What is the SEVIS I-901 Fee and Who Needs to Pay it?

Posted by Frank Gogol

If you’re looking forward to studying in the United States, you must have heard about the terms “SEVIS”, “SEVIS I-901” and “SEVIS fee”. Being a foreign student, you need to have clear clarity of these concepts and what they mean.

In this article, we will provide a detailed explanation of SEVIS I-901 and the fee associated with it along with other details.

What is the SEVIS I-901 Fee?

SEVP or Student and Exchange Visitor Program was set up in 1961 to better manage foreign students and exchange visitors coming into the United States. It essentially utilizes a database which is known as Student and Exchange Visitor Information System or SEVIS.

The United States Department of Homeland Securities uses the database to keep track of F and M students, while SEVIS is used by the United States Department of States to maintain the records of J students. But the portal, as a whole, is maintained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.

Besides storing student information, the system also handles current status which is then used by USCIS, Embassies, and consulates to issue student visas. So, you can conclude that SEVIS plays a really important role in the foreign student life cycle in the US.

I-901 Fee is the fee that is contributed towards the SEVP program. This fee is utilized to support the Student and Exchange Visitor Program and the database.

Please note that the SEVIS fee is separate from the visa application fee which you pay while applying for the visa.

Who Needs to Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee?

From 2004 onwards, it became mandatory for all international students, whether they be M, F, or J visa students, to pay the fee. Here is a list of who needs to pay the SEVIS I-901 fees:

  • All F1 visa and M1 visa aspirants from countries where it is mandatory to get a visa to travel into the United States.
  • All F and M visa aspirants from countries eligible for a visa waiver (before seeking admission at a United States port of entry).
  • Any nonimmigrant applying for change of current status to F-1 or M-1. (Need to pay before applying for the change of status with USCIS)
  • Any F or M student who wants the reinstatement of a student visa because their status is violated. This can be the case if the student has been out of status for more than 5 months. (Payment of SEVIS-190 is required before applying for reinstatement with the USCIS)
  • An F or M student who has been absent from the United States for more than five months because of personal or financial reasons and wishes to re-enter for continuing his/her studies. (For students who are required to travel overseas as part of their course curriculum are exempted from paying the fees again)

The amount varies depending upon the type of visa you’re applying for and the scenario. For the first time applications, here are the current fees:

  • $350 for F and M visa holders
  • $220 for J visa holders (full payment), or $35 for subsidized payment
  • There are no SEVIS I-901 fees for government visitors

F, M, and J student visa holders can bring in their dependents into the United States to accompany them, who will be issued F-2, M-2, and J-2 visas. But they are not required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fees.

Apart from the students, the educational institutions that are SEVP-certified also need to pay the SEVIS fee since their records are maintained in the database too. Currently, the fees for Petition for initial SEVP certification is $1700 and an additional $655 for the site visit.

What Information Do You Need To Pay The SEVIS I-901 Fee?

You will be asked to pay the SEVIS I-901 after you have received Form I-20 from your SEVP-certified institution and before applying for a student visa with the USCIS. Here is the information you’ll require to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee:

  • The SEVIS Identification Number issued to you (or as printed on the Form I-20)
  • School code as mentioned on the Form I-20
  • Your legal name, address, date of birth, and email ID
  • Country of birth and current citizenship

How to Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

There are two ways you can pay the SEVIS I-190 fees. The first option is to make credit card payments directly on the website FMJfee.com and second is to transfer the funds by Western Union Quick Pay. The route you should choose depends upon your circumstances, the country you are applying for, and personal preference.

Here are some hard and fast rules directed by ICE for paying the SEVIS I-901 fees:

  • If you’re a prospective F or M student from Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, or Cameroon and you can make the payments by money order, Western Union Quick Pay, or a certified check drawn from a US bank. F or M students from all other countries, you can pay with credit cards apart from the methods available to the aforementioned African students.
  • You can also make third party payments if you are unable to do so at your end. You can have your relative or friend deposit with your application ID. But if you are restricted from using the credit card method, the third-party you appointed too cannot access it.

For complete information on how to use Western Union Quick Pay, please visit this link. For downloading the PDF version of SEVIS Form I-190 to mail along with the check, please visit this link. For any other information, you are advised to get in touch with your Designated School Official or SEVP Response Center.

Printing Your SEVIS I-901 Fee Receipt

After you have made the payments, you’ll receive a fee receipt detailing your transaction. This will serve as proof that you have made the payments and now can apply for the student visa. You are advised to print the payment receipt from the website itself if you are making the payments online via credit card. Save it in PDF format for future use.

If you notice some misspellings or wrong information printed on your SEVIS I-901 fee receipt, you have the option of requesting corrections. You need to get in touch with the ICE by mailing a detailed request to [email protected] You need to do the same if you want to change your schooling, transfer the payment to a new SEVIS record, etc. But first, consult with your DSO.

Other Information

Students apply for visas in huge numbers from around the world. Therefore, it is advised to email your requests well in advance (at least two weeks before your visa interview or due dates) to set aside enough time for resolution.

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Conclusion

SEVIS is updated as and when changes are made to your student status, right from applying to leaving the United States. Agencies outside of ICE also use the current status for making decisions at their end. Therefore, always keep a track of your current status and get it changed as soon as possible if there’s a mismatch.

Lastly, you should always be in touch with your DSO and seek advice in case of confusion or delays.

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