Understanding How US Schools Enroll and Issue Visas to Foreign Students

The US Immigration Law allows immigrants to study in the US. The individuals may enter the US using F or M visa to attend a school has been certified by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that is also attached to the immigration rules and regulations.

Note that only the schools that have the certification from the Student and Exchange Program can enroll non-immigrant students. These schools are first taken through an extensive scrutiny using the rules and regulations from the immigration department.

The foreign students will enter the US using valid M and F visa. The SEVP program is open to;

  • Public Schools (from grade 9 to grade 12)
  • Private Schools (from kindergarten to grade 12)
  • Universities
  • College
  • Vocational Schools

The school certification program has been delegated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE). The USICE then delegates this authority to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

The SEVP requires schools and institutions to give the form I-20 to foreign students after they have satisfied the provisions of the Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status. The form I-20 is the basis on which foreign students will apply for their student visas.

The SEVP program allows the certified institutions to give two types of visa;

  • The Academic Studies Visa – F visa
  • The Vocational Studies Visa – M Visa
  • Both F and M Visa

The SEVP has governing rules and regulations that are used to direct schools under the Student Exchange Program. The S.214.3 for example provides that schools can register to get F and M visa for non-immigrants students as long as they have satisfied other provisions of the rules and regulations.

To get SEVP certification, the school has to petition the SEVP authorities with the name and the location of the school using the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

To qualify to file a petition on the SEVIS, a school must have a

  • Recognized and bona fide place of study
  • Must prove that it has the required finances to fund its operations
  • Must prove that it has the personnel and facility to conduct its business
  • Must prove that it is engaged in offering the academic or vocational studies for which it is applying certification for.

Along with the petition, the school must submit the Form I-17 which is a commitment that the school that is applying for SEVP certification understands the provisions of the rules and regulations as given by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and that it will comply with the said laws.

After the application is filed, the officials of the SEVP will do a thorough adjudication to ensure that the applicant deserves the SEVP certification. Among the things they do include;

  • The review of the filed application
  • Site visit for onsite inspection
  • Research and review of the supporting documents forwarded
  • Adjudication of all the packages submitted.

If the applying institution satisfies all the requirements, it will be granted the certificate. If it doesn’t satisfy the requirements, the application will be denied, but notes as to the reason why it was denied will be given as well as a prescription of appeal rights. Over and above the filing of the petition, the applying institution have to follow the provisions of S.214.3 on notice of recertification, reporting and recordkeeping.

Upon certification a school will enroll its foreign students as follows;

  • The foreign student applies to the SEVP certified school and after the school evaluates his certificates, it will send an offer of admission.
  • The next step is the student paying the SEVIS fee in order to get approved into the SEVP system.
  • The student will be offered the I-20 form, which is a Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status. The I-20 form will be the basis of further visa processing.
  • The next step is to fill a visa application form and pay the visa fees. The visa application is known as the DS-160.
  • After filling the DS-160, the student will be invited to the US consulate for personal interview and biometrics.
  • Once the student successfully goes through the interview, they will be issued with a student visa.

It is only after a foreign student has gotten the I-20 and a valid visa that he will be allow to pursue his course in a SEVP –certified institution.

For further information on this process and others, please call the Konare team at the 240-651-5937.

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