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SEVIS Fee Under Consideration

By Brian Keegan

The Department of Homeland Security is considering a new rule imposing a $100 fee on international students before they may apply for a visa to come to the United States.

The purpose of the fee is “to cover the costs incurred by administering and maintaining the SEVIS [Student Exchange and Visitor Information System] system and ensuring compliance by individuals, schools, and organizations with the system’s requirements,” according to the Oct. 27 issue of the Federal Register, the official U.S. publication for rules and federal notices.

SEVIS compiles information on international students studying at American universities.

The initial funding to set up SEVIS and document all current international students was provided by the USA PATRIOT Act. The new fee is expected to raise $30 million per year, according to The Associated Press.

Since all current international students were required to be registered in the SEVIS database by Aug. 1, 2003, only incoming international students would be required to pay the fee. The undergraduate class of 2008 and graduate students beginning study in February of 2004 would be the first to pay the fee.

The fee would apply to all persons applying for F-1, F-3, M-1, and M-3 student visas or for a J-1 visa as an exchange visitor. Students transferring between schools, requesting an extension of study, and dependents of fee-paying students would not be required to pay.

The rule is currently only a proposal, and there is still a 60-day public comment period ending December 26, 2003.

Fee may burden int’l students

Danielle Guichard-Ashbrook, director of the International Students Office, said that although her office is hardly surprised by the fee, she is concerned with how the approximately 100 undergraduate and 700 graduate international students arriving at MIT every year are going to be able to pay the fee.

The Graduate Students Office and International Students Office are not aware of any programs, initiative, or funds to assist students paying the fee.

The fee may be paid by “any procedure approved by DHS [Department of Homeland Security],” which includes mail-in forms, credit card, and other approved electronic means, according to a statement released by NAFSA: Association of International Educators (formerly the National Associate for Foreign Student Affairs).

Valerie Wong ’06, an international student, said she doesn’t “really support” the fee, since the students did not ask for SEVIS. “If [the government wants] it, they should pay for it with their own money,” she said.

Michael R. Folkert G, vice president of the Graduate Student Council, said “This is just another fee for our beleaguered international students.”