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The Department of Homeland Security issued proposed regulations that would require international students to pay a one-time fee of $100 to cover the operating costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), implemented earlier this year. Exchange visitors working as au pairs, camp counselors, and participants in work-travel programs would be subject to a $35 fee.

According to the proposed regulations, students and scholars coming to study in the United States under an F or J visa would be able to pay the fee either by mail, with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. dollars; or electronically, through the Web by using a credit card. DHS will also review and consider other means of payment. Third parties, including colleges and universities, would be permitted to remit the fee for individuals.

The $100 fee is the maximum amount allowable under the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which directed the former Immigration and Naturalization Service to establish an electronic database to track information about foreign students and visitors during their stays in the United States. Initially, INS had proposed a $95 fee, which was widely criticized by the higher education community as too costly.

The USA PATRIOT Act, enacted after the fee was proposed, included $36.8 million to support SEVIS. An initial fee study conducted by KPMG for DHS had resulted in a recommended $54 fee for foreign students and scholars and a $35 fee for exchange visitors. A second, more recent fee study factored in “additional resources required to ensure compliance with regulations” and recommended the $100 fee.

According to the proposed rules, DHS will review the fee amount every two years and the secretary of homeland security is empowered to revise the rule periodically.

Comments on the proposed rule are due to DHS no later than December 26, 2003. For more information, see the full notice of proposed rulemaking.

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