SEVIS is one component of a large and complex number of changes that have been made to US immigration policies and procedures in recent years. Others include the establishment of the US Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the regulations that were formerly administered under the US Department of Justice, through the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). INS itself was dissolved, and its responsibilities divided into other agencies; the one that handles most student-related benefits and issues is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will see that organization's name come up many times in the other sections of our web site.
Who has to pay the SEVIS fee?
- New students and exchange visitors who use a Form I-20 or DS-2019 to gain initial F-1 or J-1 status, if that form was issued on or after September 1, 2004.
- Students who have been studying in the U.S. prior to September 1, 2004, and who leave the U.S. for five months or more will have to pay the fee before they return to the U.S., unless the absence was on account of participation in an authorized study-abroad program.
- Students who obtained valid F-1 visas prior to September 1, 2004, and who have been out of status for more than five months and file an application for reinstatement.
- Individuals who are in the U.S. and wish to change to F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor status from another nonimmigrant status.
Who does not have to pay the SEVIS fee?
- New students and exchange visitors whose I-20s or DS-2019s were issued on or before August 31, 2004 do not pay the fee unless they leave the U.S. for five months or more and wish to return to study.
- F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors who are now in the U.S. do not pay the fee, even if they travel abroad or apply for a renewal of their visas.
- A new SEVIS fee does not have to be paid by continuing students and scholars who request benefits including extension of stay, school transfer, change in educational level, or Optional Practical Training (OPT).
- Dependents in F-2 or J-2 status do not pay the SEVIS fee.
When do students and exchange visitors pay the fee?
- F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors needing a visa to enter the U.S. must pay the SEVIS fee before going to the U.S. consulate for their interview.
- Canadian citizens must pay the fee before applying for F-1 or J-1 status at a port of entry into the U.S.
- Nonimmigrants currently in the U.S. who apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to change to F-1 or J-1 status must pay the fee prior to filing their change of status application.
How do students and exchange visitors pay the fee?
- See SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment for detailed instructions and a list of options for paying the SEVIS fee.
- The fee may be paid to DHS by mail, by submitting Immigration Form I-901 together with a check or money order payable in U.S. currency.
- The fee may be paid electronically, by completing Form I-901 through the Internet and using a credit card.
- DHS will accept payment from the student or exchange visitor, or from any third party paying the fee on the student or exchange visitor's behalf.
- The fee may be paid locally in more than 130 countries using the Western Union Quick Pay™ service. This initiative allows Western Union to collect the SEVIS I-901 fee, in local currency, along with the needed Form I-901 data and electronically transmit the payment and data to SEVIS. The properly completed Western Union receipt serves as immediate proof-of-payment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate and for admission at a U.S. port of entry. This option is available in any country where Western Union offers its Quick Pay™ service. Bring a printed copy of the instructions and the sample of the completed Western Union form, also on the website, to the Western Union Agent in order to correctly process your payment.
- DHS will issue a paper receipt, regardless of payment method. If the fee is paid by mail, express delivery service for the receipt may be requested at additional cost. Persons submitting the fee electronically will be able to print a receipt at the time of payment. Receipts must be presented to a consular officer at the time of the visa interview, and to an immigration officer at the port of entry into the U.S.
- It is currently not possible to pay the SEVIS fee at a U.S. embassy or consulate, or at a U.S. port of entry, or by any means other than those listed above. DHS is considering a wider rage of payment options for the future.
- The SEVIS fee is non-refundable. However, if the visa is denied, the fee will not have to be repaid if a subsequent visa application is submitted within 12 months of the initial denial.