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Save Your School: The Importance of F-1 Designation for Higher Education

You may be wondering how your school can attract more students. Have you considered looking abroad? In July 2016, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) reported that over a million F-1 and M-1 students were enrolled in United States institutions. Their numbers grow every year, and schools have expanded their programs to admit them. F-1 nonimmigrants are students who have visas allowing them to study in academic disciplines, whereas M-1 visa holders study in vocational programs. A school can petition to enroll either type of student or both.

What are the benefits?

When schools admit international students, they can increase their revenue and sometimes make up for a decline in local enrollments. They can also provide valuable education and cross-cultural experiences for students all over the world, helping with foreign diplomacy efforts in the process. F-1 designated schools also collect information on nonimmigrant students for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which aids their national security efforts.

How does it work?

Schools can only admit F-1 nonimmigrant students if they are certified by the SEVP. Many different types of institutions can petition for this certification by filing Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student.”

Who is eligible?

Certain types of academic institutions can get SEVP certification to admit F-1 nonimmigrant students. The following kinds of schools are eligible:

  • Colleges and universities (in other words, institutions that award recognized bachelor’s, master’s, doctor’s, or professional degrees)
  • Community colleges or junior colleges that award recognized associate degrees and instruct students in the liberal arts or in the professions
  • Public high schools
  • Private elementary, middle, and high schools
  • Seminaries
  • Conservatories
  • Institutions that provide language training or instruction in one or more of the following disciplines: the liberal arts, the fine arts, and the professions.

Home schools, preschools and daycare, public elementary and middle schools, internet-based education programs, certain adult education programs, and certain flight schools are not considered “academic institutions” for the purposes of SEVP certification.

What happens next?

Once a school gets certification, it can access the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). It can then issue Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Student Status,” to its prospective F-1 students. These students will use the form to apply for their nonimmigrant visa. The school must abide by SEVP policies and regulations, which include some record keeping and recording in order to maintain their designation. These requirements are legally binding, so school officials should carefully consider the decision to apply for F-1 designation.

An experienced business immigration attorney can make the application process much smoother for your school and avoid any legal complications. FordMurray serves educational institutions and businesses worldwide, so you can always expect us to deliver focused, industry-specific knowledge. Contact us to discuss your application for F-1 designation.