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-1 Status

A visa status for students eligible to enroll in academic programs in the United States including at colleges or universities awarding bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate or professional degrees, community or junior colleges awarding associates degrees, religious seminaries, fine arts conservatories, high school (grades 9-12), public or private, private elementary and/or middle school (K-8), or a language training school.

F-2 Status

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

Related terms: Dependent

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-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.

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.

Related terms: 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.

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.

Related terms: Community College

M-2 Status

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

Related terms: M-1 Status, Dependent

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

A designation the Secretary of Homeland Security may make about a foreign country "due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent safe return of the country's citizens; or where, in certain circumstances, the country is unable to handle the return of its citizens adequately." Benefits of TPS are temporary and vary, based on the designation. USCIS administers TPS.