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SEVP Certification: Obtain Approval to Receive F-1 Visa or M-1 Visa International Students at My School

College & University Study in the US - A Guide for International Students

SEVP Certification Obtain Approval to Receive F-1 Visa M-1 Visa International Students at My School

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THIS ARTICLE

This page is for schools interested in being approved for nonimmigrant students.


What is SEVP Certification?

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Certification is the process schools go through to receive authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enroll F-1 Student Visa or M-1 Student Visa nonimmigrants. Within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), SEVP approves schools that desire to enroll nonimmigrant students, or withdraws that approval. Note that this certification does not pertain to exchange visitor programs, which are authorized to enroll J-1 Visa nonimmigrants as exchange visitors by the Department of State through its verification process.)

Once certified, a school has access to the Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and may issue Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Student Status, to prospective students. To maintain certification, the school must comply with SEVP policies, as well as recordkeeping and reporting requirements.


What Types of Schools Are Eligible for SEVP Certification to Enroll Students in F-1 Visa Status?
The following schools are considered to be eligible academic institutions:

  • A college or university (an institution of higher learning that awards recognized bachelor's, master's doctor's or professional degrees)
  • A community college or junior college that provides instruction in the liberal arts or in the professions and that awards recognized associate degrees
  • A seminary
  • A conservatory
  • An academic high school
  • A private elementary school
  • An institution that provides language training, instruction in the liberal arts or fine arts, instruction in the professions, or instruction or training in more than one of these disciplines


What Types of Schools Are Eligible for SEVP Certification to Enroll Students in M-1 Visa Status?
The following schools are considered to be eligible vocational or nonacademic institutions:

  • A community college or junior college that provides vocational or technical training and that awards recognized associate degrees
  • A vocational high school
  • A school that provides vocational or nonacademic training other than language training


What Schools Are Eligible for SEVP Certification to Enroll Both F-1 and M-1 Students?
A school may be approved for attendance by both of these categories of nonimmigrant students if it has both instruction in the liberal arts, fine arts, language, religion, or the professions and vocational or technical training.


What Schools Are Ineligible for SEVP Certification?

The following may not be approved for attendance by foreign students:

  • Home schools
  • Pre-school and/or day care institutions
  • Public elementary or junior high schools (grades K-8)
  • Schools whose programs are primarily distance education or online (i.e. Internet based)
  • Adult education program, if the adult education program is funded in whole or in part by a grant under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, or by any other federal, state, county or municipal funding
  • Flight schools that are not Part 141 or Part 142 certified by the Federal Aviation Administration


What Are the Criteria for SEVP Certification?
The petitioning school must establish that it:

  • Is a bona fide school
  • Is an established institution of learning or other recognized place of study;
  • Possesses the necessary facilities, personnel, and finances to conduct instruction in recognized courses; and,
  • Is, in fact, engaged in instruction in those courses.

Schools must be engaged in instruction (i.e., operational) when they file their petition, not at some point before final adjudication.

For Institutions applying for M (vocational or technical) certification, only programs that meet for a minimum of 18 hours weekly if the program is primarily classroom instruction, or 22 hours weekly if the program is primarily lab work are eligible for approval.

For English language school programs applying for certification, only programs that meet for a minimum of 18 hours weekly, if the program is primarily classroom instruction, or 22 hours weekly if the program is primarily lab work are eligible for approval.


How Do I Apply for SEVP Certification?

Schools must complete and submit an electronic Form I–17, and must submit a nonrefundable certification fee on-line. Both electronic submissions—the Form I-17 and the fee payment should be made at least 90 days prior to the desired certification date. A site visit, including interview(s) and records review will be conducted by an inspector. To begin the process, access SEVIS on the Internet and select “Register for New Account”.


Appealing the Denial of SEVP Certification

If your petition for initial SEVP certification is denied, you will be notified of the reasons for the decision and of your right to appeal the decision. This notice will include instructions on how to file your appeal.


HELP! with SEVP Certification

  •  Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.

  • You may contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) directly by email: schoolcert.sevis@dhs.gov
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