( a person who is a citizen of a foreign country and intends to return there) foreign nationals who are either a spouse or a qualifying child of an J-2 nonimmigrant.
A Primary Designated School Official is the person authorized by the University and approved by the Department of State to ensure the University's compliance with SEVIS. The PDSO, along with the DSOs is authorized to sign and approve immigration documents on behalf of the University.