FAQs About New SEVIS Requirements

New SEVIS Requirements For New Applicants

Since September 1, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security has collected a congressionally mandated fee to cover the costs for the continued operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Through the Internet at www.FMJfee.com/index.jhtml by using a credit card and completing the online Form I-901 (Fee for Remittance for Certain F, M, and J Nonimmigrant); or through the mail by submitting a completed Form I-901 and a check or money order drawn on a U.S. Bank and payable in U.S. currency; or by a third party such as a school or sponsor. The fee must be paid to ensure that the payment can be deposited and recorded in SEVIS prior to the scheduled visa interview. The interviewing consular officer will confirm that the fee has been paid by accessing SEVIS database. To allow for adequate processing time the fee must be paid at least three business days prior to the visa interview date for electronic submissions. The payment will be recorded in the SEVIS system. However, it is recommended that the paper I-797 or the Internet-generated receipt be brought to the visa interview.

Q - What Should Tennessee Tech's international students and scholars know about the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)?

The news media has reported extensively on how the U.S. government is seeking more efficient ways of managing information on international students in the United States. We have prepared this handout to help you understand the kinds of information that TTU, and all colleges and universities in the U.S., must maintain on international students and scholars and how this information is shared with the government in a manner prescribed by law. We hope you find this explanation helpful.

Q - What is SEVIS?

SEVIS is an Internet-based system that allows schools and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career and J-1 scholar's stay in the United States. U.S. embassies and consulates also will have access to SEVIS.

Q- Is SEVIS new?

Yes. And no. The requirement that schools provide the federal government with information about each student's status is not new. Most of the information that will be reported to SEVIS has been required by the INS for many years. But the existing paper-based system precluded widespread coordination among schools and governmental agencies. In 1996, Congress passed legislation directing the INS to move to an electronic data collection system. This program would come to be known as SEVIS-the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Technical challenges and lack of funding delayed the program for several years. However, in October 2001, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act that authorized additional SEVIS funding and required nationwide compliance by January 30, 2003.

Q- How does SEVIS work?

  • After Tennessee Tech University admits an international student, SEVIS is notified and the INS approves the university's request to issue an I-20. The university sends the new bar-coded I-20 form to the student.
  • After a scholar has been officially invited to a TTU department, IE notifies SEVIS and INS approves the university's request to issue a DS-2019. IE sends the bar-coded DS-2019 to the scholar.
  • The student or scholar visits the U.S. consulate abroad, and the consulate confirms through SEVIS that the I-20 or DS-2019 the student or scholar presents is a valid document. If everything is in order, the consulate issues the visa.
  • An INS officer at the airport reports to SEVIS the individual's entry into the U.S.
  • When the student arrives on campus, he/she reports to the TTU Office of International Education, and the school confirms through SEVIS the student's enrollment. The university continues to provide regular electronic reports to INS throughout the student's academic career.
  • International scholars should also report the TTU Office of International Education.
  • Finally, SEVIS records the student's or scholar's departure from the United States.

Q- What data does SEVIS collect?

TTU must report:

  • Whether the student has enrolled at the school or failed to enroll.
  • A change of the student's or dependent's legal name or address.
  • Any student who graduates prior to the end date listed on the I-20.
  • Academic or disciplinary actions taken due to criminal conviction.
  • Whether the student drops below a full course of study without prior authorization from the DSO (Immigration regulations refer to international student advisers as "designated school officials"-DSOs).
  • Termination date of academic program and reason for termination.
  • Other data generated by standard procedures such as program extensions, school transfers, changes in level of study, employment authorizations, and reinstatement.
  • Any student who fails to maintain status or complete his or her program.

    At this time it is unclear what information will need to be collected for scholars, as the Department of State has not issued proposed regulations.

    Q- What does "fail to maintain status" mean?

    Some examples of failure to maintain status include dropping from full-time to part-time enrollment without prior approval from the DSO, attending a school other than the one a student is authorized to attend, failure to apply for a timely transfer or I-20 extension or change in level of study, unauthorized employment, and failure to report a change of address.

    Q- What are the consequences if a student fails to maintain status?

    The student's record will be updated in SEVIS every semester. Students who fail to maintain status lose the privileges of their student visa and become subject to deportation. Specific consequences may include denial of re-entry to the U.S., inability to move from undergraduate to graduate status, denial of requests for Practical Training, denial of requests to change visa status, and possible denial of all future visa applications.

