Immigration Glossary of Terms

This glossary was prepared for students using an F-1 or J-1 visa for study in the U.S. There are many types of visas noted by letters of the alphabet such as A (for diplomats), G (for international organization employees), and R (for religious workers). If you already live in the U.S. with a different type of visa, it is important for you to understand the terms and requirements for your specific visa type. It may be beneficial for you to change status to a visa sponsored by Dickinson. For more information, refer to the Other Visa Types page.

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System): SEVIS is the internet-based database and information system designed to keep track of certain types of visitors in the United States. School officials are responsible for updating program information about international students whose visas are sponsored by the school.

Visa: A visa is a stamp put in the passport by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate that allows entry to the United States. Once a student is in the U.S. the visa may expire. The student can remain in the U.S. as long as he/she “maintains status,” which means following the regulations for the visa. If the student wants to travel abroad and return to the U.S. after the visa has expired, he/she will need to apply for a new visa. The best place to renew a visa is in the student’s home country. The procedure for visa renewal is basically identical to the procedure for obtaining a visa for the first time. Students should ensure International Services has a copy of the current visa.

F Visa: Most international students at Dickinson have an F-1 visa. It is the most common visa type for students receiving degree in the U.S. F-1 students may apply to bring spouses and dependent children with them to the U.S. as F-2 visa holders. F visas are controlled by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

DSO (Designated School Official): A DSO is a staff person who has authority to update information about F-1 students in SEVIS and produce/sign F-1 immigration documents, such as the Form I-20.

Form I-20: The I-20 is the document that proves an F-1 student is sponsored by an eligible institution. It lists the student’s personal details, as well as academic information specific to the student’s program. This information must be correct and up-to-date. A DSO will print the initial I-20 for new students and sign the bottom of the first page. The student is also required to sign the bottom of the first page. A DSO can also sign the third page to endorse travel. The second page provides information about basic F-1 regulations. The student must be prepared to show a current, original I-20 to immigration or law enforcement authorities while staying in the U.S. The student should keep all old I-20s as part of their permanent immigration record. It is the student's responsibility report changes to the information on the I-20 to International Services. When making photocopies, copy all three pages and ensure that any official stamps are visible.

J Visa: Exchange students, non-tenure-track professors, and some international visitors may have a J-1 visa. J-1 visa holders may apply for J-2 visas for their spouses and dependent children. Under certain conditions J-1 professors and visitors may work for Dickinson while being sponsored by another school. J visas are controlled by the US Department of State (DOS).

RO (Responsible Official): An RO is a staff person who has authority to update information about J-1 visa holders in SEVIS and produce/sign J-1 immigration documents, such as the Form DS-2019.

Form DS-2019: The DS-2019 is the document that proves a J-1 visitor is sponsored by an eligible institution. The first page is signed by an RO and the visitor. The second page provides information about basic J-1 regulations. When making photocopies, copy both pages.

Travel Signature: A DSO/RO may sign page 2 of the I-20 (for F-1 students) or page 1 of the DS-2019 (for J-1 visitors) to allow the student/visitor to travel in and out of the U.S. Signatures are valid for 1 year (only 6 months for some J-1 categories). A valid signature is required to re-enter the U.S., as well as a valid visa. It is the visa holder’s responsibility to request a travel signature well in advance of travelling. Travel signatures require verification of status and will not be given at the last minute or outside of normal office hours.

Form I-94: The I-94 records your departures and entries from each U.S. port of entry.