Skip to main content

Operating Instructions

Need assistance on how to submit evidence for SEVP certification or recertification? Details on STEM Optional Practical Training? Or information about ICE’s protected areas policy and when SEVP representatives may visit your school? Operating instructions are provided below (click a button to jump to the content).

Evidence Filing

As of Oct. 1, 2016 The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) requires principal designated school officials filing an initial or update to the Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student,” to submit the evidence required for adjudication at the same time they submit their request in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

The SEVP recertification process already requires schools to submit the necessary evidence when filing, and thus the recertification process will not be changing at this time.

The evidence a school needs to provide to SEVP depends on the type of petition (i.e., initial, update or recertification), the program of study offered and the school’s accreditation status.

Below is more information to help school officials determine the necessary evidence to submit for adjudication.

Initial Form I-17 Submission

If you are a school official filing an initial Form I-17 petition, please find the appropriate Definition of Evidence guide for your school type under the Certification tab in the Schools and Programs section.

Updates to Existing Forms I-17

If you are a school official filing an update to your school’s existing Form I-17 petition, please find the appropriate filing evidence guide for your school under the Petition Updates tab in the Schools and Programs section.

Recertification of Form I-17

If you are a school official filing for SEVP recertification, please go to the Recertification tab under Schools section of for the most up to date information for filing.

STEM OPT Extension

In March 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published amended F-1 nonimmigrant student regulations on optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education. The amended regulations, which provide for an extension of the OPT period by 24 months (a STEM OPT extension), will go into effect on May 10, 2016.

Interested F-1 students must apply for and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The 2016 final rule that reinstates the 24-month STEM OPT regulations increases the educational benefits that F-1 students receive from their practical training experiences by requiring the submission of a formal training plan that clearly articulates the STEM OPT student’s learning objectives and affirm the employer’s commitment to helping the student achieve those objectives. To fulfill this requirement, a student and their employer must complete and sign Form I-983, “Training Plan for STEM OPT Students,” and submit it to the student’s DSO.

STEM OPT students and their employers are subject to the terms and conditions of the 24-month STEM OPT extension regulations, the Form I-983 instructions and the completed Form I-983, effective as of the employment start date requested for the associated STEM OPT period, as indicated on the Form I-983.

STEM OPT students may participate in entrepreneurial ventures where the student is an employee. However, they may not act as their own employer or as the signatory for the employer for the purposes of the form.

Visit Study in the States’ STEM OPT Hub for more information.

Quick Links

ICE Protected Areas

As a reminder to our stakeholders, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a policy in place that advises against enforcement actions at schools or churches. With that said, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) personnel often visit SEVP-certified schools or those seeking SEVP certification. Many of these visits are required in order to maintain a school’s SEVP certification.

ICE statement on protected areas

The ICE protected areas policy, which remains in effect, provides that enforcement actions at protected areas should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action. DHS is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any protected area are free to do so without fear or hesitation.

In order for schools to enroll nonimmigrant nonimmigrant F and M students, which many educational institutions do, federal law requires that the schools must be certified by ICE's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Federal law also requires SEVP to continuously monitor the schools and nonimmigrant F and M students by collecting data and by conducting site visits. Accordingly, schools that fail to comply with these requirements may be deemed ineligible to enroll foreign students or their existing certification to enroll nonimmigrant F or M visa students may be withdrawn, as appropriate.

When will ICE visit your school?

SEVP field representatives visit schools as part of their daily duties. They enhance national security by serving as direct day-to-day liaisons between SEVP and schools certified by SEVP to enroll F and/or M nonimmigrant students. They may also conduct site visits when a school is applying for SEVP certification or recertification. Field representative visits are planned in conjunction with school officials. Field representatives do not engage with the nonimmigrant student population. Please visit DHS’s Study in the States for more information about SEVP field representatives.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations special agents or personnel from SEVP’s compliance section may make unannounced site visits to schools to ensure the school is complying with federal laws and regulations governing F and M nonimmigrant students. If a school wants to continue its SEVP certification, it cannot decline these visits.

CBP Form I-94 Automation

On March 27, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published an interim final rule in the Federal Register to automate Form I-94. The new Form I-94 automation process took effect on April 30, 2013. With the new automated Form I-94 process, the CBP Officer will create an electronic automated arrival Form I-94 record during the admissions process for nonimmigrants entering the United States at an air or sea port, with information already available in various law enforcement databases. A paper Form I-94 will still be issued at the land border ports of entry, and CBP intends to continue to provide a paper Form I-94 to certain classes of aliens, such as refugees, certain asylees and parolees, and whenever CBP determines the issuance of a paper form is appropriate.

For more information regarding the Form I-94 automation please review the list of resources below:

This content was last updated May 1, 2013.

SRC Privacy Statement

Authority: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is authorized to collect information by 8 CFR 214.2(f), (j), and (m); 8 CFR 214.3; 8 CFR 214.4; 8 CFR 214.5; 22 CFR Part 62; 8 CFR 214.12; and, 8 CFR 214.13.

Purpose: Your information collected by the ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Response Center is used to provide customer service by managing and tracking your inquiries related to the Program and SEVP system technical issues.

Agency Disclosure of Information: If you are a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, your information may be shared internally within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and foreign law enforcement; other government agencies; and other parties for auditing, enforcement, investigatory, litigation, or other purposes. This information disclosure is in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a(b), including pursuant to the routine uses published in the DHS/ALL-016 DHS Correspondence Records SORN, which can be viewed at

For all others, as appropriate under United States law and DHS policy, the information you provide may be shared internally within the DHS, as well as with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, and foreign law enforcement; other government agencies; and other parties for auditing, enforcement, investigatory, litigation, or other purposes.

Providing Information to DHS: The information you provide is voluntary. However, failure to provide the information requested may result in limited access to SEVP services including loss of access to SEVIS, unanswered inquiries, or inaccurate records maintained by SEVP.