    Q- Can a student who is "out of status" regain legal status?

    If a student drops below a full course of study without prior approval from the DSO, that "event" would be reported to INS, via SEVIS, and he or she would be out of status. The student may apply to INS for reinstatement if the violation resulted from circumstances beyond his or her control. Reinstatement is intended to be a rare benefit for exceptional cases. The student may not apply for reinstatement under any circumstances if he/she is out of status longer than five months. If INS does not reinstate the student, he/she may not appeal that decision.

    Q- How will TTU help students comply with the immigration laws?

    The University is committed to assisting students in ways that prevent status violations from occurring:

    • IE will require mandatory orientation programs for all newly enrolled international students. The new rules and regulations will be thoroughly discussed and explained.
    • IE will offer individual orientation for all newly arrived international scholars.
    • Informational sessions will be offered throughout the semester for students and scholars who are already here on campus.

          Q- What happens if Tennessee Tech University fails to comply with the SEVIS regulations?

          The INS will audit the university's compliance with these new requirements every two years. Failure to comply with the federal regulations could result in the loss of the university's ability to accept and admit international students and to invite international scholars.

          Q - Will SEVIS benefit students in any way?

          Data moves faster through an electronic system than through a paper system. INS forms may be produced faster and applications for benefits such as Practical Training may be approved more quickly. Visas may be granted without the usual long delays. However, the additional security and background checks in place at many consulates overseas may delay some visa applications up to 2-3 months.

          Q - What should students do to prepare for SEVIS?

          • Read the IE's e-mail newsletter updates. Important updates will be available here. If you're not on our mailing list, please send an e-mail to your IS advisor to have your name added.
          • Understand the immigration regulations and learn how to maintain lawful status in the U.S. Refer any questions or problems immediately to the Director of IE. Do not rely on the advice of your well-meaning friends!
          • Be proactive. Students should plan their course schedules carefully so that they maintain full-time enrollment. Make travel arrangements early and anticipate delays at consulates and border crossings. Keep all documents; up-to-date changes in degree level, extensions, and travel validations must be done in a timely manner and on SEVIS documents. Allow time for processing new forms.
          • Feel free to come to the IE office for assistance.
            Office Hours:
            8 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
            Monday - Friday

          Q- Are there other resources about SEVIS?

          • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
          • US Embassy and Consulates

          Q - You do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again if you:

          • Reapply for a student visa within 12 months of the initial denial if the original application was for a student visa.*
          • Reapply for an exchange visitor visa within 12 months of the initial denial if the original application and the reapplication are for the same exchange visitor category.

          Q - When is paying a SEVIS I-901 fee not required for continuing students?

          Continuing students do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee when returning to United States or applying for a visa to return to the United States after:

            • An absence of less than five months to continue the same program of study.
            • Completing authorized overseas study as part of the current program (this absence may exceed five months).

              Transfer

              You do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you transfer between approved schools at the same educational level. If you are an F-1 or F-3, your I-20 will have initial attendance at this school in block 3, but your SEVIS records will show that you have maintained your status and are continuing your education. It will be helpful if you ask your DSO to put "Continuing student – transfer" in the remarks (block 9). This will help prevent issues with visa issuance, re-entry into the United States and fee payment.

              Change of Educational Level

              You do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you are an F-1 or F-3 who is changing educational levels. Examples are:

              • You graduated from high school and are going directly into college.
              • You received your Master's degree and going directly into a doctoral program.

                    However, if you are transferring to another school your I-20 will have initial attendance at this school in block 3, but your SEVIS records will show that you have transferred. It will be helpful if you ask your DSO to put in the remarks "Continuing student – transfer" in the remarks (block 9). This will help prevent issues with visa issuance, re-entry into the United States and fee payment.

                    Change of Status Between F-1 and F-3 or Between M-1 and M-3

                    You do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee for a change of status if the change is:

                    • Between an F-1 and an F-3
                    • Between an M-1 and an M-3

                      Extension of Stay

                      You do not have to the pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you are applying for an extension of stay so you can have additional time to complete your current program.

                      Visa Denial

                      You do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you have already paid a SEVIS I-901 fee and you are reapplying for the same type of visa within twelve months of the date of initial denial.

                      Change of Status Denial

                      You do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee if you have already paid a SEVIS I-901 fee and you are applying for a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider denied change of status application within 30 days of the date of denial.

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