Abbreviations and Definitions
Or … What do all these initials and numbers mean?
With all the continuing changes in immigration regulations at the U. S. government level, some of you may be very confused by the “alphabet soup” that has thickened over recent months. Here is a brief glossary of terms that may be helpful.
A-2 – Dependents of A-1 visa holders (employees of foreign governments who enter the United States on official business ). Dependents of A principals may study in the United States without additional permission, although employment is not possible unless the dependent is granted employment authorization by the USCIS.
ADIS – Arrival Departure Information System – A U.S. government data system that interacts with the electronic manifest system to identify out of status individuals. It is part of the US Visit Program.
AR11 / AR11SR – An immigration form used to report a change of address or change of employment to the U.S. government. Most students can fulfill the requirement to report changes of address simply by notifying the Office of International Student Services. However, those students subject to Special Registration (PDF) requirements must use this form to report changes of employment. The form can be found on the USCIS website.
ARO – Alternate Responsible Officer. A university official who assists the RO (Responsible Officer) with advising for J-1 Exchange Visitors.
CCD – Consular Consolidated Database – Electronic information on visa issuances, updated every 5 minutes.
CFR – Code of Federal Regulations – The CFR contains all the rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation. The Office of International Student Services deals primarily with regulations passed by DHS, DOL, and DOS.
CIP Codes – Classification of Instructional Programs – accepted federal government statistical standard on instructional program classfications. SEVIS requires schools to us the CIP codes for F and J non-immigrant records.
CPT – Curricular Practical Training. The U.S. government offers international students (who are not normally allowed to work off-campus) the option of receiving payment for services rendered in fulfillment of a course requirement. The work must be related directly to a course that is a normal requirement for all students for the particular major field of study. No application to the government is required, but DSO approval must be given before the beginning of the paid employment.
D/S – Duration of Status. Stamped on your I-94 and I-20 when you entered the U.S. through a POE. It means that you can remain in the U. S. legally for as long as you maintain your status.
DSO – Designated School Official. At schools authorized to receive international students, this is a person designated by the school as an official representative to the U. S. government and authorized by the government to issue non-immigrant student visa-related documents. Schools may name up to ten DSOs.
E-1 / E-2 – An E visa allows the visa holder to enter the United States either as a “trader” (E-1) to facilitate substantial trade between the countries, or as an “investor” (E-2) to develop and direct a substantial investment in the United States. The family of an E visa holder can also qualify for an E-1 or E-2 visa. There is no separate classification for dependents. An E visa holder or dependent may study in the United States without changing status to F, M or J (see below). The primary visa holder can only study as an incident to his or her work in the United States. Dependents can study full or part time.
EAD – Employment Authorization Document (also known as form I-766). This credit-card-size document is required for any off-campus employment by non-citizens (except CPT – see above). It must be in possession of the non-citizen prior to the first day of actual employment. It can be issued to non-immigrant students for OPT (see below), for Economic Hardship, and for employment by an International Agency recognized by the U. S. government.
F-1 – Normal non-immigrant status of most full-time international students.
F-2 – non-immigrant status awarded to dependents (spouses and children) of full-time international students.
FAS – Freely Associated States. Following World War II, the United States was named as Administrator of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI). The TTPI included territory in what are now the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and the Republic of Palau. These three countries are often referred to collectively as the “Freely Associated States” (FAS).
Most citizens of these countries enjoy broad, but not unlimited, access to the United States as nonimmigrants to live, work, or study without the need for a visa. To seek admission to the United States, citizens of the FSM and the RMI need only possess a valid FSM or RMI passport, while citizens of the Republic of Palau need only to possess an appropriate travel document, such as a valid passport or a certified birth certificate. At the U.S. port-of-entry, a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Card) is issued with a notation reflecting that the person has been admitted for “duration of status” or “D/S” and is from an FAS country. With certain limited exceptions, citizens of the FAS admitted under the Compacts have had, and continue to have, authorization to work on the “open market” for any employer in the United States.
G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, G-5 – There are five types of G classifications that allow almost anyone affiliated with an international organization to enter the U.S. as part of his or her work for the international organization. Dependents of G principals are given the same visa classification as the principal. For example, the spouse of a G-4 principal is also given G-4 classification. A G nonimmigrant and his or her dependents may study without changing status. The G principal can only study as an incident to his or her work in the United States. Dependents can study full or part time.
