Definitions of Common Immigration Terms
Admission and Departure Card Also referred to as I-94 card. Small white card given to all non-immigrant aliens entering the United States. Admission record portion collected at the port of entry, departure record portion is stamped by the immigration officer and is collected at the time when person leaves the United States. Stamp shows date and place of entry, visa status, limitations of stay, and the I-94 number (eleven digits) preprinted on the form.
Asylee A person at a port of entry or in the United States, who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality or habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylee status is granted by INS and may be terminated by the attorney general. For enrollment and pay purposes treated like an immigrant.
Co-op A training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Work authorization is granted by the Designated School Official.
COS Change of Status without leaving the United States. Application submitted to INS on form I-539. If request approved, new visa status is granted.
CPT Curricular Practical Training. A training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Work authorization is granted by the Designated School Official.
D/SDuration of Status. F-1 and J-1 students are admitted to the U.S. for the period during which they are pursuing a full course of study at an educational institution approved by INS. (Also see "Maintenance of Status for F-1 and J-1 students").
Dependents Spouse (husband or wife, must be legally married) and unmarried children under 21.
DSO - Designated School Official: A regular employee of the university (faculty or staff member), appointed by the school and approved by BCIS, who represents the school in all F-1 matters. Only a DSO may sign an immigration document for the school.
EAD (I-688B) Employment Authorization Document. Small, laminated card with photo ID, requested by beneficiary on form I-765 and approved by INS. EAD may be given for Optional Practical Training, Economic Hardship, Temporary Employment of spouses in J-2 status and in some other instances.
Green Card Small laminated card with photo ID and fingerprint, issued by INS for resident aliens. Treated as U.S. citizens for employment, enrollment and payment purposes.
I-94 card See Admission and Departure Card
ICE - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - A bureau of the Department of Homeland Security, and the investigative and enforcment arm of immigration (formerly INS) and border security. ICE also oversees the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Immigrant =green card holder=resident alien=permanent resident: an alien who has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence. Essentially has the same rights and obligations as a U.S. citizen with the exceptions of voting, holding certain public offices and employment by federal agencies in civil service positions.
Non-immigrant An alien admitted to the United States for a specific purpose for a temporary stay that will end when its purpose has been accomplished.
OPT Optional Practical Training: a benefit of legal F-1 status. Granted by INS based on documents submitted by applicant and school's recommendation. Total length is 12 months, not extendible. May be used during school breaks, for part-time work while school is in session, or after graduation. Work has to be within student's area of study.
Passport An official governmental travel document that certifies the identity and nationality of a person and grants him/her permission to travel abroad (travel to certain countries may be limited).
Permanent resident See Immigrant
POE - Port of Entry: airport or border where alien is admitted to the United States.
Refugee A person outside the United States, who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality or habitual residence because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Asylee status is granted by INS and may be terminated by the attorney general.
Reinstatement An F-1 or J-1 student who has overstayed his/her authorized period of stay or otherwise violated his/her student status may be reinstated to lawful F-1/J-1 status by INS. Application is made on form I-539 accompanied by supporting documents. Contact the Designated School Official for details.
Transfer student For immigration purposes a student who is pursuing a full course of study at the school he or she was last authorized to attend and is otherwise maintaining status is eligible to transfer to another INS approved school by following the transfer procedures.
USCIS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - Formerly INS, a government agency responsible for the admission, control and status of all aliens in the United States. The immigration regulations are contained in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations. See also ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
U.S. citizen A person born in the United States, or naturalized, holding a U.S. passport.
Visa A stamp in the passport issued by an American Embassy or Consulate abroad, allowing the holder to request entry to the United States in a certain visa status within the time period specified on the visa. A visa may allow one, two or multiple entries before the expiration date of the visa.
Visa Overstay Persons who lawfully entered the United States but who overstayed their period of authorized stay or otherwise violated the terms of their temporary status.
Visa Status A status granted by INS at the port of entry, stamped on the I-94 card, or later granted through a Change of Status request, verified on an approval notice from INS, accompanied by a new I-94 card.