According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DHS delegated the school certification process to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE, in turn, delegated the responsibility to its Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

The SEVP certification program is used by foreign students who wish to enter America to start a course in the study program at the institution. The students need to use Form I-20, which is issued by a certified SEVP institution. Institutions, with SEVP certification, generally allow foreign students to enroll through an F or M student visa.

Institutions need to be certified to admit:

  • 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

The governing regulations for school certification are found in 8 CFR 214.3(a)(2).

The types of institutions that are eligible to petition for SEVP certification include:

  • “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”

Other schools, in the governing regulations. are eligible for M student admission.

Which Schools are not Eligible for SEVP Certification:

The governing regulations provide that the following programs/schools cannot obtain SEVP certification:

  • “Home school
  • Preschool or daycare
  • Public elementary or middle school (grades kindergarten–eight)
  • School whose programs are primarily distanced or online and do not require the student’s physical attendance for classes, examination or other purposes integral to the 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 Certification Responsibilities Must Schools Meet to Obtain SEVP Certification?

Schools are required to make” a legally binding commitment to comply with applicable federal laws, regulations, and DHS requirements.” The choice to apply for SEVP certification requires:

  • A financial commitment
  • A strong personal commitment
  • The duty to comply with strict record and reporting keeping requirements

Some of the reporting obligations include:

  • Updating the Form I-17 when material changes occur (e.g., a change of mailing address, change of leadership, etc.).
  • “Regular registration of student records in SEVIS and report changes in student information (e.g., student address and employment information, etc.).”

Schools with SEVP certification may be subject to a random on-site review. They must also apply for recertification every two years. Schools seeking SEVP must complete Form I-17 and “upload the required evidence for filing online using the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), as well as pay all required fees at There are many other Form I-17 requirements that must be met.

Currently approved SEVP institutions can be viewed here – Download Certified School List

Call Herman Legal Group at +1-216-696-6170 or fill out our contact form to talk with us about seeking admission to a SEVP approved school and changing your B-1 or B-2 status to F-1 or M-1 status.

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