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Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Glossary of Terms

Department of State (DOS) Glossary of Visa Terms 


Academic Training (AT): Academic Training (AT) is temporary employment authorization for work that is directly related to a J-1 student's major area of study.  A degree-seeking J-1 student can be authorized to receive up to 18 months of academic training. (J-1 students who are in postdoctoral positions can get an additional 18 months of academic training).  Academic training is designed to allow J-1 students the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus.  Consult your international advisor for more information.

Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) An ARO is appointed by the sponsoring institution (such as Caltech) to administer an exchange visitor program through the Department of State and is authorized to issue and sign a Form DS-2019.

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Certificate of Eligibility:  See DS-2019 or I-20.

Change of Status: Application process by which a nonimmigrant changes from one nonimmigrant status to another, inside the United States. 

Curricular Practical Training (CPT): Temporary employment for F-1 students in an internship that is an integral part of an established curriculum at Caltech. 

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DS-2019:  Certificate of Eligibility for the Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status.  The form is issued by a sponsoring institution and it allows an individual to apply for a J-1 visa.  The DS-2019 identifies the length of stay.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS): A department created to better safeguard the United States.  SEVP collects, maintains, and provides the information so that only legitimate foreign students or exchange visitors gain entry to the United States.  The result is an information system that provides timely information to the Department of State, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Department of Labor (DOL): A department of the U.S. government's Executive Branch with jurisdiction over working conditions, such as work-related benefits and rights.

Department of State (DOS): A department of the U.S. government's Executive Branch with jurisdiction over nondomestic issues such as issuing visas, security clearances, and creating and administering federal regulations and policies. Also known as the State Department.

Dependent: Spouses and children who qualify for dependant nonimmigrant classification of a temporary worker.

Designated School Official (DSO): The school official authorized to issue and sign I-20s.  The DSO ensures institutional and individual compliance with the law by interpreting and applying laws and government policies pertaining to F-1 students.  Only a DSO may issue and sign the I-20 and create or update SEVIS records.  Caltech faculty members are not DSOs.

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV): Also known as the Diversity Lottery or Green Card Lottery. The annual DV program provides for a class of immigrants known as diversity immigrants, with visas made available to persons from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. The annual DV program makes visas available to persons meeting simple, but strict, eligibility requirements. A computer-generated, random drawing chooses selectees for DVs.

Duration of Status (D/S): If you enter the United States in F or J status, D/S is granted on the I-94 Arrival/Departure Card at passport control. D/S allows individuals to remain in the United States for the length of time necessary to complete their program or study.  D/S generally ends on the last day of classes (as reflected by the I-20 or DS-2019 expiration date), plus a 60-day grace period for F-1s and a 30-day grace period for J-1s.

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Employment Authorization Document (EAD): A work permit issued by USCIS that allows foreign nationals to legally work in the United States.  This is necessary in some cases, but not in others.  Consult with your international advisor for more information.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA): ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.  The ESTA application collects the same information collected on Form I-94W.  ESTA applications may be submitted at anytime prior to travel, though it is recommended travelers apply when they begin preparing travel plans.

E-Verify: An internet-based system that allows an employer using information reported on an employee's Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) to determine the eligibility of that employee to work in the United States.  The E-Verify system is operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.  The E-Verify Employers and Federal Contractors List can be found on the USCIS website.  Caltech is an E-Verify employer.

Exchange Visitor:  An individual in J-1 or J-2 status.

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FICA: U.S. Social Security & Medicare taxes

File a Tax Return: To fill out and send in tax forms, both to the U.S. government and to applicable state governments.

F-1: International students usually study in the United States on either an F-1 visa or a J-1 visa.  Both require full-time study.  Students obtain an F-1 visa by visiting a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and presenting a form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility issued by Caltech. On the form I-20, the International Advisor certifies to the Consul and Immigration officials that the student has adequate English language proficiency, adequate financial resources, and is academically qualified to attend the school to which he or she has been accepted. See J-1 student for similar information about J-1 student status.

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Green Card: The document granting authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. Also known as permanent resident card.

Green Card Lottery:  Also known as the Green Card Lottery. The annual DV program provides for a class of immigrants known as diversity immigrants, with visas made available to persons from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. The annual DV program makes visas available to persons meeting simple, but strict, eligibility requirements. A computer-generated, random drawing chooses selectees for DVs.

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H-1B: This visa category applies to individuals who are hired to perform services in a specialty occupation.  The employer files the H petition with the Department of Homeland Security.  Hs are employer-specific, job-specific, salary-specific, and time-specific.

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I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification:   All individuals employed in the United States are required to complete an I-9, on or before their first day of employment.  The form is used to establish identity and employment eligibility.  The form includes a List of Acceptable Documents.

I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status.  The form is issued by a sponsoring institution and it allows an individual to apply for an F-1 visa.  The I-20 identifies the length of stay.  

I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record): I-94 is a small card stamped by CBP officers at U.S. ports of entry.  It is evidence of legal entry into the United States, indicating date of entry, status, and length of stay.

Immigrant:  An individual who is a permanent resident of the United States.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN):  A tax processing number issued by the IRS to individuals who do not qualify for a Social Security Number.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS):  U.S. agency for federal taxation.

