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Glossary of Immigration Terms

There are many words, acronyms, government departments, and legalese used when talking about immigration status and processes in the U.S. Here is a list of some of the most common terms used within the higher education context.

  • 212(e) – Home country physical presence requirement and waivers. Learn more.
  • Adjudication – The process and determination on a request for an immigration benefit, rendered by an administrative agency.
  • Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) – A person recognized and authorized by the Department of State to support the Responsible Officer (RO) to advise and assist J-1 Exchange Visitors in areas of federal laws and regulations, and to administer federal forms that are related to the status/activities of J-1 Exchange Visitors. OIS Advisors serve as AROs at UIC.
  • Continuing Student – A student who has already made initial entry to the U.S., been registered in SEVIS, and who has begun a course of study.
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – Employment authorization intended to allow F-1 international students to participate in off-campus educational work experiences required by their academic program. Learn more.
  • DS-160 – Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form; A new online form issued by the DOS to streamline and combine several of the current DOS application forms (DS-156, DS-157, DS-158) into one form that can be submitted electronically.
  • DS-2019 – Certificate of eligibility for J exchange visitor status, issued through SEVIS by an exchange visitor program designated by the Department of State.
  • Duration of Status (D/S) – Duration of Status, or D/S, is the notation placed on an F-1 student record upon admission to the U.S. It means that the student may remain in the U.S. as long as they continue to maintain nonimmigrant student status.
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) – Employment Authorization Document; also known as Form I-766.
  • Exchange Visitor Program – An exchange program administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS); the DOS designates and partners with government agencies, academic institutions, educational and cultural organizations, and corporations as sponsors to develop and engage in collaborative public-private partnerships to increase mutual understanding, build human potential, and develop talented future leaders.
  • Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor – The designated sponsor of a Department of State-approved exchange visitor program.
  • F-1 – International student pursuing a full course of study at an academic institution or accredited language training program in the U.S. that has been approved by SEVP to enroll foreign students. Learn more.
  • F-2 – The foreign national spouse or child (under the age of 21) of an F-1 nonimmigrant.
  • Grace period – A period of time given to some categories of nonimmigrants following completion of their nonimmigrant purpose, to make arrangements to depart or otherwise maintain their status.
  • H-1B – Temporary worker in the U.S. employed in a specialty occupation. Learn more.
  • I-20 – Certificate of eligibility for F student status, issued through SEVIS by a school designated by the Department of Homeland Security. This form is required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S.
  • I-515A – Temporary 30-day entry form issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to students, exchange visitors, and their dependents at the U.S. port of entry (POE) when an officer is not satisfied by the entry documentation provided by the individual. Individuals entering on an I-515A should connect with OIS immediately to prepare a response to SEVP and avoid becoming an “overstay.”
  • I-765 – USCIS form used by certain nonimmigrants to apply for U.S. work authorization, including F-1 optional practical training (OPT).
  • I-797 – Notice of Action form issued by USCIS when an application or petition is approved.
  • I-9 – Employment Eligibility Verification form.
  • I-901 – Form used to pay the SEVIS fee. F-1 students and J-1 Exchange Visitors need to show an I-901 SEVIS fee receipt when applying for their U.S. visas.
  • I-94 – Record of an alien’s admission through a U.S. port of entry and departure from a U.S. port of departure. Varieties include an electronic Form I-94 and various types of printed Forms I-94, depending on where, when, and how an individual was admitted to the United States. Forms I-94 will identify the individual’s name, date of birth, country of citizenship, immigration class of admission, and an “admitted until” date.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor – Foreign national who has been selected by a sponsor, designated by the U.S. Department of State, to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program in the U.S. on a J-1 visa. J-1 Exchange Visitors at UIC can be in the student or scholar categories. Learn more.
  • J-2 – The foreign national spouse or child (under the age of 21) of a J-1 nonimmigrant.
  • Nonimmigrant – A person with permanent residence outside the U.S. who wishes to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis for the purpose of tourism, business, temporary work, study, medical treatment, etc.
  • O-1 – Nonimmigrant employed in the U.S. based on a demonstrated career of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) – Employment authorization intended to allow F-1 international students to obtain off-campus training related to their field of study both during their academic program and after graduation. Learn more.
  • Passport – Official document issued by a government, certifying the holder’s identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries.
  • Primary Designated School Official (PDSO) – Individual noted in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to serve as the primary liaison between the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the academic institution hosting F-1 and J-1 nonimmigrants.
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) – The web-based system that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to maintain information regarding international students and exchange visitors to the U.S. and the schools and programs that host them. At UIC the Office of International Services manages SEVIS compliance for the University, students, and exchange visitors.
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) – The agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE that manages regulations and reporting for nonimmigrant students in the F and M visa classifications. Visit SEVP.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – The agency within DHS that administers the naturalization and immigration system in the U.S. Formerly INS. Visit USCIS.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – The agency within DHS that provides law enforcement at U.S. ports of entry. Visit CBP.
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – The federal executive department charged with protecting the nation across various spheres. DHS encompasses USCIS, CBP, and ICE, among others. Visit DHS.
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) – The federal executive department responsible for occupational safety and health, wage and hour standards, unemployment benefits, reemployment services, and occasionally, economic statistics. Visit DOL.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Bureau within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which, among other things, oversees the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Visit ICE.
  • Visa – A document placed into the passport of a foreign national by a U.S. Consulate which authorizes the individual to present themselves at a USCIS Port of entry (POE) and request admission into the U.S. with a specific type of immigration status (e.g. F-1, J-1, etc.).

This list borrows from definitions provided by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Visit their website to view their full glossary of immigration terms.