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U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Study in the States

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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.

Cap Gap

The cap is the limit on the number of individuals who can receive H-1B status every fiscal year. The gap is the period of time between the end of an individual’s F-1 status and the beginning of the individual’s H-1B status.


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 on which a school’s Student and Exchange Visitor certification expires.

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.

Community College

A post-secondary, undergraduate educational institution offering lower-level (freshman and sophomore) classes. These schools gear their operations more toward commuting students and do not usually have on-campus living arrangements.


To follow all Department of Homeland Security regulations as a Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school to enroll nonimmigrant students.


Department of State offices headed by a Consul General who reports to the U.S. ambassador, which carry out many of the same functions in provincial or regional capitals as the embassies do in national capitals. F and M students can visit a consulate to apply for their visa to enter the United States.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Employment that must be authorized by the DSO, relate to your major, and be a required part of your program of study. CPT can be full-time and is not restricted by a weekly 20-hour work limit.