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Designated School Official

One requirement for a school to be Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified is that the school must have dedicated employees for assisting and overseeing enrolled F and M students:

  • Designated school officials (DSO)
  • Principal designated school official (PDSO).

Each instructional site location must have at least one PDSO who also serves as the main point of contact for issues related to SEVP-certification. SEVP-certified schools can nominate an appropriate number of DSOs based on the school’s specific needs. Read more about this in the Adjustments to Designated School Official Limits Frequently Asked Questions.

How to Become a DSO 

The school’s president, owner or head of a school or school system must nominate DSOs by signing a Form I-17A, “Record of Designated School Officials.” 

A DSO must be either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States. To prove this status to SEVP, school officials can provide one of the following with Form I-17A:

  • Copy of U.S. passport (current or expired).
  • Copy of a U.S. civil-issued birth certificate.
  • Copy of an alien registration card.
  • Copy of a naturalization or citizenship certificate.

A school may update its list of DSOs by adding or deleting names in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). For more information, please see the Petition Updates tab on

Responsibilities of a DSO

Federal law requires DSOs to update and maintain student records in SEVIS. For more information on specific reporting requirements, please read the SEVIS Reporting Requirements for Designated School Officials fact sheet.

A DSO also helps international students avoid problems by helping them do things through required processes. Some common topics international students may have questions about or should report to a DSO are:

  • Working in the United States.
  • Applying for a driver’s license.
  • Applying for a Social Security number.
  • Changing their major, program or degree level.
  • Changing their education level.
  • Transferring to a new school or taking a leave of absence.
  • Taking a break from school.
  • Traveling outside the United States.
  • Moving to a new address.
  • Changing their name.
  • Requesting a program extension.

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