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What to Know About SEVP Certification

If you are considering enrolling nonimmigrant students at your school, you should learn more about the process to certify your school with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). SEVP certification allows schools that have an approved Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” to appoint a principal designated school official (PDSO) and designated school officials (DSO) access the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

SEVIS is an on-line database where PDSO and DSOs can go to maintain the information on the school’s Form I-17 and issue Forms I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status," to prospective international students after admitting them for onsite enrollment in a certified program of study. Prospective international students then use the Form I-20 to apply for a visa to enter the United States.

SEVP certification also authorizes the institution to enroll these international students after they enter the United States on an F or M student visa. Schools may petition to enroll:

  • Only F students (i.e., academic students).
  • Only M students (i.e., vocational students).
  • Both F and M students, if the school has both academic and vocational courses of study. 

For additional information and answers to common questions regarding SEVP certification, please visit the SEVP Certification Basics frequently asked questions page on

How Much Does It Cost?

Schools are required to pay fees and provide proof of payment to SEVP upon submission of a petition for initial certification and recertification. The fee to file and initial petition for SEVP certification is $3,000. Schools that are seeking initial certification are also required to pay a $655 site visit fee per physical location listed on the Form I-17. SEVP-certified schools are required to submit a petition for recertification every two years. The fee to file for recertification is $1,250. SEVP-certified schools are also required to pay a $655 site visit fee for changes to approved physical locations or to add additional physical locations to the certified petition. In addition to site visits, SEVP may conduct an unscheduled on-site review of a school at any time after certification is approved. There is no fee associated with an unscheduled on-site review.

How Long Does It Take?

Initial Form I-17 petitions and evidence are reviewed in the order in which they are received. Processing times vary depending on the type of school, number of academic and/or vocational programs, and amount of evidence submitted.

Is My School Eligible?

SEVP’s governing regulations for school certification can be found in 8 CFR 214.3. These regulations outline the process and types of schools that are eligible to petition for SEVP certification. Listed below are the types of schools eligible to petition for SEVP certification, as well as a list of school types that are ineligible for SEVP certification. 

The following academic institutions are eligible to submit a petition to SEVP to enroll F students:

  • Colleges or universities (i.e., institutions of higher learning that award recognized bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate or professional degrees).
  • Community colleges or junior colleges (i.e., institutions providing instruction in liberal arts or in the professions and awards recognized associate degrees).
  • Seminaries.
  • Conservatories.
  • Academic high schools (grades nine–12).
  • Private elementary schools (grades kindergarten–eight).
  • Institutions providing:
    • Language training, if accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body.
    • Instruction in liberal arts or fine arts.
    • Instruction in the professions.
    • Instruction or training in more than one of these disciplines.

The following schools are eligible to enroll M students:

  • Community colleges or junior colleges that provide vocational or technical training and award recognized associate degrees.
  • Vocational high schools (grades nine–12).
  • Institutions that provide vocational or nonacademic training other than language training (culinary schools, cosmetology schools, flight training schools, etc.).

The following school types are not eligible for SEVP certification:

  • Home school.
  • Preschool or day care.
  • Public elementary or middle school (grades kindergarten–eight).
  • Schools whose programs are primarily distance or online and do not require the student's physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to completion of the class (per 8 CFR 214.2(f)(6)(i)(G) and 8 CFR 214.2(m)(9)(v)).
  • Adult education programs 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 My School's Responsibilities?

In obtaining SEVP certification, a school makes a legally binding commitment to comply with applicable federal laws, regulations and U.S. Department of Homeland Security requirements. School officials should carefully consider the decision to petition for certification. It is a business decision that requires a financial commitment, significant personnel commitment and strict adherence to reporting and record keeping requirements. School officials should consider this decision within the context of the school’s strategic direction, long-term planning and ability to conform to regulatory requirements.

SEVP-certified schools accept certain reporting obligations:

  • The PDSO must update the Form I-17 in SEVIS when material changes occur (e.g., a change/addition of a physical location, change of leadership, change in academic or vocational programs, etc.).
  • The PDSO or a DSO at an SEVP-certified school must regularly register student records in SEVIS and report changes in student information (e.g., student address and employment information, etc.).
  • SEVP may conduct an on-site review at any time.
  • The PDSO must petition for recertification every two years to continue enrolling F/M students.


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