US government proposes study visa fee increase up to 75pc
Not impressed. Source: AFP/Joe Raedle

The US Department of Homeland Security has proposed to increase fees charged by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

Voice of America reported that under the changes, F and M visa applicants would have to pay US$350 for the I-901 SEVIS fee, an increase of 75 percent from the current rate of US$200. Most J visa applicants would see their fees increase from US$180 to US$220.

The Department of Homeland Security said this is aimed at addressing funding gaps.

A bulletin by the department read: “If the program continues to operate at current fee levels, SEVP anticipates it will experience an average annual shortfall of US$68.9 million beginning in 2019. The proposed fees help eliminate this risk and allow SEVP to continue to achieve its priorities — enhancing national security and preventing immigration fraud.”

DHS’s proposal confirms what immigration attorneys and educators highlighted as possible changes to the fee structure at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference. Source: Shutterstock

F, M and J (exchange student) visa applicants are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before they can apply for a visa to enter the US as a student or exchange visitor. It’s a fee mandated by the US Congress to support the program office and automated system that keeps track of students and exchange visitors and ensures that they maintain their status while in the country, according to the official website of the DHS.

The website states that SEVP “manages schools, nonimmigrant students in the F and M visa classifications and their dependents” while the State Department “manages exchange visitor programs, nonimmigrant exchange visitors in the J visa classification and their dependents”.

Both use the SEVIS to track and monitor international students on F, M and J study visas while studying in the US.

The proposed fee increase follows changes already made to the visa application process for international students planning to study in the US. One such change is the implementation of Form DS-5535. This supplemental form requests additional details regarding travel, employment, residence, family, etc from certain visa applicants. Notably, it asks applicants for all social media usernames used over the past five years.

Higher education institutions seeking initial certification from the US government to enrol international students would see their fees go up from US$1,700 to US$3,000 as well under the proposal.

The fee for institutions seeking initial certification from the government to enroll international students will increase from $1,700 to $3,000.

It’s unclear what the increases will be used for, apart from meeting the shortfall.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the proposal is now open for public comment until September 17, after being published in the Federal Register mid-July.

The last change made to the fees were done in 2008.

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