Immigration Status Terms
B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa: A visa issued to individuals coming to the U.S. for short-term business or pleasure. Visitors in B-1 or B-2 status are not eligible to enroll in a course of study. They must either depart and re-enter the U.S. in a student status or receive approval from the USCIS for a change of status before starting a course of study.
Change of Status (COS): In some cases it is possible for individuals to change their status within the U.S. For example, someone in H-4 status who intends to study full time can apply for a change of status to F-1 student. To apply for a change of status, an individual must be in lawful status and be eligible for the new status. If the USCIS approves the change of status, it issues a new I-94 card to reflect the new status. It’s important to note, however, that changing status does not provide a visa. When a person who has changed status in the U.S. leaves the country, s/he must apply for the appropriate new visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad before re-entering the U.S.
Designated School Official (DSO): A DSO is a university staff member who learns, interprets and applies laws and government policies pertaining to F-1 students. Only a DSO can advise students in F-1 status, sign an I-20 Form or create and update records in SEVIS regarding students in F-1 status.
F-1 Student: A non-U.S. citizen in an academic or language program pursuing a full course of study in the U.S. They have demonstrated financial resources for the entire academic program, and have a permanent residence abroad which they plan to maintain.
I-20 Form (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student Status): A form issued by the university to a prospective student indicating that the student has been approved for study at the institution. The student takes this form to the U.S. embassy or consulate in his/her home country to request an F-1 visa. Students must ensure that this document remains valid at all times and apply for a new one if an extension or change of program or level of education is needed. This form can also be used to apply for a Change of Status to F-1.
I-94 Arrival-Departure Record: A small white card stapled into a student’s passport at the port of entry. This is a very important document, as it defines the duration of the legal status the individual holds while in the U.S.
Immigrant: An immigrant is a foreign national who intends to establish a permanent residence in the U.S. Permanent Residency (PR) is considered an immigrant status.
International Student: An international student is anyone who is NOT a United States citizen or a permanent resident of the United States.
Non-Immigrant: A non-immigrant is an individual who is in the U.S. temporarily. Most non-immigrants, including all F-1 and J-1 students, must have an established residence abroad to which they intend to return. There are over fifty different classifications of non-immigrants in the U.S.
Port of Entry (POE): The place at which an individual enters the U.S. and is processed by immigration officials.
SEVIS Fee: A federally-mandated fee – currently $200 USD – which must be paid by all foreign nationals applying for an F-1, J-1 or M-1 visa before the visa may be issued. The funds collected are used to maintain the SEVIS system.
VISA: A travel stamp issued by the U.S. Department of State - usually stamped or pasted into the student’s passport - that allows the holder of the visa to apply at a port of entry for admission to the U.S.
Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS): SEVIS is an automated, web-based process for collecting, maintaining and managing information about international students and their dependents during their stay in the United States. SEVIS is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Designated School Officials (DSO) use this system to report required information as well as to issue and update students’ I-20 forms in the case of admission to a program, program extension, etc.