International Student or Scholar Advisor: College or university employees responsible for providing information and guidance to international students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, and staff of the institution in regards to immigration regulations, visas, travel, and matters related to adjustment to life in the United States.

International Student Programs (ISP): One of the three offices that make up the International Offices at Caltech and JPL.  This office serves international students.

International Scholar Services (ISS): One of the three offices that make up the International Offices at Caltech and JPL.  This office serves international postdocs, faculty, and staff.

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J-1: The Exchange Visitor (J) nonimmigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and/or study-based exchange visitor programs.

JPL International Office (JPL IO):  One of the three offices that make up the International Offices at Caltech and JPL.  JPL is located about 10 miles from the Caltech campus.

Jury Duty:  Jury Duty is participation as a juror in a legal proceeding. It is mandatory for U.S. citizens 18 years and older. Prospective juror names are obtained from voter registration and department of motor vehicle (DMV) records. Non-U.S. citizens who receive a Jury Summons should complete SECTION A of the summons and register by calling 1-800-778-5879.  Although you are not qualified for service, you are required to complete the registration. 

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Maintaining Status:  Following the rules and regulations governing a nonimmigrant classification.

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National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS):  DHS no longer requires registration of foreign citizens entering and exiting the United States under NSEERS.  Also known as "Special Registration".

Nonimmigrant: An individual who enters the United States for a specific, temporary purpose.  Nonimmigrants usually need to have a permanent residence abroad  and must demonstrate eligibility for the nonimmigrant classification sought.  

Nonresident For Tax Purposes:  Individuals who do not meet the substantial presence test are subject to U.S. federal taxes as nonresidents for tax purposes.

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Optional Practical Training (OPT): Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study. 

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Passports:A passport is a document issued by a country to enable its citizens to travel abroad and return home.   Passports should always be valid for travel, visa applications, and whenever an individual submits an application to USCIS. 

Permanent Resident: An individual who has the right to remain in the United States permanently.  Also known as "lawful permanent residents" and individuals with "green cards". 

Port of Entry (POE):  Location, either an airport or land crossing, where individuals enter the United States and are inspected and admitted by a Customs and Border Patrol officer.  

Practical Training: F-1 students may work in the United States by engaging in practical training during an academic program or after graduation.  There are two types of practical training: curricular practical training (CPT) and optional practical training (OPT).

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Resident for Tax Purposes: An individual in nonimmigrant status may be taxed as a U.S. resident, depending on the length of time spent in the United States.

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Skills List: A list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills that are deemed necessary for the development of an exchange visitor's home country.  This list represents treaties between the United States and other countries.  If an individual's skill is on his/her country's Skills List, the individual is subject to the two year home residence requirement. 

Status:   Every visa is issued for a particular purpose and for a specific class of visitor.  Each visa classification has a set of requirements that the visa holder must follow and maintain.  Those who follow the requirements maintain their status and ensure their ability to remain in the United States.  Those who do not follow the requirements violate their status and are considered "out of status." See the DHS, USCIS website Extension of Stay and Change of Status

Social Security Number (SSN):  A record of an individual's earnings in the United States.  It is also the most commonly used personal identification number in the United States.    A social security number should be safeguarded since it is a key to identity theft.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS):  An internet-based system where DHS maintains information on SEVP-certified schools, as well as F-1 and M-1 students. SEVIS also maintains information on DOS-designated visitor program sponsors and J-1 visa exchange visitor program participants.

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP):  On behalf of DHS, SEVP manages schools, F-1 and M-1 students and their dependents.  SEVP uses SEVIS to track and monitor schools; exchange visitor programs; and F, M, and J nonimmigrants while they visit the United States and participate in the U.S. education system.

Substantial Presence Test:  Method used to determine whether an individual is a resident or nonresident for tax purposes.

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Tax Treaty:  An agreement between the United States and another country which allows residents of that country to be taxed at a reduced rate, or to be exempt from U.S. income taxes on certain items of income they receive from sources within the United States.  Tax treaties do not apply to state tax obligations.

Two-Year Home Residency Requirement:  Certain J-1 exchange visitors are obligated to return to their home country at the end of their J program.  Also known as "212(e)" and the "Two Year Foreign Residence Rule".

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United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):  U.S. agency for citizenship and immigration.

United States Custom and Border Protection (CBP):  U.S. agency for border security, customs inspections, and immigration admissions.

Unlawful Presence:  Occurs when an individual is out of compliance with the regulations governing his or her nonimmigrant status.  Periods of unlawful presence may result in three or ten year bars from the United States.

U.S. Sourced Income: Any money or compensation received from a U.S. source (wages, scholarships, fellowships, money from stocks), or compensation from any source for activities in the United States.

U.S. VISIT: Biometric information is used to confirm a nonimmigrant's entry into and exit from the United States.

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Visa:  Permission to travel to another country.  A U.S. visa indicates the purpose of the visa and the date until which an individual may enter or re-enter the United States.  It does not indicate how long the person may remain in the United States.  U.S. visas may be obtained only outside of the United States at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP):  Eligible citizens of participating countries may travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. 

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W-2:  IRS form provided by an employer to an employee.  It states the employee's wages, taxes, and withholdings from the previous year.  

W-7:  IRS form used to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. 

W-8BEN: IRS form to establish that an individual who is a non-resident for tax purposes, is eligible for tax treaty benefits. 

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