Glossary of Terms Related to an International Student's Experience

Agent: a company (agency) or individual (agent) contracted and paid by high schools and universities in other countries to advise and recruit students to their institutions.
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: a bureau within the US Department of State that works to inform both US students wishing to study abroad and international students wishing to go abroad for cultural, educational, or professional exchange.
Certificate of Finances: a form issued by CollegeBoard that helps colleges and universities obtain accurate information about international applicants’ funds who are seeking to study in the US. As financial verification is required before offering a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) to an international student, this form facilitates that end goal.
College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile: an online service provided by CollegeBoard that allows students, including international students, to apply for financial aid. CollegeBoard member schools have access to the information once submitted and students must pay a small fee to create a CSS Profile. More detailed than FAFSA and available earlier, the CSS profile is a good option for early action and decision applicants, as it gives the schools they are applying to a better idea of financial aid needs early on.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT): full-time or part-time employment which is an integral part of an established curriculum such as work study, internship, practicum, etc. CPT must relate to a student’s major and be part of their program of study. CPT can be obtained only prior to the completion of the student’s degree and they must already have a job offer when they apply for CPT.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS): manages SEVP and Study in the States, both which provide resources to prospective international students
Designated School Official (DSO): all SEVP-certified schools are required to have one DSO. These individuals are responsible for communicating regularly with SEVP. This individual is typically an international student’s greatest resource on campus when it comes to the visa process, maintaining student status, and following proper regulations and guidelines once in the United States.
DS-2019: Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status; issued to potential J-1 visa applicants; the form is completely unique to each student as it receives its own SEVIS ID number.
EducationUSA: a US Department of State network that promotes US higher education to international students by offering guidance about opportunities to study abroad in their home countries. EducationUSA is comprised of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries. 
F-1: Student Visa; issued to international students who are attending an academic or English language program at a US college or university. Students must maintain student status while studying with this visa, which usually means maintaining a full-time course load of a minimum number of credit hours.
General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE): an academically rigorous subject-specific test generally taken by students in secondary education institutions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over a two year period.
General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (A-Level): a curriculum program, completed with a school-leaving test, administered in the United Kingdom, but also implemented and recognized in a number of different countries worldwide. The curriculum is split into two parts, studied over two years. The first part, Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS), is a qualification on its own. However, when the second part, the A2 Level, is completed as well, the two form a complete A Level qualification. 
I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status; issued to potential F-1 and M-1 visa applicants by the United States Department of Homeland Security. Needed to apply for nonimmigrant visa, to obtain entry to the US, and payment of required international student fees to the school a student decides to attend.
I-94: Arrival/Departure Record for foreign visitors; Customs officials will compile visitors’ I-94 arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records for air and sea ports of entry or via paper forms for land border ports of entry. Nonimmigrant visitors who need to access their I-94 number can go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website​.
I-17: Form “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student;” this form is required to be completed and then certified by SEVP before any school in the United States can enroll nonimmigrant students.
Independent Educational Consultant: a professional hired and paid only by students and their parents for personalized advice on the university search, application and admission processes.
International Baccalaureate (IB): international educational foundation offering four programs (divided by age) for children 3-19. Their diploma program for ages 16-19 is recognized around the world as a respected, advanced course option for high school students.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS): a test assessing the English language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is the language of communication. This exam is administered face-to-face with an examiner and assesses test-takers on their listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. IELTS is accepted by more than 9,000 universities, schools and organizations in over 145 countries.
J-1: Exchange Visitor Visa; issued to individuals approved to participate in work or study-based exchange visitor programs. Exchange visitors are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program.
M-1: Student Visa; issued to international students who are attending vocational or technical schools in the United States.
Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB): standardized exam for adult, intermediate to advanced non-native speakers of English. Test-takers are evaluated for the skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking. The written, listening and grammar/vocabulary components are required. The speaking component, in which you speak with an examiner, may not be offered at every test site and is not automatically included in the test registration. Over 550 US colleges and universities accept the MELAB.
Optional Practical Training (OPT): Optional Practical Training must relate to a student’s course of study/major and is typically completed after the completion of their degree program. A student can apply for 12 months of OPT at the bachelor’s level and another 12 months at the master’s level.
Principal Designated School Official (PDSO): all SEVP-certified schools are required to have one Principal Designated School Official, who serves as the main point of contact for SEVP. Schools with PDSOs can have additional Designated School Officials (DSOs), whom they are required to update SEVP about and monitor recertification.
Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS): web-based system developed by the DHS to maintain information on SEVP-certified schools and the F and M visa students that come to study at them. SEVIS also maintains information on the exchange visitor, program sponsors, and J-1 visa holders, which are managed through the Department of State. Through SEVIS, the essential I-20 forms are issued to students looking to obtain F or M status visas, student records are transferred to other institutions, the certification of educational institutions as SEVP-certified are approved and monitored.
Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP): part of the National Security Investigations Division that manages schools, nonimmigrant students (F or M visas) and their dependents.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): exam taken to measure one’s English language proficiency. The exam evaluates test-takers in four ways: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. This test can be taken over the internet or in paper format. Recognized by over 9,000 colleges, universities and agencies in in over 130 countries.
United States Department of State: the department of the US federal government that sets forth and maintains the foreign policy of the US, especially in negotiations with foreign governments and international organizations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): comprehensive border management and control by combining customs, immigration, border security and agricultural protection all under CBP. Students will deal with employees of CBP when they enter and depart the United States.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): enforces federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety.

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