GA – Graduate Assistant or Graduate Assistantship. Graduate Assistantships at UIS are designed:
- To recruit outstanding and promising students to graduate study, with special attention to enhancing diversity;
- To provide appropriate graduate-level learning experiences through supervised assignment;
- To provide support that enables graduate students to complete their degrees in a timely fashion;
- To provide the campus with support services in selected programs and areas.
Assistantships are available in each of the campus’ 20 master’s degree programs, as well as in over 30 campus research and support units.
GPSI – Graduate Public Service Internship. The Office of Graduate Intern Programs seeks experiential learning opportunities at state and local government agencies that enhance the development of ethical, competent, and engaged graduate students. This office has secured professional level internships that afford top flight graduate students with the opportunity to integrate the academic classroom with real world learning. Graduate public service interns are involved behind the scenes with public policy issues, development of governmental effectiveness, and mentoring to enhance their leadership potential.
GPA – Your Grade Point Average, calculated by assigning a numerical value from 1 to 4 to your letter grades D to A and averaging these.
H-1B – A visa used by a temporary worker. You must have at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify, but typically will need a master’s or Ph.D. depending upon the relevant position. The visa is specific to a position. Application is made by the employer and not the individual. Application requires an approved Labor Condition Application from the Department of Labor with a favorable prevailing wage determination from the State Employment Service. It is valid for up to six years (two 3 – year periods). This visa can take up to four months to obtain, though a premium processing option is available. Dependents of H1 visas holders on H4 visas are not eligible to work under any circumstances.
H-2 – U.S. employers may file temporary visa petitions in the H-2A or H-2B category for skilled or unskilled workers. Dependents (spouses and children under age 21) of H-2 workers are entitled to H-4 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may not be employed under the H-4 classification, but may take classes.
H-3 – The H-3 category is for trainees, and overlaps somewhat with the J-1 trainee category. Dependents (spouses and children under age 21) of H-3 visa holders trainees are entitled to H-4 status. Dependents may not be employed under the H-4 status, but may take classes.
I – The I category is available to representatives of a foreign media operation, including press, radio or film, and his or her dependents. Film only qualifies if it is informational or educational. I visa holders and their dependents can study without changing status. They are also eligible to change status. The primary visa holder can only study as an incident to his or her work in the United States. Dependents can study full or part time. I dependents are not authorized to work.
I-20 – Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Studies. This document, issued by a DSO, is required for accepted international students to apply for a student visa, pass through an international port of entry, apply for practical training, etc. It also serves as the official ID card for international students while in the U. S.
I-515A – Notice to a student or Exchange Visitor (PDF) with a SEVIS-related document deficiency upon entry tinto the US.
I-94 – Arrival / Departure Record. This document is given to international students upon arrival in the U. S. and must be surrendered upon departure. It shows the date and port of entry, the status, and the duration of the student’s permission. It is very important and is referenced whenever a student applies for any non-immigrant benefit.
I-765 – Application for Employment Authorization. This form is completed by international students who wish to be issued an EAD for one of the categories of off-campus employment other than CPT. It is adjudicated by the USCIS Service Center, usually within 90 days of application.
I-797 – Notice from immigration confirming receipt or approval of benefits such as a change of status, practical training, etc.
ICE – Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is responsible for Immigration investigations, detention, removal, intelligence and SEVIS.
INS – Immigration and Naturalization Service. The former government agency responsible for the legal admission and status of all non-citizens. The INS ceased to exist on March 1, 2003 when its responsibilities were passed to the new Department of Homeland Security. All INS documents issued prior to March 1, 2003 as well as all pending adjudications are still valid.
ISA –International Student Advisor. Often combined with the position of DSO, this person has the added responsibility of counseling international students regarding U. S. government regulations as well as school practices and policies related to these. This often includes academic advising and cultural advising, especially as these affect a student’s legal status. At UIS Jonathan GoldbergBelle and Rick Lane serve as International Student Advisors.
J-1 – Exchange Visitor. Includes students, research scholars, visiting professors, interns and others. The objective of the Exchange Visitor category, is “to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges.”
K – A K-1 fiancé(e) is admitted for 90 days solely for the purpose of getting married. He or she may not change or extend K status. After the marriage, the alien must apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence as an immediate relative, before the expiration of the 90-day admission. A K nonimmigrant may theoretically take classes, but the 90-day term of the visa makes this impractical.
