April 2008 is turning out to be a land mark month for student visa program in US. First, the Department of Homeland Security came up with an Interim Rule on OPTs for F1 Students which, among other thing, made the transition from student to employee status much easier now. Now, barely two weeks after that rule came into effect, DHS is proposing to increase the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) student and certification fees to fund certain necessary enhancements in the program.
While enhancements are welcome, the almost double increase in fees may not send the positive signal that the Interim Rule had. In the recent past, the student visa regulations have become stricter and stricter, cutting off the flow of students and leaving many universities grumbling about empty foreign student slots. Students are not clear as of yet whether this proposition will work to their benefit or not. It is also clear that US is now focusing on retaining foreign born US graduates and advance degree holders to solve the skilled professional shortage that software giants are alluding to. If approved, the changes will be implemented by Fall 2008.
What is SEVP?
The Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is used to collect and maintain up to date information regarding each and every foreign student in the US, their dependents, their school programs, current status etc. This is done through a web-based technology, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which is used both government organizations as well as education institutes. The SEVIS was launched as a security measure following the 9/11 terrorist attack to keep track of international students and exchange visitors. The aim was to allow various government security agencies immediate access to data concerning any student visitor in US. While the system is working quite well as of now, the DHS has found that the system is not able to handle the large volume of data being compiled due to the increasing number of foreign students currently in the US.
What is being proposed?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to increase the SEVP student fees, certification fees and introduce a fee for the re-certification program. The proposed rule will probably open to the public for comments from August and go into effect on Oct. 1, 2008. In effect the proposed rule will-
- Hike the fee for nonimmigrant student from $100 to $200
- Hike the fee for exchange visitors from $100 to $180
- Hike the fee for school certification from $350 to $1,700
- Hike the charges for Site visit from $230 to $655 per site visit
The proposed will NOT effect-
- The fees for au pairs, camp counselors and other short term work/travel program participants
- Government sponsored exchange visitors
- Institutes currently certified with the SEVP will not be required to pay any additional fees to re-certify under the new rules.
Why is the hike being proposed?
As we have already mentioned, DHS has stated that the program requires additional funding to support the ever increasing number of students. The main reason for it is the SEVP is funded entirely by student and university fees and receives no government grants. Since it was launched in 2003, the program’s scope has increased and is under pressure from the increasing number of fraud investigations conducted frequently. In addition, the recertification program of schools is also under funded. With the increase in fees DHS will be able to
- Improve efficiency of the web-based SEVIS system by enhancing its features
- Improve customer service & Support by hiring more people
- Improve National Security by hiring more agents
- Catch up on the Re-certification program for new schools
For more information, visit www.ice.gov.sevis