Glossary of International Education Terms

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

A law that governs immigration in the United States.

U.S. Citizenship And Immigration Services (USCIS)

The USCIS also referred to as Immigration or INS is a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. USCIS approves the applications for students and other visitors to enter the country, maintains records on all non-immigrants, and has a jurisdiction over cases, such as change of status, employment, etc.


Any person not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.

I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigration (F-1) Student Status

I-20 forms certify that the student whose name appears on the form has applied and been accepted to the U.S. school named on the form. After receiving this document, students may use it to apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad. This document is also used for travel purposes or to transfer from one school to another. This document must be valid at all times and studens should apply for a new I20, if an extension or change of program/level is needed.

DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status

This document is used to apply for a J-1 exchange visitor visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, to leave and return to the U.S., to transfer from one school to another and to extend the period of stay in the U.S. This form is used by both students and visiting scholars who are sponsored either by the U.S. government, their home country's government, by Michigan Tech, or another agency or institution. Students are required to keep this document valid at all times and apply for a new form, if an extension is required.


A visa is either a multicolored stamp or computerized document affixed to a page in the passport by a U.S. Consular office abroad. It allows international visitors to travel to the U.S. as long as the visa has not expired. Once visitors are admitted into the U.S., visas are no longer the most important documents governing their status. A visa is used only for travel to the U.S., but is not used to determine how long individuals may stay in the U.S.

Immigration Status

This is the immigration classification USCIS gives international visitors when they enter the U.S. (such as F-1/J-1 status). The status is written on the I-94 card (see below). Under certain circumstances, individuals can apply for a change of immigration status within the United States. Students and scholars who wish to change their status should consult with the International Programs and Service Office.

Travel Signature

The certification signatures on I-20/DS-2019 forms are valid for one semester (I-20) and one year (DS-2019). The signature is required for travel purposes and can be obtained at the International Programs and Services Office.


Your passport is issued by the government of the country of which you are citizen. It can be used as a primary identification document. Replacement or extension of your passport must be done through your government. Your passport has to be valid for six months into the future. Check the expiration date frequently and apply well in advance (at least 6 months prior to the ending date).

I-94 Arrival-Departure Record

The I-94 is a small card (usually white) that international visitors receive upon arrival to the U.S. It contains an eleven-digit arrival/departure number, the person's name, date if birth, citizenship, the date of entry into the U.S., and the immigration status given. This important document is used to establish the duration of the legal status while in the United States. Individuals in F-1/J-1 student status should have "D/S" written on their I-94 cards. This refers to the legal ending date of their stay in the U.S. (see D/S-Duration of Status below). Visitors will be asked to submit the I-94 card to the airline when leaving the country.

Duration of Status (D/S)

Individuals in F-1/J-1 status are allowed to stay in this country for the duration of their program of study as long as they maintain their student status at all times. Duration of Status (D/S) refers to the period during which the student is pursuing full-time studies or post-completion training. J-1 students are permitted 30 days (grace period) after the end of their academic program before they must leave the U.S. F-1 students have a grace period of 60 days.

Social Security Number (SS#)

A Social Security Number is needed for employment purposes. If you plan to work, have an assistantship, or get a driver's license, you must have a Social Security number. You can obtain the SS application at the IPS Office. For general information and services, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit . Your must have a job offer to obtain a SS Number.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Curricular Practical Training is employment which is an integral or important part of your curriculum, including internships, cooperative education or any other type of required practicum offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school. There is no limitation upon the length of time you may participate in full-time or part-time curricular training, but if you participate for twelve months of full-time training, you will not be eligible for optional practical training. Qualified applicants will receive authorization from the IPS.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is the opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. Optional practical training is authorized by the USCIS. This authorization can take up to 90 days to obtain. The maximum amount of time granted to work in F-1 practical training status is 12 months.

Michigan Tech Ambassador

Students serving as Michigan Tech International Ambassadors represent their country or field of study and are available to answer questions relating to life or studies at Michigan Tech.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

SEVIS is an internet-based system that allows schools and the USCIS to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the United States. U.S. embassies and consulates also have access to SEVIS.