What is the SEVIS Fee?
On September 1, 2004, a United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule went into effect that requires F-1 and J-1 visa applicants to pay a one-time fee to supplement the administration and maintenance costs of the Student and Exchange Information System (SEVIS). The following information specifically addresses this fee for F-1 students.
Who pays the SEVIS fee?
- Prospective students with “initial attendance” I-20s dated on or after 9/1/2004 who are applying for an “initial ” F-1 visa from outside the US. If you are exempt from the visa requirement (for example, citizens of Canada), the SEVIS Fee must be paid BEFORE entry to the U.S. and the receipt will need to be shown at the Port of Entry when processing your I-20 for initial attendance.
- Prospective students with “initial attendance” I-20s dated on or after 9/1/2004 who are applying for a change to F-1 status from another visa category
- Current F-1 students in the US filing for reinstatement after being out of status more than 5 months, and who are issued an I-20 issued for reinstatement that is dated on or after 9/1/04
The SEVIS fee is not required when transferring schools, changing to another degree program or level, requesting a program extension, renewing an F-1 visa or using F-1 program benefits such as practical training. If you are in status when you travel internationally and are not physically outside of the U.S. for more than five months, you will not be required to pay the fee.
The fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to applying for your visa, or applying for admission at a US port-of-entry for those exempt from the visa requirement. The fee must be paid prior to submission of a change of status petition or reinstatement application. But I recommend allowing enough time to deal with any delays you may experience.
For more information on the SEVIS fee visit the US Immigration & Customs Enforcement webpage: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm
How do I pay the SEVIS fee?
The fee is paid to the DHS and must be accompanied by a Form I-901. It cannot be paid at a U.S. Embassy or consulate and it cannot be paid at the port of entry. The fee can be paid by you or by a third party, inside or outside the US.
To Pay Online
1. Find the Form I-901 at FMJfee.com.
2. Complete the form online and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard or American Express information.
Download the SEVIS Online Payment instructions here. *Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
3. Print a copy of the online receipt.
Be sure to make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents
To Pay By Western Union’s “Quick Pay” Service
This option is available in any country where Western Union offers Quick Pay service.
1. The Western Union office collects the SEVIS I-901 fee in local currency, along with the needed Form I-901 data, and electronically transmits the payment and data to the Department of Homeland Security.
2. The Western Union office then issues a receipt that serves as immediate proof of payment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or for admission at a U.S. port of entry.
Western Union’s Quick Pay form must be completed in exact detail, following instructions developed by DHS and Western Union. These detailed payment instructions, including samples of properly completed Quick Pay forms, are posted on the Web at: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/wu_instr.htm.
A Note About Processing Times and Payment Verification: If you pay the SEVIS fee by Internet, your payment is processed immediately and, at the time you make payment, you can print a receipt directly from your computer. This computer-generated receipt can be used to verify you have paid the fee at an embassy, consular post, or port-of-entry. Mailing the SEVIS fee does not constitute payment. The fee is processed when it is received by DHS. If you mail your payment rather than pay on the Internet, it can take a considerable amount of time for payment to be received and for you to receive a receipt by return mail. Whether you choose to pay the fee by the Internet or by mail, a paper receipt will be mailed to the address you provide on Form I-901. You may choose to have this receipt sent to you either by regular mail or, at an additional charge, by express delivery.
Will the DHS keep a record of my payment on file?
Fee payments should be entered into your permanent immigration (SEVIS) record but it is strongly recommended that you retain a copy of your fee receipt (form I-797) to use as needed.