Definitions of Terms Commonly Used By International Students

  • Adjudication

    USCIS action on an application or petition

  • COS

    Change of Status, from one immigration classification (such as B-2, visitor) to another (such as F-1, student)

  • DSO

    The Designated School Official is the person at the school who is responsible for acting on behalf of the F-1 program and signing government forms

  • Immigrant

    Foreign national who enters the U.S. as (or while in the U.S. becomes) a legal permanent resident of the United States, also called resident alien, permanent resident, or a person having a "green card"

  • Immigration Status

    Your visa status is the status you currently hold with immigration. In most cases, your visa stamp and immigration status is the same, unless you have changed your immigration status after entering the U.S. If you were issued an I-20, your status is either F-1 (Associate or diploma level study) or M-1 (certificate level study) student status.

  • I-20

    The document given to you by your school that allows you to obtain a F-1/M-1 visa for entry purposes and is the paperwork that gives you the ability to stay in the U.S. legally. The I-20 form will show the visa status, program of study, finances, and the start and end dates. The end date is very important. If you will not graduate by the end date listed, you must request a program extension from the International Student Services Office prior to the expiration date.

  • I-94

    The I-94 is a small white card that is given to non-US citizens entering the United States. The stamp on the I-94 shows date and place of entry, visa status, limitations of stay, and the I-94 number (eleven digits) is printed on the form. For F-1 students, the expiration should say D/S, which stands for duration of status. Duration of status (D/S) means that you can remain in the U.S. as long as you continue to have a valid I-20 form and pursue the degree objective listed on your document.

  • Grace Period

    The grace period refers to a period of time during which you are able to stay in the U.S. to prepare for departure or a change to another visa status. Employment is not allowed during the grace period. The grace period for F status is 60 days after graduating or completing a program. The grace period is 15 days after authorized withdrawal from Athens Technical College and 0 days of unauthorized university withdrawal.

  • Nonimmigrant

    Foreign national who enters the U.S. for a temporary stay and does not intend to abandon his/her country

  • OPT

    Optional Practical Training is a year of off-campus work permission that students who obtain a degree in the U.S. can apply for

  • CPT

    Curricular Practical Training is off-campus work permission based on course work or an internship in your field of study.

  • Passport

    Your passport is your official identification while in the U.S. We recommended that you keep your passport valid at least six months into the future. Check with your country's consulate to renew or replace your passport. The student should carry their passport with them when traveling.


    The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a web-based system used by the federal government to monitor your visa status. SEVIS is administered by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). SEVIS is designed to keep our nation safe while facilitating the entry and exit process for foreign students in the United States and for students seeking to study in the United States.


    United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS)

  • Visa

    A stamp in the passport issued by an American Embassy or Consulate abroad allowing the holder to request entry to the United States in a certain visa status within the time period specified on the visa. An unexpired visa is necessary for entry to the United States. It is not a problem if your visa expires in the U.S. If you travel outside the U.S. and your visa has expired, you will need to obtain a new visa to re-enter the U.S.

  • Voluntary Departure

    Response of USCIS to applicant who files for a benefit, which is denied. Applicant is asked to leave the U.S. by an assigned date.