F-1/J-1 Basics

Agencies & Acronyms (miscellaneous vocabulary)

Material on this Web site is general and for informational purposes only. It does not constitute or replace professional legal advice, and you should not rely on it solely when making decisions about your immigration status or reporting requirements.

DOS - Department of State: The DOS provides information for US citizens traveling abroad, and for foreign citizens trying to obtain a visa to enter the US.

DHS - Department of Homeland Security: DHS is a federal agency whose primary mission is “lead the unified national effort to ensure safe and secure borders, welcome lawful immigrants and visitors, and promote the free-flow of commerce.”

  • CBP - United States Customs and Border Protection: This branch of the DHS is responsible for inspections at the Port of Entry, border patrol, and customs service.
  • USCIS - United States Citizenship and Immigration Services: This branch of the DHS is responsible for most of the adjudications formerly performed by the INS. Work permits are processed through CIS. Our CIS District Office is in Cleveland, Ohio, and our CIS Regional Service Center is in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement: This branch of the DHS is responsible for investigations, detention, removal, intelligence, and SEVIS.
  • SEVIS - Student and Exchange Visitor Information System: SEVIS is a federal database with real-time data on non-immigrant students (F-1, M-1), exchange visitors (J-1), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, & J-2). Schools and program sponsors transmit electronic data and notifications into SEVIS. It is used by various government agencies throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay. The system reflects status changes, Port of Entry (POE) data, and change of biographical data (residential address, academic program, work authorization, etc.). SEVIS provides alerts, notifications, and reports to schools and immigration related field offices.

Non-Immigrant: An individual who is not a citizen and holds a temporary immigration status with the intent to leave the US and return home upon completion of their purpose for being here (F-1 and J-1 visa holders are included in this category). Non-Immigrant documents include:

  • Passport: A passport identifies one’s citizenship - the country in which a person is born or naturalized, and to which that person owes allegiance and by which he or she is entitled to be protected. It is an official travel document issued by a competent authority showing the bearer's origin, identity, and nationality. A passport shows an issue date and an expiration date. Validity dates vary among nations. Non-immigrant visitors in the US are encouraged to maintain a passport which is valid for a minimum of six months into the future. A foreign passport may be renewed from within the US through the Embassy or Consulate of the issuing country.
  • Visa: A non-immigrant visa stamp is a multi-colored stamp, placed in one's passport at a US Consulate abroad. The stamp allows entry into the US and indicates the holder's non-immigrant status at the time of entry. Most students enter the US on an F-1 visa. It will be marked S (single entry) or M (multiple entry) along with issue and expiration dates. These details define the number of occasions and the time period within which the visa may be used to enter or reenter the US. The entry visa does not always indicate the current 'status' of the holder, nor does its validity necessarily indicate their lawful presence in the US. Visa renewal can only take place from outside the US. (There are unique exceptions to the reentry requirements between the US and Canada or Mexico.) *Other non-immigrant classifications that might be held by students enrolled at The College include: A-2; E-2; G-2, 3, or 4; H-4; J-1; L-2.
  • I-94 Arrival / Departure Card: The I-94 documents lawful admission to the US and confirms the status by which the traveler entered the country. A non-immigrant visitor receives a new I-94 number electronically each time they reenter the US, and it is removed from the system upon departing the US. While most temporary visitors receive a ‘date specific’ I-94, indicating an expiration of their lawful stay in the US, the I-94 that is issued to an F-1 or J-1 visitor will have a D/S (Duration of Status). D/S indicates that the visitor's length of stay is dependent on their compliance with F-1 / J-1 status, including the completion date on the I-20, DS 2019, any post-completion Employment Authorization Document; or any confirmation of a Change of Status. The I94 can be printed and will be necessary for obtaining a Social Security Card and/or applying for OPT.
  • EAD - Employment Authorization Document: An EAD is a card issued by USCIS as official documentation of a non-immigrant visa holder’s employment authorization. An EAD provides a start date and an expiration date for authorization. It looks very much like a driver's license or state ID card.

F-1 Status: Individuals in F-1 (non-immigrant) Status are temporarily in the United States engaging in a full course of academic study in an accredited educational program that has been designated by DHS.

