Key Terms

Academic Training

An opportunity for J-1 exchange students to participate in temporary professional training activities (paid or unpaid) related to their academic program. It may be engaged in during or after the completion of the period of study.


Annual Vacation

Students must complete one academic year before they may become eligible to take one term of vacation.


Consulates and Embassies

Students may apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate, located in national, provincial or regional capitals around the world. Click here to find the nearest US embassy or consulate.


Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

A program that allows students to accept paid alternative work/study employment internships, cooperative education or any other type of required internship or practicum that employers offer though cooperative agreements with the school. Employment that must be authorized by the DSO, relate to your major, and be a required part of your program of study. CPT can be full-time and is not restricted by a weekly 20-hour work limit.


Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

DHS has a broad range of responsibility including preventing terrorism, securing U.S. borders, administering immigration laws, and overseeing the student visa system.


Department of State

A federal agency that issues visas at U.S. consulates and embassies, and offers useful information for students on its websites.



A student’s spouse and/or minor child (unmarried and under 21 years old). Dependents may legally accompany you to the United States or join you in the country while you study. They must apply for either an F-2 or J-2 visa.


Designated School Official (DSO)

A school employee dedicated to assist and oversee F students enrolled at a school.


Evidence of Financial Support

Proof a student provides to their designated school official of their ability to finance their studies in the United States. Examples of evidence include bank statements, letters from a sponsor, or a scholarship letter.


Exchange Visitor

A nonimmigrant in J-1 visa status. This classification is for individuals approved to participate in work- and study-based exchange visitor programs. All J-1 nonimmigrants must be sponsored by an organization that is designated by the Department of State.


F-1 Status

A visa status for students eligible to enroll in academic programs in the United States including at colleges or universities awarding bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate or professional degrees.


F-2 Status

Nonimmigrant visa status required for dependents (spouse or minor children) of F-1 visa holders to enter the United States. (See Dependent


Form DS-2019, "Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status"

A form required to support an application for an exchange visitor visa (J-1), which is prepared by the program sponsor in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). A DS-2019 is required in order to pay a SEVIS fee, apply for a visa, enter the United States, use for on-campus employment authorization or travel.


Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”

A form issued to accepted nonimmigrant students from their Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school that is required in order to pay their I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee, apply for a visa, enter the United States, apply for benefits, and use for employment authorization or travel.


Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record”

An electronic Department of Homeland Security form issued to all nonimmigrants upon entry to the United States that is evidence of their admission and is used to document legal status in the United States, including length of stay. Click here to print your I-94.


Full Course of Study

A requirement for students to maintain their student status by enrolling in a full course of study every academic term. In general, the following guidelines reflect a full course of study: Undergraduate program- 12 credit hours. 

Graduate program- 9 credit hours. 

English as a Second Language Program- 18 hours of instruction per week. 

Your DSO can provide more information.


Grace Period

The period of time between the program end date (listed on a student’s I-20 or DS-2019) and when they must

1-      Transfer to Another School

2-      Apply for a Change of Level

3-      Apply to change to another nonimmigrant status

4-      Depart the United States

F-1 students’ grace period is 60 days. J-1 student’s grace period is 30 days.


I-901 SEVIS Fee

A fee that all F students and J exchange visitors must pay before the Department of State can issue a visa. Students pay this feeafter receiving their Form I-20 or DS-2019.


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, ICE helps secure the foreign student visa system.


Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

A tax processing number the Internal Revenue Service issues to an individual who needs to report income (and pay income taxes) but is ineligible to obtain a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration.


Leave of Absence

A DSO authorized absence from class that allows a student to suspend enrollment in a program of study and leave the United States, but the student intends to return and resume the program of study within five months.



A person who is admitted to the United States for a specific temporary period of time.


Online/Distance Learning

F students may count one online course towards their full course of study. 

F students in English language programs and J students may not count any online or distance courses towards their full course of study.


Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Employment authorization that must relate to a student’s major or course of study. To participate, students must receive approval from their designated school official and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. OPT may occur before or after the program end date, but participants may only work for 20 hours per week while school is in session.



A government-issued travel document that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel.


Port of Entry

An arrival point at a U.S. international airport, seaport or land border crossing, where a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will determine whether students can enter the United States.


Primary Inspection

At the port of entry students will present documents to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who will determine if they can enter the United States.


Program End Date

The date listed on a student’s Form I-20 or DS-2019, when they will complete their program and must either transfer to another school, apply to change education level, apply to change to another nonimmigrant status or depart the United States within the grace period.


Program Start Date

The date listed on a student’s Form I-20 or DS-2019, when they must enroll in a program of study. Students can enter the United States no more than 30 days before this date and need to contact their designated school official no later than this date to inform them they are in the country.


Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO)

A official authorized to issue Form DS-2019


Secondary Inspection

If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at primary inspection at a port of entry cannot verify a student’s information, or if they do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct them to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers.



SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, an Internet-based system that SEVP uses to maintain information on SEVP-certified schools, Department of State-certified exchange visitor programs, F, M, and J nonimmigrants, and their dependents.



A unique identifier printed on each Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 in the top right corner, which consists of an alpha character (N) and up to 11 numbers (for example, N0002123457)


Social Security number

A nine-digit number assigned by the Social Security Administration to approved students that are eligible to apply for employment in the United States.


STEM 17-Month Extension

Graduates with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees designated as eligible by DHS may be eligible to work in the United States for an additional 17 months beyond the original 12-month limit of a period of optional practical training (OPT).


Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)

SEVP helps the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State monitor school and exchange visitor programs, nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors, and their dependents.



The process of a student leaving one program to enroll in another. Students may be eligible to transfer to another school if they have continuously maintained their status and follow proper procedures.


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS authorizes benefits for students and exchange visitors, such as employment, extending their stay, or changing status.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

CBP secures the borders of the United States, including airports, land borders and seaports. When entering the country, students go through inspections with CBP officers and must present proper documentation.



A document issued by the Department of State that enables a student or exchange visitor to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission to enter the United States.


Visa-Exempt Country

Certain countries, including Canada and Bermuda, whose citizens do not need a visa to enter the United States and may apply at the U.S. port of entry for F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrant status. Citizens of these countries must still:

  • Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
  • Receive a Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Maintain status

For more immigration terms refer to the Study in the States Glossary