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.


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.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)

Science, technology, engineering, and math programs, which are important to innovation and job creation in the United States.

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. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

An agency within the Department of Homeland Security that authorizes benefits for students and exchange visitors. Students can request benefits such as employment, extending their stay, or changing status from USCIS.

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. Department of Education

A federal agency that establishes the legislation, policies and guidance for educational institutions in the United States, primarily colleges, universities and post-secondary institutions.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

A federal agency whose missions include preventing terrorism and enhancing security, managing U.S. borders, administering immigration laws, securing cyberspace, and ensuring disaster resilience. Through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, DHS secures the student visa system.

U.S. Department of State

A federal agency that issues visas at U.S. consulates and embassies, and offers student-specific information on its websites. The U.S. Department of State also manages the J visa programs within the United States.

Related terms: Embassy, Consulate

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.