What is SEVIS?
Congratulations! You’ve graduated from high school, and you’ve committed to your dream university in the USA. But now what? The last step before getting on a plane to start your college career is to get your F-1 Student Visa. How does the process work, and what do you need in order to successfully obtain the F-1 student Visa? Many of you must have heard the term “SEVIS”, either from admissions or on the university’s website… but what does it stand for? What is SEVIS?
Background on SEVP and SEVIS:
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a part of the National Security Investigations Division. It acts as a bridge for government organizations that have an interest in information on nonimmigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is to be students.
SEVIS stands for “Student and Exchange Visitor Information System”. SEVIS is a web-based system for maintaining information on nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. This means that SEVIS is essentially the database that SEVP utilizes to gather and view information.
SEVP uses SEVIS to manage schools, nonimmigrant students with F and M visa classifications, and their dependents on behalf of the USA’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It ensures that government agencies have the required data related to nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors to maintain America’s national security. SEVP provides approval and oversight to schools authorized to enroll F and M nonimmigrant students. It also gives guidance to both schools and students about the requirements for maintaining their status.
DHS requires SEVIS to collect current information from nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors during their time in the USA.
What is the purpose of SEVIS?
SEVIS tracks and monitors nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors. An SEVP-certified school – that is, most American colleges and universities – can accept foreign students. These students can then enter the USA with F or M nonimmigrant status.
SEVIS maintains the records of these nonimmigrant admissions and their continued participation in these educational programs. Also, SEVIS enables SEVP to assure proper reporting and record keeping by schools and exchange visitor programs. This accordingly ensures data currency and integrity. Furthermore, SEVIS provides a way for the government to identify people who break the rules during their stay. This is helpful in making sure that appropriate enforcement is taken (i.e. denial of admission, denial of benefits, or removal from the United States).
Who are F and M Nonimmigrant Students?
- F-1 nonimmigrants, as defined in section 101(a)(15)(F) of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act ), are foreign students coming to the USA to pursue a full course of academic study in SEVP-approved schools.
- An M-1 nonimmigrant, as defined in section 101(a)(15)(M) of the INA, is a foreign national pursuing a full course of study at an SEVP-approved vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution (other than in language training programs) in the USA.
The SEVIS Registration Process:
When your I-20 form is created by a Designated School Official from the university you enrolled at, you are entered into SEVIS for the first time. Your I-20 form includes a barcode and a unique SEVIS ID number. This SEVIS ID should stay with you for as long as you study continuously in the USA, even if you change your major or transfer to a new school. (If you leave the U.S. for more than five consecutive months, then you will need a new I-20 to return).
Before applying for your F-1 Student visa, you will need to pay the $350 SEVIS Registration Fee – also called the I-901 Fee. For this, you need the following information:
- Name, address, date of birth and email address.
- Country of birth and country of citizenship.
- School Code as listed on the I-20 Form.
- SEVIS ID number as listed on the I-20 Form.
When you attend your visa interview, you should present a printed receipt of payment of the I-901 fee to the US Embassy. Your arrival is recorded in SEVIS at your port of entry when you enter the USA for the first time on a student visa.
After you begin your studies in the USA, SEVIS maintains personal information about you and your academic status. In other words, SEVIS tracks whether you are maintaining F-1 status. The designated school officials (DSO’s) are required by law to enter the following information about each F-1 student:
Your local address
When you register for your first semester at a university/college, you must report your local address. If you move at any time, you must notify the DSO and complete a change-of-address form for Immigration.
Confirmation of registration
At the beginning of each semester, the DSO will confirm that you are enrolled full time for the current semester
Reduced course load
If you are eligible for a reduced course load, the DSO must report that as well as the reason why you are not able to take a full course load (e.g., medical reasons).
If you want to transfer to another university/college, you must request an official transfer from your DSO. In most cases, you will obtain a transfer request form from your new school to be given to the DSO at your current school. Your current DSO will then transfer your SEVIS record to your new school. Your SEVIS record is accessible to only one school at any given time.
Your SEVIS record can be terminated for various reasons. For example: if you do not enrol in classes when you should, if you are dismissed for any reason, or if you work off-campus. If your SEVIS record is terminated, you will have to file for reinstatement if you wish to continue studying in the USA.
After your SEVIS registration fee has been paid, you can go ahead and fill out your Visa application form.
For more information about the SEVIS process, please visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website at https://www.ice.gov/sevis
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