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U.S. government sets foreign-student fee at $100.

Despite earlier requests by higher-education groups urging the government to reconsider, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has issued new rules setting the visa fee at $100 for most international students seeking to study in the United States, effective Sept. 1, 2004.

The fee still is payable only in U.S. dollars, and must be paid before the student's visa interview. It may be paid either in the United States or in the student's country of origin, by the student or any third party, including bulk payments by schools or sponsors. Other payment methods, including a pilot program wherein the

U.S. Department of State accepts the fee from U.S. embassies or consulates, are being considered, according to an ICE statement.

While the fees for most visa seekers (nonimmigrant students in the F-1, F-3, M-1 or M-3 categories) will be $100, spouses and dependent children don't have to pay a fee, nor do visitors in federally sponsored exchange programs. Reduced fees of $35 apply to au pairs, camp counselors and summer work/travel program members.

According to ICE, there's a new way to pay the fee--an applicant can use a credit card to pay online at www.FMJfee.com. The applicant may then print the required paper receipt. (The Web site was not up at press time.)

In a May 17 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Thomas Ridge, groups including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges asked the government to delay implementing the rule. The groups cited several reasons, including the amount of the fee, which is seen as prohibitive in many cases, and the way in which the fee is to be paid, which could be especially difficult for those in rural areas. Having to produce a paper receipt is an extra burden in an already cumbersome process, the groups said, and contrary to the highly computerized Student Exchange and Visitor Information, or Sevis, system, the groups said.

"The new fee payment procedure is a continuation of our commitment to manage a system that enhances the integrity of America's immigration system while facilitating the legal entry of legitimate international students and scholars into the United States," said Jill Drury, director of the Sevis Program Office.

The fee schedule follows a federal mandate that the Sevis program pay for itself. The fees are expected to raise at least $30 million a year, according to the Homeland Security Department.

At least one education official has called for federal funds to ease the crunch.

"Resources for our consulates abroad must be brought in line with the increased scrutiny of visa applicants that Congress has demanded, and funds must be provided to pay for the sophisticated data entry systems necessary for the interagency review process," wrote Dr. Marlene M. Johnson. executive director and chief executive of NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, in a June 30 editorial in The Washington Post.
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Title Annotation:around the nation
Author:Bagnato, Kristin
Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 19, 2004
Words:493
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