Immigration Glossary of Terms
Alien - Any person not a citizen or national of the United States.
USCIS - United States Citizenship and Immigration Services regulates the activities of internationals while they are in the U.S.
Citizenship - The country in which a person is born (and has not renounced or lost citizenship) or naturalized and to which that person owes allegiance and by which he or she is entitled to be protected.
CPT - Curricular Practical Training which is off-campus work permission granted in conjunction with an internship in an F-1 student's field of study.
Docket Control - The USCIS mechanism for tracking the case status of potentially removable aliens.
DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility) for J-1 Students or Scholars - This is the document needed to obtain a J-1 visa and J-1 status in order to study, teach or conduct research at an academic institution in the U.S. as an "Exchange Visitor." The right to issue DS-2019 forms is granted by the United States Department of State to certain academic research institutions, agencies, and organizations.
Exclusion - Prior to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, exclusion was the formal term for denial of an alien’s entry into the United States. The decision to exclude an alien was made by an immigration judge after an exclusion hearing. Since April 1, 1997, the process of adjudicating inadmissibility may take place in either an expedited removal process or in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
I- 20 Certificate Of Eligibility - This is issued by U.S. schools to international students who have been admitted to their academic program and who have presented evidence to the school of sufficient financial support to study in the U.S. The I-20 is used to obtain the F-1 visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. The completion date noted is an estimate of the average length of time it takes to complete a specific degree. However, regardless of the I-20 completion date, once you have completed your degree, you have 60 days to leave the US, apply for another visa (or Optional Practical Training), or gain admission at another school authorized to issue I-20s.
I-94 Card or print out - The card given to you on the airplane each time you entered the US before April 40, 2014, and is an electronic record if you entered the US after April 30, 2014. This should be kept in your passport at all times. The I-94 is the document that indicates your "immigration status" and how long you may remain in the U.S. The Form I-94 (also called a "Departure Record") is a small white card (or green-colored card for WB or WT status) stapled in your passport by the Immigration Inspector at your port-of-entry into the U.S.. This card is one of the most important documents you have. Do not lose it! It is expensive and difficult to replace.
I-539 - The form used for a change of status request if the petitioner is in the United States. It is also used to regain legal F-1 status in certain situations, in connection with an application known as reinstatement.
I-765 - The form used to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
Immigration status – This is designated on the I-94 by an Immigration Inspector at the U.S. port-of-entry. It is this designation, not the "visa" that is significant while in the U.S. Your immigration status can be changed while you are in the U.S.
- F-1 : The Form I-94 should be marked "F-1" with the letters "D/S" which stand for "Duration of Status." The F-1 student has sixty days after the end date of the I-20 or completion of his/her program to depart. The student may not exit and re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status during this sixty-day grace period.
- F-2 or J-2 (dependent): The Form I-94 should indicate either "F-2" or "J -2" with the letters "D/S" which stand for "Duration of Status." The J dependents can remain in the U.S. only while the J principal is in valid status (see just below).
- J-1: The Form I-94 should be marked "J-1" with the letters "D/S" which stand for "Duration of Status." Duration of Status authorizes the visitor to stay in the U.S. for the period of time designated on the Form IAP-66/DS-2019 (or for students, the end of their program of study, if earlier than the document end-date) plus thirty days for "satisfactory departure." One may not exit and re-enter the U.S. in J-1 status during this thirty-day grace period.
- B-1/ B-2 (on the white card), WB/ WT (on the green card). The date by which the visitor must depart is marked on the I-94. There is no "grace period" beyond that date.
Nationality - The country of a person’s citizenship or country in which the person is deemed a national.
Nonimmigrant - An alien who seeks temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose. The alien must have a permanent residence abroad (for most classes of admission) and qualify for the nonimmigrant classification sought.
OPT - One year of off-campus work permission granted per each level of study obtained in the U.S.
Passport - Document issued by your government indicating your citizenship. Your passport must remain valid through your entire stay in the U.S. Passports can usually be renewed at your home country consulate in the U.S. Consulates are located in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York or Washington, D.C.
Port of Entry - Any location in the United States or its territories that is designated as a point of entry for aliens and U.S. citizens
(Last) Residence - The country in which an alien habitually resided prior to entering the United States.
SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) - used by the federal government to monitor your visa status.
SEVP (Student Exchange Visitor Program) -
Visa - This stamp in your passport is what allows you entry into the U.S. It is not the same thing as an I-20. The visa is the multi-colored or blue stamp entered on a page of your passport at a U.S Embassy or Consulate abroad. It is used to allow you to enter the U.S. for a certain number of times (ranging from one to multiple - "M") until a particular date.