Increase proposed for int’l student visa fees

The Department of Homeland security proposed a $100 increase for visa fees last week.

Riham Feshir

The Department of Homeland Security is proposing a $100 increase to one component of fees for international student visas.

DHS proposed the increase last week in the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System. It’s expected to be approved by the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services and implemented by Oct. 1.

Many security laws have passed since Sept. 11 and the SEVIS is one program that monitors international students, Duane Rohovit, associate counselor at International Student and Scholar Services, said.

Although paying $200 instead of the current $100 fee may seem like a small amount compared to the cost of tuition, it adds up, Rohovit said.

“Every dollar you add makes it harder,” he said, “especially for students coming from countries where their currencies are not worth a lot compared to the dollar,” he said.

But with the increasing number of international students, upgrades in the system and special investigations done by Immigration and Customs Enforcement require more money.

“When something does not happen as planned, ICE has to investigate, and that tends to run up the cost,” ICE spokeswoman Pat Reilly said.

In a current investigation, a Beverly Hills man who operates two schools teaching English to foreign students allegedly sold visas to international visitors. ICE discovered some of them weren’t planning on attending school in the United States and that they were Russian prostitutes, according to the ICE Web Site.

“It’s an example of why this system became necessary for the United States, because a well-meaning program such as student exchange can be used by unscrupulous people,” Reilly said.

Tracking international students includes monitoring their enrollment, jobs and traveling in and out of the country.

Saudi international student Abdulaziz Alsalim said it’s difficult for him to get a job that’s not in his field.

“They’re going to start questioning ‘Why would you want a job that’s not related to your major?’ ” the economics junior said. “With all this monitoring, I cannot work any other job besides my major jobs.”

Although his tuition is funded by the Saudi government, Alsalim is responsible for paying the visa and embassy fees, which he said can add up quickly.

“You would get out of the embassy paying at least $500,” he said.

The process of coming to the United States as an international student is more expensive and can take longer than other countries, which creates tougher competition, Rohovit said.

The increase in fees could also discourage students from studying in the United States.

“We miss out on both the diversity of having international campus, as well as the research and the cooperative exchanges that occur between countries and universities,” Rohovit said.