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US: Fees for Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) set to increase

More financial restrictions to study in the US? Source: Vladimir Solomyani on Unsplash

International students in US colleges and universities should look out for potential increases to the fees they pay to support the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) office, and the automated Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) that keeps track of students and exchange visitors.

Educators and immigration attorneys highlighted the fee hike as part of a host of other regulatory and sub-regulatory changes happening to the H-1B skilled worker visa program and the practical training programs of non-immigrant students on F and M visas.

In Greenspoon Marder LLP’s newsletter, the law firm wrote:

“A proposed rule to increase Student and Exchange Visitor Program fees, originally slated for publication in April 2018, has an updated anticipated publication date of September 2018.”

Higher education news site Inside Higher Ed reported that attendees at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference highlighted the SEVP fee, also known as SEVIS fee, as part of a series of changes that will impact international students in the US.

Currently, international students issued a  Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” pay the SEVP fee which is used to, among other things, hire and train SEVP personnel as well as to maintain and develop the SEVIS technology. The current amount paid by students on F-1, F-3, M-1 or M-3 visas is US$200.

It is mandatory and must be paid before the international student enters the US.

Some schools may charge an “International Student Administration” fee or similarly named fees to support their foreign student or exchange visitor office and automated systems. These fees are neither mandated nor collected by the US government. If you are unsure about the fees your college or university has collected from you to this end, you should clarify with an official from your school.

The upcoming fee increase follows changes already made to the visa application process for 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

A multi-agency National Vetting Center has also been announced this February to coordinate and improve how US federal agencies use data to increase its border and immigration security.

Speaking at the NAFSA conference last week, Steve Springer, the Director of Regulatory Practice Liaison at NAFSA described the new rules imposing extra scrutiny on visa and Optional Practical Training (OPT) applications as “extreme”, saying:

“Extreme ‘’blank’ is the new catchphrase these days…extreme adjudications, extreme scrutiny. I think in every area we’re seeing this happen: visa applications, applications to [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services], petitions to USCIS — just stricter scrutiny everywhere.”

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