Virginia, US


If you are a foreign student in the F or M nonimmigrant visa category or an exchange visitor in the J visa category and you will apply for a visa outside the United States, you must ensure that you have the required documentation, that your enrollment or program participation has been entered into the appropriate government databases, and that you have paid the student and exchange visitor fee, if required.
All schools and exchange programs are required to enter data on foreign students and exchange visitors in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is a tracking and database system used to monitor and collect data on foreign students and exchange visitors, to ensure their entry to and exit from the United States and their proper participation in educational or exchange programs. Schools must also use the system to generate Form I-20 Certificates of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status and Form DS-2019 Certificates of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.
If you are seeking classification as an F or M foreign student or a J exchange visitor, you may be required to pay a fee for registration in SEVIS. Foreign nationals who receive a Form I-20 or DS-2019 certificate of eligibility with an initial issuance date of October 27, 2008 or later are subject to the new SEVIS fee, and an issuance date before October 27, 2008 are subject to the old fee, unless they qualify for an exemption. Continuing foreign nationals whose certificate of eligibility was issued prior to September 1, 2004 are not subject to the fee.
Applicable fees. Foreign nationals seeking status in the F-1, F-3, M-1 or M-3 student categories are assessed a $200 fee. Most J-1 exchange visitors are similarly subject to the $180 fee. Individuals in certain federally sponsored exchange programs are exempt from the fee, as are spouses and dependents in the F-2, J-2 and M-2 categories. F, J, and M nonimmigrants applying for a visa to return to the United States as a continuing student or exchange visitor are also fee-exempt. Note that DHS has proposed increasing the SEVIS registration fee, but has not yet done so.
Fee payment. The SEVIS fee must be paid either electronically or by mail, using DHS Form I-901 so that it arrives at the Department of Homeland Security at least three business days before your scheduled visa interview or, if you are visa-exempt, before an application for admission at a U.S. port of entry, in order for the consular or border officer to verify that payment has been made. You may pay the fee on your own behalf, but the Department of Homeland Security also accepts fees paid for you by your school, exchange program, a relative, friend or other interested party.
If Form I-901 is submitted by mail, the fee must be paid by check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. currency. Note that many foreign banks are able to issue checks or money orders drawn on U.S. banks. In the alternative, the fee may be paid electronically by credit card, by submitting an electronic version of Form I-901 through the SEVIS fee payment website.
Your fee receipt. Once the SEVIS fee is paid, you will receive a receipt from the Department of Homeland Security. If you submit the SEVIS fee electronically, you will receive two receipts: an automatically-generated online receipt that can be printed out from the SEVIS fee website.
You must retain the receipt, which you must bring with you to your visa interview or, if you are visa-exempt, present to the immigration officer at the border. Though in most cases, the consular or immigration officer will electronically verify that you have paid the fee, DHS has acknowledged that some consulates may not have immediately have access to electronic fee verification. Where electronic verification is not available, the receipt printout will be the primary means of fee verification. If you are applying for a change of status to F, M or J, you are not required to submit the confirmation with your application, since the adjudicating officer will verify your payment electronically through SEVIS. You should retain the confirmation, however; if the officer cannot electronically verify payment, he or she will require you to submit proof of payment.
You must ensure that you have the proper documentation of your student or exchange visitor status before applying for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy. As noted above, you must possess an I-20 or DS-2019 certificate of eligibility for student or exchange visitor status that has been generated through the SEVIS system. In addition, some J-1 trainees and interns require additional documentation relating to the training or internship program in which they will participate, on Form DS-7002.
The SEVIS version of Form I-20 is a three-page document and the DS-2019 is a two-page document, each bearing a bar code. F-1 students receive Form I-20-B/Form I-20ID. Form I-20 must be endorsed by the school’s Designated School Official (DSO) to demonstrate that the student is in good standing and is approved for travel. J-1 visitors receive Form DS-2019, which must be endorsed by the exchange program’s Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) to demonstrate that the exchange visitor is in good standing and is valid for travel. Dependents will receive their own copies of Form I-20 or DS-2019.
If you will be participating in a J-1 internship or training program, you must also obtain a completed Form DS-7002, a training/internship placement plan, from your program sponsor. Form DS-7002 describes the training program or internship in detail and is signed by you, by the organization that will be hosting you as a trainee or intern, and the organization that is sponsoring the training program or internship. It is completed before your DS-2019 certificate of eligibility is issued. You must present a completed and signed copy of Form DS-2007 with your visa application or, if you are visa-exempt, to an immigration officer at the border.
During adjudication of your visa application, the consular officer will consult the SEVIS database to verify your status as an exchange visitor or student. Your school or exchange program sponsor must enter your database record into SEVIS in order for verification to take place.
There may be a delay between the time that your school or exchange program sponsor enters your information into SEVIS and the time the information becomes available for viewing by the consular officer, with the result that the officer may not be able to immediately issue the F, M or J visa. In order to alleviate visa issuance problems resulting from the time lag, the Department of Homeland Security has established a correction mechanism for situations in which a SEVIS record does not appear at a consular post until after the prospective student or exchange visitor has applied for a visa. Your sponsoring institution is instructed to send an e-mail to the government's SEVIS help desk. The email must contain the subject line: "SEVIS Record Not Found in Consular System." The body of the message should contain only the following: (1) your last name and first name; (2) your SEVIS record number (N#); (3) your visa category; (4) the date that your record was entered into SEVIS; and (5) the date of your visa application. The SEVIS Help Desk should communicate with the consular post regarding fixing the error within two days.
Like other applicants for nonimmigrant visas, students and exchange visitors should be aware that visa processing may be delayed for security clearances and personal interviews. F, J and M visa applicants are subject to heightened investigations and background checks, and are also required to provide extensive work history and contact information to the State Department on Form DS-160, discussed above.​