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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.

F-2 Status

Nonimmigrant visa status required for dependents (spouse or minor children) of F-1 visa holders to enter the United States.

FAA Part 141/142 Certification

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification required for flight training providers to receive Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The federal agency dedicated to helping citizens and first responders to build, sustain, and improve the capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student”

The form of a petition submitted and maintained by school officials electronically in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification of the school to enroll F-1 and/or M-1 students.

Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”

A form issued to accepted nonimmigrant students from their Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school that is required in order to pay their I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee, apply for a visa, enter the United States, apply for benefits, and use for employment authorization or travel.

Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor”

A form issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry to students who arrive without all of their required documents. The Form I-515A allows students to temporarily enter the United States, and they have 30 days to submit the missing information to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) before their status is terminated.

Beginning April 1, 2016, SEVP will send “Intent to Terminate” notices to students and exchange visitors and their dependents who have failed to comply with the Form I-515A directive by the specified deadline. Recipients of the “Intent to Terminate” notices will have 14 days, as of the date the letter is sent, to respond to the Form I-515A. Failure to comply will result in the termination of their SEVIS record. For more information, please download the Form I-515A Termination Procedure on

Form I-539, “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status”

A form students use to request a change to another nonimmigrant visa status (F-2 to F-1, F-1 to H-1B, etc.), or to request reinstatement if they have fallen out of student status. M students also use this form to request to remain in the United States for a longer period of time, to transfer to another Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified school.

Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization”

An application for employment authorization, managed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document”

A form sent by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to students who are authorized to work in the United States. Also known as an EAD, this form lists the dates your employment authorization begins and ends.

Form I-797A, “Notice of Action”

A notice of approval or receipt of a submission that students may receive from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in various circumstances, like approval of the Form I-539, “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.”

Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record”

An electronic Department of Homeland Security form issued to all nonimmigrants upon entry to the United States that is evidence of their admission and is used to document legal status in the United States, including length of stay.

Full Course of Study

The amount of credit or clock hours required for an F-1 or M-1 student to maintain nonimmigrant status during a school session.  Enrolling in a full course of study every academic term is a requirement for F and M students to maintain their student status.

In general, full-time for F students in an undergraduate program is 12 credit hours. In a graduate program, designated school officials certify a full course of study, which is typically six to nine credit hours. Full-time study for an F-1 student in an English as a Second Language or other non‑vocational program is 18 clock hours per week if most of the course is classroom instruction, or 22 clock hours per week if most of the course is laboratory instruction. Your DSO can provide more information.

Graduate Degree

A degree type for students following a bachelor’s degree program or its equivalent. Degree types include master’s or doctorate degrees.

H-1B cap gap

The period of time between the end of an individual’s F-1 student status and the beginning of the individual’s H-1B status.

H-1B Status

Temporary employment authorization for a nonimmigrant who performs services in a specialty occupation and has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Employers petition for H-1B status to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on a nonimmigrant’s behalf.


A best practice for students to keep all important documents, like their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” or passport with them, instead of packing them in checked luggage.

I-901 SEVIS Fee

A fee all F-1 and M-1 students and most J-1 exchange visitors must pay prior to gaining F, M, or J status to support the administrative expenses of SEVP, and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Students pay this fee after receiving their Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” at

See also: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Tutorial"


Income Taxes

Fees that everyone, including F and M students, must pay to the U.S. Government’s Internal Revenue Service on any income earned while in the country, including income from wages, reception of a grant, fellowship, scholarship, interest from stock options, or lottery and gambling winnings.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

A tax processing number the Internal Revenue Service issues to an individual who needs to report income (and pay income taxes) but is ineligible to obtain a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration.

Kindergarten to Grade 12

Educational levels students enroll in before advancing to higher education institutions. U.S. students usually begin a formal educational program around age five or six in kindergarten. Children then complete grade levels one through 12 before attending college or university. F and M students may enroll in a private program for any length of time but may only attend a public high school for one year.

Leave of Absence

A DSO authorized absence from class that allows a student to suspend enrollment in a program of study and leave the United States, but the student intends to return and resume the program of study within five months.

M-1 Status

A visa status for nonimmigrant students eligible to enroll in vocational or technical training programs including those at community or junior colleges, vocational high schools, or a school that provides vocational or nonacademic training other than language training.

M-2 Status

Nonimmigrant visa status required for dependents (spouse or minor children) of M-1 students to enter the United States.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

A course of study available on the internet with open enrollment and unlimited participation, usually given without charge and without course credit.