Who’s Who During the International Student Process

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Coming to the United States to study means you’ll be interacting with several government agencies. Learn who they are and what they do.

F and M students interact with different government agencies throughout the international student process. Each agency has an important mission to carry out, so students and schools should understand who is who and when they will communicate with each.

  • The Department of State issues visas, including F and M, at their U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world. Students may also interact with the Department of State-run EducationUSA when researching programs in the United States.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) secures U.S. borders and will meet students who arrive at any port of entry. Students will present their documents to CBP officers during primary inspection and sometimes secondary inspection. CBP also issues nonimmigrants the Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” which students need while they study in the country.
  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) establishes the regulations, policies, and guidance for F and M students and SEVP-certified schools. SEVP also acts as a bridge for all government organizations to provide students with information on the international student process. SEVP manages the Student and Exchange VisitorInformation System, which holds information on students and SEVP-certified schools. Whether you are a student or a school, you will likely interact with SEVP, who requires students to maintain status, and schools that enroll F and M students to be certified and also undergo recertification. You can get answers to your questions if you contact the SEVP Response Center.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) authorizes benefits for students. If students want to work, extend their stay, or change their status, they must request a benefit from USCIS.
  • The Department of Education (ED) establishes the regulations, policies, and guidance for educational institutions in the United States, primarily colleges, universities and post-secondary institutions. If schools have questions about accreditation, ED is the best resource for answers.


This article was originally posted by Study in the States, a blog provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

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