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I have a question about whether to pay the SEVIS fee again, after having had a transfer of sponsorship from one academic program to another. From the I-901 website, there are certain cases when one has to repay a SEVIS fee, and certain cases when one does not, and I am not sure whether I need to or not.

Specifically my situation is as such:

  1. I am currently a J-1 research scholar, sponsored by a US academic institution.
  2. Previously, I was a J-1 research scholar at another US academic institution.
  3. My previous institution performed a transfer of sponsorship of the DS-2019 to the new one.
  4. My current and old DS-2019 are tied to the same SEVIS numbers (N00...), but of course with differing program numbers (since these are different schools).
  5. I will soon be visiting a US embassy in my home country to obtain a new J-1 visa with indication of new school (old J-1 visa was tied to old school and has expired), and need proof of payment of SEVIS as part of my visit.
  6. My question is, does the receipt of the SEVIS fee from many years back which I paid in order to obtain my initial J-1 visa still work? The receipt states the correct SEVIS id number, but with old school program, of course.

I am of the belief that since the SEVIS number has not changed at all, and I have just switched programs, I am still counted as the "same exchange visitor" and do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again.

Would this be correct, or do I count as a new exchange visitor to a new program such that I would need to pay the fee again?

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In almost all cases the I-901 SEVIS fee is tied to your SEVIS ID. If your SEVIS ID stays the same, your SEVIS fee remains valid and you don't pay another. If you get a new SEVIS ID, you pay a new SEVIS fee.

More detailed information about the SEVIS fee is on the I-901 SEVIS fee FAQ on the ICE website. Under "do I need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee" it says:

Continuing Exchange Visitors (J-1) not in the United States

If you are an exchange visitor outside the United States who maintained status using the same SEVIS ID prior to leaving the United States and are returning to continue in the same exchange visitor program, do not pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again.

This applies to you based on the situation you described. Don't pay the fee again. You might think, "but I'm now in a different exchange visitor program," but that's not quite right. Assuming the transfer was performed and your record was validated while you were in the US, then you've already maintained status in the new program using the same SEVIS ID prior to leaving the United States and you're returning to continue in the same (new) program.

Are you guaranteed to be free from trouble about this at the visa interview and at the border? Probably you won't have any trouble with it, although visa and admission to the US are never guaranteed and it's wise to bring all relevant documentation. A couple ways you might double-check: Look up your fee receipt on fmjfee.com, which should show that your old fee is still on record. Also, ask your new program's RO/ARO to make sure they can see your I-901 fee in SEVIS. If so, the visa interviewer and border agents should be able to see it as well.

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