• International Students

  • Immigration Terms and Agencies photo

    Immigration Terms and Agencies

    The US system of immigration can be quite complex, often involving unfamiliar terms and a web of government agencies. Below is an explanation of terms and agencies that you are likely to encounter as an international student. If you have additional questions, please contact the IOCP office.

    Immigration Terms

    DS-2019: Official immigration document issued to J-1 and J-2 visa holders. The DS-2019 must be kept accurate and up to date while in the United States.

    F-1: Refers to an immigration status that is used primarily for degree-seeking students who are funded by self or family. F-2 is an immigration status that is the dependent of F-1.

    I-20: Official immigration document issued to F-1 and F-2 visa holders. The I-20 must be kept accurate and up to date while in the United States.

    I-94 card: Small white card that is issued upon arrival in the United States. It is used to verify arrival to and departure from the US. For F or J visa holders, the I-94 card is generally stamped “D/S” which indicates that you are allowed to stay in the country for the “Duration of Status” (i.e. as long as you are maintaining legal immigration status)

    Immigration status: May also be referred to as “visa status” but is separate and distinct from the actual visa stamp. Status refers to your legal eligibility to be in the country. A student who is “maintaining status” is legally in the United States and is eligible for benefits of whichever status they maintain. A student who fails to meet the terms and conditions of their status is considered “out of status” and may be at risk for removal from the United States.

    J-1: Refers to an immigration status that is used primarily for students attending school in the US through an exchange program, or for students who are funded by external organizations (rather than self or family). The J-1 category is also used for visiting scholars and researchers. J-2 is an immigration status that is the dependent of J-1.

    SEVIS: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is a web-based database that is used by the Department of Homeland Security to track and monitor information for F-1 and J-1 students, scholars, and their dependents. Information stored in SEVIS is accessible to various federal agencies. Universities that are approved to host international students are required to maintain accurate information in the SEVIS system for all international students and scholars on their campuses.

    Visa: A stamp that is placed in the passport that allows a foreign national to request permission to enter the country. For F and J visa holders, the visa must be valid on the date of entry into the United States but may expire while in the United States as long as you maintain your legal immigration status. Visas may only be issued at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad and may therefore not be renewed or replaced within the US.

    Government Agencies

    Customs and Border Protection (CBP): Component of the Department of Homeland Security that oversees ports of entry to the United States.

    Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Federal agency of the US government which oversees national security issues. The DHS is comprised of several key organizations including the TSA, CBP, USCIS, and ICE, among others. The F-1/F-2 visa categories are administered by the Department of Homeland Security.

    Department of State: Federal agency of the US government which carries out US foreign policy. Provides assistance to US citizens abroad and issues all immigrant and non-immigrant visas to the United States. The J-1/J-2 visa categories are administered by the Department of State

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Component of the Department of Homeland Security that is principally responsible for investigation and enforcement of laws relating to border control, customs, trade, and immigration. ICE administers the SEVIS database, which maintains and provides information about students and exchange visitors in the United States.

    Transportation and Security Administration (TSA): Component of the Department of Homeland Security that is primarily responsible for protecting the US transportation system, including screening and security at US airports.

    United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS): Component of the Department of Homeland Security that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. Determines eligibility and handles adjudication for most applications for immigration benefits.

    Additional Government Resources

    DHS Study in the States

    J-1 Exchange Visitor Program

    Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)