Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)
New international scholars must pay a SEVIS fee (which is paid by MMCRI) and obtain a receipt prior to applying for a J-1 visa to enter the United States.
For Canadians, the fee must be paid prior to arriving at the airport or border for admission to the United States.
What is the "SEVIS fee?"
SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is the U.S. government’s tracking system that allows various U.S. agencies (overseas U.S. Consulates, border patrol agents at the U.S. borders and airports, the Department of Homeland Security, and others) to see up-to-date information about international students and scholars in F, J, and M visa status, their academic activities, and their accompanying family members. On July 1, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the Final Rule implementing collection of a $180 SEVIS fee to support this program. All F-1 and M-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors with initial documents issued on or after September 1, 2004 will be subject to this fee.
In addition to the questions and answers on this page, more information about the SEVIS fee is available on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement web site.
Who is paying this fee?
Each SEVIS fee payment must be accompanied by a completed Form I-901, which is available on the SEVIS fee payment web site. The fee payment must be associated with a Form I-901 so that the payment can be linked to a specific nonimmigrant record in SEVIS.
MMCRI will pay the $180 SEVIS fee as part of its recruitment cost.
Receipt of payment will be sent by FedEx to the scholar who must bring the receipt to the U.S. Consulate at the time of visa application.
Staff of the IO will pay the fee electronically. Payment will be submitted, being sure to enter the correct SEVIS ID number, as listed on the scholar's Form DS-2019 (in the upper right corner of the document). Staff must be sure to list the scholar's name exactly as it appears on the Form DS-2019 and in the passport. A reliable address must be listed for mailing the receipt. Or, the receipt should be printed immediately from the Web and sent to the scholar abroad. The International Office provides instructions to all incoming J-1 scholars regarding SEVIS and visas, in writing, with the Form DS-2019.
Who MUST pay the SEVIS fee?
Students and scholars with Forms I-20 or DS-2019 issued on or after September 1, 2004 to begin a NEW program at a U.S. institution. The fee must be paid before applying for an entry visa, seeking admission to the United States, or seeking a change to F, J, or M status. The fee must also be paid in certain circumstances involving change of category, reinstatement, and other requests.
Who does NOT have to pay the fee?
1] Nonimmigrant spouses and qualifying children in. Although they receive a SEVIS identification number and are tracked in SEVIS, spouses and unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of students and scholars who apply for J-2, F-2, or M-2 status do not pay the SEVIS fee.
2] Continuing F, M, or J non-immigrants who are keeping that status and whose initial Forms I-20 or DS-2019 were issued prior to September 1, 2004. This only applies to a nonimmigrant returning to the United States to resume participation in a program that had previously started, in which he or she has kept status, and which has not yet been completed.
3] Students and scholars applying for extension of stay in the same program.
4] Students and scholars transferring from one institution to another while maintaining the same status and in the same category. J-1 scholars who transfer from the Research Scholar program of one institution may transfer to another institution’s J-1 program as a Research Scholar without payment of a new fee.
5] Students and scholars coming to the United States in government sponsored exchange programs (“G” programs), such as the Fulbright program.
When must the SEVIS fee be paid?
The fee must be paid prior to applying for a visa stamp, but the applicant can schedule an appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before receiving receipt of payment by the IO once notified that the fee has been paid. The payment must be received by DHS at least three business days before the date the applicant reports to the consulate to submit the visa application and undergo a visa interview.
For Canadian nationals, who do not require a visa stamp to enter the United States, payment must be received by DHS at least three business days before the scholar applies at the port of entry (airport or land border crossing) for admission to the United States.
Individuals applying through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services service centers for “change of status” to J-1 status must pay the SEVIS fee before the service center will approve their applications.
Will scholars get receipts when the fee is paid?
Yes. Scholars will be sent a print-out receipt by the IO once payment is made. DHS will also mail a receipt to the scholar to the address provided by the IO. The print-out receipt sent by the IO can be used for immediate verification of payment.
Initially, not every Consulate or Embassy will have the ability to verify fee payment electronically. Paper receipts will serve as secondary means of fee verification until proof of payment can be verified electronically.
What will happen if the fee is paid fewer than three business days before visa application/interview or before application for admission at a border crossing?
If an applicant has not allowed enough time for the fee payment information to be recorded in SEVIS and the connected consular and immigration databases, the individual could be denied a visa stamp or admission unless he/she has a printed receipt to prove payment was made.
If the visa is denied at the U.S. Consulate, will the $180 be refunded?
No. Refunds will only be granted when someone who was not supposed to pay the fee has paid the SEVIS fee in error. If a scholar is denied a visa, he/she can reapply for that same visa within a 12-month period and the fee does not have to be paid again. DHS believes that by virtue of having a document issued through SEVIS, and having been entered into the SEVIS system for processing, scholars have “used” SEVIS and therefore are subject to the fee, even if the application for visa to enter the U.S. is denied.
Who else has to pay the fee, in addition to those categories described earlier?
J-1 exchange visitors applying for a change of category. Change from Professor to Research Scholar or vice versa is not a change of category. A Change from Specialist to Professor, or Research Scholar to Alien Physician is a change of category.
J-2 dependents applying for change to F-1 or J-1 status. Spouses of J-1 exchange visitors who apply for admission or change of status to pursue their own academic programs must pay the SEVIS fee. Children of F-1 or J-1 visa holders who apply for student or exchange visitor status to pursue their own academic programs must pay the SEVIS fee.
F-1 or J-1 visa holders applying for reinstatement after a significant violation of status.
Why is the Department of Homeland Security collecting this fee?
In 1996, the President signed the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) into law. The law required that a system be put in place to track foreign students and exchange visitors. The system was agreed to be self-supporting by a fee collection (not to exceed $180) from all international students, scholars, alien physicians, specialists, au pairs, camp counselors, flight trainees, and international visitors applying for F, J, or M visa status.
After the events of September 11, 2001, development of the tracking system was rushed. SEVIS became operational in January of 2003. At that time, collection of the fee was postponed until a workable payment system could be developed. On July 1, 2004, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published the Final Rule implementing collection of the $180 SEVIS fee.