L-1 – The L-1 category allows foreign companies to transfer executives and managers (L-1A) and technical workers possessing “specialized knowledge” (L-1B) to affiliates, branches, parents or subsidiaries in the United States. The primary visa holder can only study as an incident to his or her work in the United States. Dependents of L-1 visa holders are eligible for L-2 visas, and may study in the United States full or part time. An L-2 spouse may work only with an EAD card issued by USCIS, obtained by filing Form I-765. An L-2 dependent child cannot work.
LPR – Lawful Permanent Residence, also known as a “green card”. For most academic and financial aid purposes LPR holders are treated the same as U.S. citizens.
M-1 – Visa category for students of vocational and other recognized nonacademic schools.
OPT – Optional Practical Training. The U. S. government offers international students the opportunity to remain in the U. S. following completion of a program of study to work for up to one year gaining practical experience in their major field. International students must apply for OPT upon recommendation by a DSO. Part-time OPT is also available to students following one year of full-time studies and prior to graduation, but this is rare and may affect the OPT time remaining upon completion of the program. A 17-month extension option has recently been added to standard post-completion OPT for students that have graduated in specific areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
P – The P category is reserved for performing artists or athletes. A P nonimmigrant and his or her dependents may take classes and change status while in the United States. The principal P nonimmigrant can only study as an incident to his or her work in the United States. Dependents can study full or part time. Dependents cannot work without requesting independent authorization
PDSO – Principal Designated School Official. Each government-approved school must choose one DSO who will be responsible for all the DSOs at the school, who will maintain the official government records for international students, and who is authorized to make changes in the DSO team. The PDSO is responsible for institutional adherence to rules and regulations permitting admission and enrollment of international students in F status.
POE – Ports of Entry. The “doorway” through which you entered the United States. Usually an airport where you showed a USCBP officer your passport, visa, I-20, and I-94. The officer should have stamped your documents with an abbreviation for the POE, a date of entry and the letters “D/S” indicating that you have permission to remain in the U. S. for the Duration of your Status.
Q – The International cultural exchange programs under Q-1 classification are intended to provide practical training or employment, in the United States (US) to aliens who will, during the course of their programs, share with the US public the history, culture, and traditions of their home countries. Q-1 classification does not include a derivative status for dependents. However, dependents of Q-1 principal aliens may accompany them to the US under any other nonimmigrant classification for which they are eligible, including B-2 visitor for pleasure status. Dependents, who enter on a B-2 visa, may not work or participate in a program of study.
R – The R-1 classification applies to a religious worker. Dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) of R-1 workers are entitled to R-2 status with the same restrictions as the principal. Dependents may be students in the U.S., but may not be employed under the R-2 classification.
RFE – Request for Evidence. Sometimes received in response to an application submitted to USCIS for a privilege related to your status. You should pay special attention to the request. It will mention exactly what you need to send to support your application. It will also show a date by which the response must be received. You will want to discuss the RFE with a DSO.
RTI – Real Time Interface – SEVIS web-based application for use in issuing an individual form I-20 and for updating a student’s record.
SAO – Security Advisory Opinion – A request by a US Consular Officer to the State Department as to whether a visa stamp should be issued to a particular applicant.
STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The U.S. government has revised the rules governing OPT to allow students that graduated with specific majors in these fields to extend their standard 12-month post-completion OPT for an additional 17 months.
TAL – Technology Alert List (see visa mantis below) – A list published by the U.S. State Department in coordination with the interagency community to determine whether a U.S. visa applicant’s background or proposed activity in the U.S. could involve exposure to technologies, including science and other fields, where knowledge gained from the research or work could be used against the U.S.
USCBP – US Customs and Border Protection. The section of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for the former INS inspections at the ports of entry as well as border patrol and customs service. Our DSOs will work with the USCBP only when there is a problem with one of our students at the ports of entry.
USCIS – US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The section of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for most adjudications previously handled by the INS. Our DSOs will submit international student petitions for practical training, reinstatement, etc. to USCIS.
USICE – US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The section of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for what was previously the INS enforcement division: investigations, detention, removal, and intelligence, as well as the new database of student information (see SEVIS above). Our DSOs will work with the ICE for initial issuance of the Certification of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, registration of international students each year, and periodic updates to students’ records.
Visa – A US nonimmigrant visa in the passport permits an alien to apply at a port of entry for admission into the United States.