Use the Study in the States glossary to define key terms throughout the F and M student process in the United States. If you are a current or prospective student, select “students” to see terms that specifically relate to you—from visas, to forms, benefits, and more. School officials should select “schools” to find more information on certification, responsibilities, and how to help their F and M students. You can also sort terms by selecting the letter of the alphabet a term begins with.


An assurance from a Department of Education‑recognized regional or national organization that a school’s education meets an acceptable level of quality.


The process that SEVP uses to decide the outcome for schools petitioning for certification, submitting their recertification package or making updates to the Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Students.”

Annual Vacation

The period of time, the equivalent of one academic term, which an F student is eligible to take off from school. F students become eligible after completing one academic year and may then take one term of vacation each following year.

Related terms: F-1 Status

Associate's Degree

A degree typically offered at community or junior colleges that usually takes at least two but less than four years of full-time college work to complete.

Related terms: Community College

Authorized Early Withdrawal

A designated school official-authorized temporary absence for F-1 students. Students with records placed in Terminated status for authorized early withdrawal have 15 days to depart the United States.

Bachelor's Degree

A degree offered in undergraduate programs at four-year colleges or universities.


An application, petition, motion, appeal, or other request relating to an immigration benefit, whether such request is filed on a paper form or submitted in an electronic format, provided such request is submitted in a manner prescribed by DHS for such purpose. Examples include workingdriving or obtaining a Social Security number.

Related terms: Social Security number


The process of petitioning the Student and Exchange Visitor Program to enroll F and M nonimmigrant students. Approved schools can issue these students Forms I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”

Certification Expiration Date

The date two years from the date of a school’s previous Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certification or recertification expiration date on which a school is required to file a completed petition for SEVP recertification.

Related terms: Recertification

Commission-Based Recruiter

A recruiter, broker, or agent who charges fees or receives a commission for such things as helping you obtain a student visa, housing, or other services. You do not need to use a recruiter in order to obtain a United States student visa.