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.

Doctorate Degree

The highest form of post-graduate degree that students can earn in the United States.

Related terms: Graduate Degree

Exchange Visitor

A nonimmigrant in J-1 visa status. This classification is for individuals approved to participate in work- and study-based exchange visitor programs. All J-1 nonimmigrants must be sponsored by an organization that is designated by the Department of State.

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.

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.

Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI)

Please note, the Department of Defense is revising its MAVNI implementation plan for FY 17 and is currently not accepting MAVNI applications for FY 17. After its implementation plan is completed and approved, the U.S. Army will begin processing new applicants for FY 2017 who meet MAVNI program eligibility requirements for enlistment. For more information, please visit

A program that allows certain non-citizens who are legally present in the United States to join the U.S. military and apply immediately for U.S. citizenship without first obtaining lawful permanent residence. The program is only available to legal aliens holding critical skills—physicians, nurses and experts in certain languages with associated cultural backgrounds.

Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)

A part of the National Security Investigations Division and acts as a bridge for government organizations that have an interest in information on nonimmigrants whose primary reason for coming to the United States is to be students.

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, SEVP manages schools, nonimmigrant students in the F and M visa classifications and their dependents.

Student and Exchange Visitor Program-certified Schools

The only schools that are officially authorized to enroll F and M students.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

A Department of Homeland Security agency that secures the borders of the United States, including airports, land borders and seaports. When entering the country, F and M students go through inspections with CBP officers and must present proper documentation.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security agency that promotes homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration. Through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, ICE helps secure the foreign student visa system.