William & Mary

Glossary of Immigration Abbreviations and Definitions

General Definitions

Immigrant:  A permanent resident with a “green card” who may stay and work in US permanently. Also known as a permanent resident. W&M sponsors tenure eligible faculty and permanent professional employees for permanent residency. Steve is the point person for this.

Non-immigrant: May stay in US for a limited period for a specific purpose as permitted by their visa.

Spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21.

The Visa is an entry document in the passport.  During the period of its validity, a person may use it to enter the U.S.  The visa does not determine how long you are allowed to stay in the U.S., that is determined by the status (i.e. a visa could expire the day after you enter the US and you would still have the legal authorization to remain for the next 9 years to finish your PhD).  A visa is issued to match the status in which you wish to enter the US.

Status: Status is how you are defined by immigration law and sets forth how long you may stay in the country, what employment you may or may not engage in, etc. Our international students are primarily in F-1 status. Tenure eligible professors are in H-1B status. Exchange students and many visiting professors/visiting scholars are in J-1 status.

Visa Waiver Program.  The VWP enables citizens of participating countries (mostly European, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea) to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism for 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa.  Those entering for business purposes are admitted in WB status; those entering for purposes of pleasure are admitted in WT status. (see below).

Federal Immigration Systems

USVISIT: U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology.  US-VISIT is a DHS entry-exit system that collects biometric data to verify the visitor’s identity and compliance with visa and immigration policies.  It does this by scanning the passport, face, and fingerprints and comparing that information to its database. 

Student Exchange Visitor Information System.  SEVIS is a DHS system that maintains and manages data on foreign students and exchange visitors during their stay in the United States. It is through this system that I-20 and DS-2019 documents are issued. International student offices are required to update this system regularly.

Federal Immigration Processing Centers

CSC: California Service Center. The California Service Center (VSC) is one of five adjudication (USCIS) processing centers in the United States. The CSC adjudicates a variety of immigration applications and petitions for our faculty. W&M’s connection to the CSC is that they process all the H-1B applications we submit.

VSC: Vermont Service Center. The Vermont Service Center (VSC) is one of five adjudication (USCIS) processing centers in the United States. The VSC adjudicates a variety of immigration applications and petitions for immigration benefits (e.g. Reinstatement, Change of status) for our students.

YSC: Potomac Service Center. The Potomac Service Center (YSC) is one of five adjudication (USCIS) processing centers in the United States. The YSC adjudicates a variety of immigration applications and petitions for immigration benefits (e.g. Reinstatement, OPT) for our students. 


DSO: Designated School Official.   The DSO is a representative to the federal government represents in matters relating to students on F-1 visas and has the responsibility of issuing I-20s, signing I-20s for travel, updating SEVIS, ensuring institutional compliance. A school’s approval to accept nonimmigrant students may be withdrawn for failure of a school official to comply with requirements and enforcement of regulations.  Trisha, Cathy, and Guru are DSOs for William and Mary. Steve is the PDSO (Principal Designated School Official) and is the primary representative to the Department of Homeland Security.

ARO: Alternate Responsible Officer.  This designation is similar to DSO.  Official administrator of an exchange visitor program (J-1).  Duties include: knowledge about exchange visitor regulations and codes, advising and assisting exchange visitors, communicating with government agencies, issuing DS-2019s and signing them for travel. Trisha and Guru are AROs (Alternate Responsible Officers). Debi will be appointed an ARO. Steve is the RO and is the primary institutional representative to the State Department.

Immigration Status (nonimmigrant categories)

F-1: Student.  Most international students at W&M are in F-1 status.  This status is for individuals in the United States engaging in a full course of academic study in an accredited educational program.  May include elementary school, academic high school, college/university, conservatory, or language training.  May include non-degree, associates, bachelor’s master’s, and doctorate students. We issue I-20s for students in F-1 status.

Dependents of F-1 student.  Not permitted to be employed but can study. Can enroll in university on a part-time basis.  We issue I-20s for F-2s.

Exchange Visitor (short-term scholar, student, post-doc, professor, researcher or specialist) under the sponsorship of a designated program sponsor.  Most exchange students are J-1s. we issue DS-2019s for exchange students and scholars in J-1 status.

Dependents of a J-1 student or scholar.  J-2s are permitted to study and work with DHS authorization. We issue DS-2019s for J-2s.

Professional work visa status for employment in specialty occupations (those requiring application of specialized knowledge attained through equiv of Bachelor’s) Can be used for up to 6 years and is often a stepping stone to the greencard.  Using for I-129, we file applications to sponsor faculty and employees for H1B status. The approval notice comes on Form I-797. Trisha is the point person for this.

Dependents of an H nonimmigrant.  Not permitted to be employed, but may study. 

Visitor for Business.  Individuals in the United States for a short time to engage in business activities such as negotiating contracts for overseas employees, consulting with business associates, attending professional conferences, or conducting independent research.  Visitors for Business may not engage in any employment in the United States, but can receive honoraria and reimbursement of travel expenses.

Visitor for Tourism.  Individuals in the United States for travel, tourism, or recreation.  May not engage in any employment in the United States. 

Visa waiver for Business (WB) and Tourism (WT).  Individuals permitted to enter the US without a visa for a stay limited to 90 days.  Available only to citizens of certain countries.

  Trade NAFTA.  Only for Canadian and Mexican citizens.  Individuals are in the United States to perform professional services for a sponsoring employer in a specific position for a fixed period of time. At universities, TN is only used for certain positions (Instructors/Professors, Researchers, Specialists in the sciences).  Granted in 1 year increments.