The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), is the electronic tracking system that the new Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (USICE) utilizes to track international students and scholars in F, and J, immigration statuses along with their dependents, from the point where the initial visa document is issued to the individual’s program completion or departure from STU. The national compliance date for SEVIS was February 15, 2003 and by August 1, 2003 all continuing students and scholars in F or J status must have SEVIS-generated visa documents to enter the U.S.

Maintaining F and J status (i.e., staying legal in the US) is an important responsibility while studying in the U.S. Failure to comply with requirements of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will prevent you from receiving such benefits as authorization for practical training and can jeopardize your ability to remain legal in this country or to return here after a visit abroad.

SEVIS I-901 Fee
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently published the final rule to implement collection of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. The rule sets the SEVIS fee for F visa holders at $200 and J visa holders at $180. The purpose of this congressionally mandated fee is to cover the costs for the continued operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), including the administration and maintenance of SEVIS, compliance activities, and the establishment of additional DHS support personnel positions.

NOTE: The SEVIS fee is a U.S. Government fee paid to DHS. It is not a University fee and provides no funds or services to the University. 

The Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database. ISSS produces immigration eligibility documents (I-20 and DS-2019) and maintains records with regard to F and J visa holders on SEVIS. Use of the SEVIS system was mandated by August 1, 2003, and DHS began collection of the SEVIS fee on September 1, 2004. The fee is paid directly to DHS and is used to cover operations costs.

Who Must File?
Each new student or scholar issued an original I-20 or DS-2019 form after September 1, 2004 is required to pay the SEVIS fee.  This is in additional to any additional visa application fees. Students and scholars whose eligibility documents were issued prior to September 1, 2004 are not charged the SEVIS fee (see below for exceptions to this requirement).

There are certain cases when a current student or scholar (whose initial I-20 or DS-2019 form was issued prior to September 1, 2004) will be required to pay the fee. The fee will be required for students or scholars applying for a change of status, reinstatement, change of category (J-1 only) or after absences from the U.S. for more than five consecutive months (except those on an approved study abroad program or approved research abroad).

Note: the issuance date is when the ISSS staff member signed the Initial I-20 or DS-2019 form. Not the program start or arrival date.

When Should the Fee be Paid?
The fee is normally paid after the I-20 or DS-2019 form has been issued, and must be paid prior to the visa appointment. A good rule of thumb is to pay the fee prior to scheduling the visa appointment. Payment of the fee is valid in the SEVIS database for a maximum of 12 months.

It can take from two to five weeks if paying by mail to process, so planning is essential, if this payment method is selected.

According to the I-901 Helpline: Do to fraud issues in certain countries, SEVP is unable to accept credit card payments from certain countries at this time, including: Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Kenya. Students and scholars is from one of these countries, will receive the below message. Students and scholars from countries not listed above and have received this message, should contact the I-901 Helpline (314-418-8833):

“The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), is not accepting credit card payments at this time. Please remit your payment by cashier’s check, money order or Western Union transfer. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your cooperation. If you wish to continue submitting a new payment please click here.”

What are the SEVIS Amounts?
F-1 visa applicants (full payment) $200
J-1 visa Applicants (full payment) $180
Government Visitor (no payment) $0

What Form of Payments Are Accepted?
DHS created a website to facilitate the collection of the SEVIS fee, using the “I-901 Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrant” form. The fee can be paid online by credit card at www.FMJfee.com. The I-901 form can also be downloaded at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/I-901.pdf to pay via mail. Payments made by mail should be either a U.S. cashier’s check or check drawn on a U.S. bank.

Who Can Make Payments?
The student or scholar, the academic department, or any other party is permitted to pay the SEVIS fee. Payments many by parties other than the student or scholar should include applicants full name, permanent address, passport number, and information from the I-20 or DS-2019 form.  The student and scholar must bring to the visa appointment a copy of the receipt of payment.

Canadian Process Considerations
Canadian citizens do not have to obtain a visa in order to enter the U.S. They are required to pay the SEVIS fee prior to their entry to the U.S. (a minimum of three days in between is recommended). Fee payment is verified at the U.S. Port of Entry.

Dependent Requirements
Dependents on F-2 or J-2 visas are not required to pay a separate SEVIS fee, regardless of when the initial I-20 or DS-2019 form was issued. Should they decide to apply for a change of status, change of category (J-1 only), or reinstatement, the fee would be applied.

Additional Assistance and Resources
SEVIS fee information and instructions are on-line, http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm.  Contact the SEVIS Fee Help Desk via email at fmjfee.SEVIS@dhs.gov or (212) 620-3418, for case-specific questions or concerns. Normal hour of operation are (weekdays, 8am – 8pm EST). This phone number is for international callers only.

Frequently Asked Questions
For more information about the new SEVIS fee, including the methods and deadlines for payment, please see the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SEVIS I-901 Fee Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