OISS Glossary of Terms

Not all of these terms will apply to your experience as an F-visa or J-visa student in the United States. Use this reference as you see fit to help you better understand the terminology that shapes the immigration aspects of your life at and beyond Rice.

For additional glossary resources, see studyinthestates.dhs.gov/glossary.

212(e) (Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement)

A requirement that certain J-1 Exchange Visitors return to their home country for two years following the end of their program before becoming eligible for additional U.S. immigration benefits.

Academic Training (AT)

A type of work authorization available to J-1 students.

CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The largest law enforcement agency of DHS, and the USA’s primary border control organization.

CBP officers have final authorization to determine international student and scholar admissibility into the United States.


A meeting with OISS to confirm your arrival to the U.S., to review immigration regulations, and/or to provide information regarding academic and cultural life at Rice.

New students and scholars on any non-immigrant status are required to attend a check-in and orientation with OISS.

CIP Code

A classification code that denotes a student/scholar’s field of study.

CIP codes can be found on page 1 of the I-20/DS-2019.


Department of State office where F and J students and scholars apply for their visa page to enter the United States. Consulates carry out many of the same functions as embassies.

Course Load

The number of credits that a student takes during the semester. Unless previously authorized to study “part-time,” students are required to take a “full-time” course load, which is defined as 9 credits for graduate students and 12 credits for undergraduates.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)

A type of authorization that allows certain F-1 students to legally engage in off-campus research/training/employment related to their major field(s) of study. CPT is required for all off-campus opportunities, whether paid or unpaid.


A student's act of postponing enrollment in their academic program for one or more semesters. Deferrals are not automatically granted. They must be approved by the relevant academic departments at Rice.

Deferred Inspection

A port-of-entry determination that an immediate decision regarding the immigration status of an arriving traveler cannot be made (most often due to traveler’s lack of documentation).

The port of entry may require the traveler to report to a Deferred Inspection site at a future date in order to present the necessary documentation and/or information.


A spouse or child (unmarried and under 21 years old) who legally accompanies the primary visa holder to the United States. To legally enter the U.S., dependents must apply for the applicable dependent visa (e.g., F-2 or J-2), depending on the primary visa holder’s status.

DHS (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

Federal department responsible for U.S. public security, established following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Oversees other departments related to immigration such as ICE, CBP, and USCIS.

DOS (U.S. Department of State)

Federal department responsible for U.S. foreign policy and international relations. Administers the J-1 visa program.


Form DS-2019 is the basic document used in the administration of the exchange visitor program.

This certificate of eligibility permits a prospective exchange visitor to apply for a J visa to enter the United States.

DSO/PDSO (Designated School Official)

A university employee authorized by the U.S. government to advise international students and scholars on maintaining nonimmigrant visa status.

The DSOs are led by a Principal DSO (PDSO). The current PDSO at Rice is Dr. Adria Baker.

D/S (Duration of Status)

When international students and scholars arrive at the port of entry, they receive an admission stamp that indicates how long they may legally remain in the U.S.

Instead of a specific date by which they must depart the U.S., F and J visa holders are often eligible to remain for “D/S”: duration of status.


An online government program that cross-references an employer’s records to those available at DHS and SSA to confirm an employee’s work eligibility.


The main office of a country’s diplomatic representatives to another country. The embassy provides consular services.

EAD (Employment Authorization Document)

Document issued by USCIS that provides temporary employment authorization to noncitizens in the United States.

Employment F-1 students who are approved for the OPT and STEM OPT authorizations receive an EAD before they can begin work.

Exchange Visitor

A nonimmigrant in J-1 visa status who is approved to participate in research-, work-, and study-based programs.

Financial Aid

Funding to help students pay for college. International students can learn about Rice’s financial aid options at https://financialaid.rice.edu/apply-aid/international-students.

Grace Period

A set amount of time that departure from the U.S. can be legally delayed from the program or work authorization end date. During this time, the student/scholar cannot work, study, or engage in research.

F-1 students/scholars have a 60-day grace period. J-1 students/scholars have a 30-day grace period.

Health Insurance

A type of insurance that mitigates the risk of incurring costly medical expenses.

