Terms and Concepts

U.S. government agencies
Immigration terms
Immigration documents

U.S. government agencies

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): Adjudicates petitions and applications for immigration benefits. There is a USCIS field office in Honolulu; individuals can make appointments on InfoPass to meet with USCIS officers at this office. However, most applications must be submitted directly to a USCIS Service Center, which are strictly processing centers and are not open to the public. The USCIS National Customer Service Center can be reached at 1-800-375-5283.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): Conducts border patrol and inspections of individuals seeking admission to the U.S. at the ports of entry. Individuals may contact the Honolulu CBP office if they have questions about customs or admission processes.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Conducts immigration and customs investigations, detentions, removals, and SEVIS administration and enforcement. Individuals with questions about these issues may contact the Honolulu ICE field office.


Department of Labor (DOL)
  • Employment and Training Administration: Certifies Form ETA 9035E Labor Condition Application (LCA), Form ETA 9141 Application for Prevailing Wager Determination (PWD), and Form ETA 9089 Application for Permanent Employment Certification (PERM).


Department of State (DOS)
  • Bureau of Consular Affairs: Provides travel, passport, and visa information to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.
  • J-1 Exchange Visitor Program (EVP): The EVP furthers U.S. foreign policy interests by increasing the mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange experiences.
  • U.S. embassies and consulates: Function as a center for U.S. diplomatic affairs within the borders of another nation, serving as the headquarters of the chief of mission, staff and other agencies. Provides services, such as passport issuance, for U.S. citizens in those countries and also performs functions such as issuing visas to non-U.S. citizens/permanent residents.


Immigration terms

3-year and 10-year bars for unlawful presence

Anyone who is unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days but less than one year can be barred from entering the U.S. for three years if they leave and try to reenter the U.S. If someone is unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than one year, they can be barred from entering the U.S. for 10 years.

Dual intent

A principle that excludes certain nonimmigrant status holders (e.g., H-1B, O-1) from the usual requirement of proving nonimmigrant intent upon applying for visas or entry to the U.S. Therefore, the filing of an immigrant petition or an approved permanent labor certification filed on a qualifying nonimmigrant status holder’s behalf cannot serve as a basis for a denial of a petition or entry to the U.S.

Immigration/visa status

The type of nonimmigrant classification assigned to an individual for the period of authorized stay in the U.S. (e.g., J-1, H-1B, TN, O-1). The length of time the individual may remain in the U.S. and the types of activities in which they may engage are determined by their specific immigration status. Individuals often can change from one nonimmigrant status to another. However, it is crucial that the individual not violate the terms of status or remain longer in the U.S. than permitted by the particular status.

Immigrant classification

For foreign nationals who will live and work in the U.S. permanently and become U.S. lawful permanent residents. The main types of immigrant classifications are employment-based (e.g., EB-1, EB-2), family-sponsored, and public/humanitarian policy-based.

Nonimmigrant classification

Allows foreign nationals to come to the U.S. for limited, temporary purposes. Generally, a holder of one of these types of classifications must overcome the presumption of immigrant intent. This is done when applying for a nonimmigrant visa and at entry to the U.S. by showing evidence of intent to depart the U.S. after completing the specific purpose. Some examples of nonimmigrant classifications are B-1, F-1, and H-1B.


Immigration documents

Employment Authorization Document (EAD): Certain nonimmigrants (e.g., J-2 dependents, F-1 students on OPT) must obtain this card by filing Form I-765 with USCIS in order to be eligible to work in the U.S. USCIS can take 5-7 months to issue an EAD. (Note: An EAD is not necessary for H-1B, TN, J-1, or O-1 employment in the specific position for which the given status was sought.)

Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status: Issued to J-1 exchange visitors and J-2 dependents to obtain and maintain J nonimmigrant status. At UH, this form is generated in SEVIS by FSIS and UHM International Student Services for UH sponsored J status holders.

Form I-94 Admission Record: Electronically issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to all nonimmigrants entering the U.S. It specifies the individual’s immigration status, date and place of entry, and the expiration date of the immigration status, indicated by either a specific date or a “D/S” notation, which stands for “Duration of Status.” Along with the electronically issued Form I-94 record, they will receive an admission stamp with a visa type and period of stay notations in their passports. The Form I-94 record serves as evidence of the person’s status in the U.S. and the period for which the person is authorized to remain in the U.S.

Form I-20: Issued to F-1 students and F-2 dependents (and M-1 and M-2 status holders) to obtain and maintain F/M nonimmigrant status. At UH, this form is generated in SEVIS and issued by the international student services offices at each UH campus to UH sponsored F status holders

Form I-797A or I-797B approval notice: Issued by USCIS in response to an employer’s petition filed on behalf of employee beneficiaries to obtain and maintain temporary employment statuses (e.g., E-3, H-1B, O-1, TN). At UH, FSIS processes all petitions for these types of UH employment statuses.

Passport: Used by individuals as evidence of citizenship of a particular country and permits individuals to travel abroad under the protection of the home country and to return to the home country once travel is completed. The U.S. requires all nonimmigrants in the U.S. to carry a valid passport. Passports nearing expiration must be renewed by the individual’s home government and can normally be accomplished at a consulate or embassy in the U.S. A person’s passport must be valid at the time of application for an extension or change of nonimmigrant status. Citizens of certain countries are required to hold a passport that is valid for at least six months past the end date of their immigration status at the time they enter the U.S.

Permanent resident card (green card or Form I-551): An identification card issued by USCIS to all U.S. lawful permanent residents. Older versions containing no expiration date are no longer valid. New versions are normally valid for 10 years.

Visa: Issued by U.S. embassies and consulates and serves as initial permission to apply for entry to the U.S., but does not guarantee entry. It indicates the specific immigration classification and the number of entries permitted into the U.S. without obtaining a new visa. Citizens of Canada, citizens of the British Overseas Territories of Bermuda who intend to stay 180 days or less in the U.S., and visitors entering on the Visa Waiver Program are not required to obtain visas to enter the U.S. An individual who is required to have a visa to enter the U.S. but fails to do so can be fined or sent back to the home country.

Visas have no effect on the date by which an individual must leave the U.S. Instead, a person’s permitted length of stay is determined by the expiration date on the document evidencing the particular immigration status and by the admit until date on the Form I-94 record and admission stamp. For instance, a J-1 exchange visitor’s period of authorized stay is determined by the Form DS-2019; an H-1B’s period of stay is determined by the Form I-797 approval notice and/or the admit until date on the Form I-94 record.