International students could soon be paying more for visas to study in the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule on July 17 that would increase fees charged by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
The I-901 SEVIS fee — which all F, M and J (exchange student) visa applicants pay — would increase from $200 to $350 for F and M visa applicants. The fee for most J visa applicants would increase from $180 to $220. For a four-month J visa, the fee remains $35 per visa.
Schools that renew SEVP certification, and schools that change their addresses, would also see new fees and fee increases. To be certified, schools would pay an additional $1,300.
DHS said the fee increases are needed to address funding gaps.
“If the program continues to operate at current fee levels, SEVP anticipates it will experience an average annual shortfall of $68.9 million beginning in 2019. The proposed fees help eliminate this risk and allow SEVP to continue to achieve its priorities — enhancing national security and preventing immigration fraud,” a department bulletin reads.
“As someone who works in international education, it would be helpful to understand why the increases would be justified other than the overall shortfall of $68.9 million beginning in 2019. What is causing the increase? Hiring more agents?” commented user Michael Dixon to Inside Higher Ed about the rule.
The path to a student visa is complex. SEVP “is a part of the National Security Investigations Division and 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,” says a U.S. federal website.
SEVP “manages schools, nonimmigrant students in the F and M visa classifications and their dependents” for DHS, the site says. The State Department “manages exchange visitor programs, nonimmigrant exchange visitors in the J visa classification and their dependents. Both SEVP and the State Department use SEVIS to track and monitor schools; exchange visitor programs; and F, M and J nonimmigrants while they visit the United States and participate in the U.S. education system.”
SEVIS is a database with information on international and exchange students administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The rule proposed Wednesday comes amid heightened concern about U.S. immigration policy.
A month ago, the Trump administration limited Chinese students in high-tech fields to one-year visas. And the Supreme Court recently upheld the travel ban, limiting visitors from several majority-Muslim countries.
The public can comment on the rule until Sept. 17, 2018. When the comment period ends, the rule undergoes regulatory review before being adopted or rejected, a process that can take several months.