J-1 scholars are required by law to have health insurance coverage. Rice requires all degree-seeking students to maintain health insurance while enrolled.

H-1B Cap Gap

A benefit that provides a way of filling the “gap” between the end of F-1 OPT or STEM OPT and the beginning of H-1B.


The document that proves valid F-1 student status. The form contains information regarding funding, program, travel eligibility, and employment authorizations.


Application for employment authorization managed by USCIS. For F-1 students at Rice, this most often pertains to the OPT and STEM OPT applications.


An electronic record of arrival that CBP issues all nonimmigrants upon (re)admission to the U.S. International students and scholars receive a new I-94 record every time they enter the country.

ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Federal law enforcement agency under DHS. Their stated mission is to “secure our nation’s borders” and “safeguard the integrity of our immigration system.”

IRS (Internal Revenue Service)

Federal agency responsible for collecting taxes and administering the U.S. tax code.

ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)

A nine-digit number issued for tax purposes by the IRS to individuals who do not have and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number.

LOA (Leave of Absence)

An authorization to temporarily withdraw from an academic program.

Talk to an OISS advisor to determine if a leave of absence is right for you.


NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the flagship non-profit organization for professionals in all areas of international education in the U.S.

Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV)

A visa issued to individuals with a permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis.

OISS-IC (Office of International Students & Scholars—International Connections)

Chief liaison office for international students and scholars regarding academic, cultural, and legal issues at Rice University.

OPT (Optional Practical Training)

A work authorization that allows F-1 students to engage in off-campus training directly related to their major field(s) of study for up to 12 months.


A required national identity card and travel document for students and scholars who wish to enter and reside in the U.S.

Port of Entry

Point of arrival into the U.S. (e.g., airport) where international students and scholars present immigration documents to CBP.

Program Extension

Additional time in a program beyond the end date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019.

Students and scholars who require additional time to complete their programs must submit documentation and a compelling reason well in advance of the end date listed on their certificate of eligibility. Applications for extension are not guaranteed to be approved.

Program Start & End Dates

Dates on page 1 of the I-20/DS-2019 that represent the timeline of a nonimmigrant’s program of study/research.

RCL (Reduced Course Load)

An authorization for students to take less than the required “full-time” course load.

Must be approved by both OISS and Rice DOU/GPS.

RO/ARO (Responsible Officer)

A university employer who has been authorized by the Department of State to administer the school’s Exchange Visitor program. Alternate Responsible Officer’s are led by the Responsible Officer, who is Dr. Adria Baker.

SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System)

Government information system that stores international student and scholar record information, including physical address, program of study, immigration document numbers, work authorization history, etc.

SEVIS Number

Unique identifying number assigned by the US government. All SEVIS ID numbers start with the letter N, and can be found at the top of the I-20 or DS-2019.

SEVP (Student Exchange Visitor Program)

A program within ICE and DHS that encompasses the F and J visas, and is managed through SEVIS.

SSN (Social Security Number)

A nine-digit number issued to individuals by the Social Security Administration, a U.S. government agency.


A 24-month extension of the OPT work authorization.

Only F-1 students who graduate in a STEM field (as determined by the U.S. government) can apply for STEM OPT.


A compulsory system that ensures individuals are paying what they owe from their wage to government services.

Everyone who lives in the U.S. must “file taxes” the following year, even if they do not earn a wage. Generally, the annual deadline to do so is April 15.

Transfer-in / Transfer-out

A process of releasing the SEVIS record from one school/program to another. This is separate from an academic transfer.

Admission to a new school/program does not alone authorize international students or scholars to attend or perform research at the new school. There must also be a transfer of the SEVIS record.

Travel Signature

A signature on the I-20 or DS-2019 by OISS that allows active students and scholars who temporarily leave the U.S. to re-enter the country.

Travel signatures are valid for a period of six months.

USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)

A federal agency under DHS that administers the country’s naturalization and immigration system.

Visa Page

A travel document required for (re)entry to the U.S. Canadian citizens are exempt from requiring a visa page in their passport.

Visa Status

See a comparison of the F and J visa status categories.


Occurs when an enrolled student decides to leave the university after their program has begun.

Withdrawals require university approval, and result in visa termination.