  • I-20: The I-20 is a 'Certificate of Eligibility' for non immigrant F-1 student status. It is issued after a prospective student has made a commitment to attend a specific school in the US, has documented their ability to fund their studies, and articulated their reason for applying for an F-1 visa to enter and study full time in the US. The I-20 is a 'print' version of the electronic data in SEVIS - including biographical, academic, and financial details. It is an essential travel document and must have a valid P/DSO endorsement within any 12 month period in order for the holder to exit and reenter the US.
  • P/DSO - Principal / Designated School Official: DSO's are authorized to sign and process F-1 paperwork and SEVIS data entry on behalf of the institution. Contact OISA to find who are the current P/DSO's
  • OPT - Optical Practical Training: Twelve months of OPT is available to F-1 visa holders, as a means to secure employment authorization in one’s field of study during or immediately following the academic program. Students on OPT must have their I-20 endorsed within a six month period in order to re-enter the US.
  • CPT - Curricular Practical Training: CPT is a category of off campus employment authorization, available to F-1 students, through which the employment is integrally related to a curricular objective.

J-1 Status: An individual in J-1 (non-immigrant) Status is temporarily in the United States as exchange visitors for the primary purpose of studying, teaching, or conducting research at an academic institution.

  • DS-2019: The DS-2019 is issued to confirm the holder's eligibility to apply for a J-1 visa to secure non-immigrant status in the US as a student, professor, or scholar. It is a 'print' version of the electronic data in the SEVIS record - including biographical, academic, and financial information. It is an essential travel document and must have a valid A/RO endorsement in order for the holder to maintain status and to reenter the US. Wooster does not sponsor J visas, but we do host visitors (typically our language assistants) who are here in J-1 status. These visitors are responsible, for immigration purposes, to the organization that issued their DS-2019.
  • RO/ARO - Responsible Officer / Alternate Responsible Officer: RO's are authorized to sign and process J-1 paperwork and SEVIS compliance. Wooster does not sponsor a J program. Our J-1 language assistants are subject to the Institute of International Education (IIE) in terms of regulatory tracking and RO responsibilities.

Permanent Resident(i.e. Green Card Holder, Eligible Non-Citizen, Resident Alien): A ‘green card holder’ has, through an application process based on family or employment sponsorship, or perhaps through the Green Card Lottery, gained many privileges of US citizenship. PR status is documented with a ‘green card.’ Individuals in this status have access to Federal Financial Aid, upon submission of the FAFSA.

IRS - Internal Revenue Service: The IRS is the US government agency responsible for tax collection and tax law enforcement.

  • ITIN - Individual Taxpayer Identification Number: An ITIN is a tax identification number that is available to non US citizens who are present in the US but do not qualify for a Social Security Number. It is issued by the IRS.

Tax Residency: One’s “Tax Residency” is tied to the country in which an individual is considered financially obligated. It is not necessarily tied to one’s citizenship, nor to one’s residency for immigration purposes. A non-immigrant visitor will be considered a US Resident for Tax Purposes as soon as they meet the requirements of the 'substantial presence test' in IRS Publication 519. In general, one becomes a resident for tax purposes after 5 years of non-immigrant presence in the US.

  • Most international students at The College of Wooster are non-residents for tax purposes. Non-residents do hold tax-reporting obligations within the US, whether or not they earn any income. Tax obligations are introduced on the OISA web site. GLACIER is a federal tax return preparation program. Access rights for Wooster students, staff, and faculty will be provided through the OISA.

SSA - Social Security Administration: pays for retirement, disability and survivors benefits to workers and their families and administer the Supplemental Security Income program.

  • SSN - Social Security Number: SSA is the government agency who issues Social Security numbers. Many non-immigrant visitors are eligible to apply for and receive a SSN.

BMV - Bureau of Motor Vehicles: The BMV is the part of The Ohio Department of Public Safety which oversees driver and motor vehicle licensing and registration

  • State of Ohio ID Card
    We strongly recommend that international students at The College of Wooster visit the local BMV and apply for a State ID Card.
  • State of Ohio Drivers License
    It is not legal for an international student (F-1 / J-1) to drive in the US with a foreign driver’s license. If you plan to drive, you must obtain a driver’s license from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.