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Definitions and Acronyms

  • Alien: An alien can be a beneficiary of a petition filed by a petitioner with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an immigration benefit or an applicant to USCIS for related benefits. An alien can also be an applicant to a U.S. consulate for a visa, and an applicant to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for entry.
  • AFM:  American Federation of Musicians
  • AGMA:  American Guild of Musical Artists
  • AGVA:  American Guild of Variety Artists
  • CBP: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  CBP conducts inspections at all U.S. POEs and PFIs and determines whether to admit aliens and, if so, in what status and for how long.
  • Classification: A nonimmigrant visa classification or status such as O or P, meaning a particular statutory category that permits an alien temporarily to engage in defined activities in the U.S. per USCIS regulations, as disclosed in an underlying petition to USCIS for classification in a particular status.
  • Consular Section, Consular Post or Consulate: Each U.S. embassy abroad has an independent consular section responsible for issuing visas, among other things.  Consular posts, or consulates, perform the same functions but are located elsewhere than the Embassy.  Collectively, it is simpler to refer to these as “posts.”
  • CPT:  Curricular Practical Training
  • CSC:  California Service Center, one of two U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Centers that process I-129 petitions and I-539 applications. 
  • DOS:  U.S. Department of State
  • DSO:  Designated School Official
  • EAD:  Employment Authorization Document, issued by USCIS service centers
  • ESTAElectronic System of Travel Authorization.  Registration in ESTA is required before nationals of 36 countries may participate in the Visa Waiver Program.
  • I-129 Petitionused to apply for the O and P work-related nonimmigrant classifications, among others.  
  • I-539 Application: used to extend the stay and/or change the status of spouses and dependents (unmarried children under age 21) of aliens already in the U.S. in a nonimmigrant status (such as O or P). 
  • I–797: The document USCIS generates when it acts on a petition or application, such as by issuing a filing receipt, a Request for Evidence (RFE) or an approval or denial notice. 
  • I-94:  If CBP admits an alien through an airport, it will stamp the alien's passport with the visa classification and length of time for which the alien is admitted. The CBP online database will be updated with the information in an I-94 record of admission.  As of April 30, 2013, CBP will no longer issue paper I-94 cards, and instead makes the I-94 record available online at www.cbp.gov/I94. Once in the U.S., the I-94 record is far more important to the alien than visa or I-797. Even if the I-797 classification period is longer than the departure date on the I-94, the I-94 governs. Even if the visa expires while the alien is in the U.S., the I-94 governs! CBP inspectors at POEs and PFIs have discretion to ignore a prior approval by USCIS of a petition or issuance of a visa by a post if they suspect error, fraud, or misrepresentation. They must refuse entry unless the alien has a valid passport and an appropriate visa (except for Canadians, cases involving waivers of one or another of the requirements, and other rare instances).
  • IATSE:  International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees 
  • KCC: Kentucky Consular Center, part of the DOS Visa Office to which USCIS service centers send their I-129 petition approvals and associated files for scanning and entry into PIMS. 
  • Nonimmigrant: An alien admitted to the U.S. temporarily, in either a work-related or non-work-related visa classification, or by way of the Visa Waiver Program, who does not intend to remain permanently. "Nonimmigrant intent" is an important consideration for all aliens seeking O-2 and any P status, and their dependents.
  • Petitioner:  The individual (U.S. citizen or permanent resident), entity, employer, presenter, agent, sponsor or other party that files a petition on behalf of an alien for a particular nonimmigrant classification.
  • PFI:  Pre-Flight Inspection facility, where aliens undergo inspection by CBP personnel prior to boarding flights to the U.S.
  • PIMSThe Petition Information Management Service is the secure intranet KCC uses to make petition and application approval data available to consular posts abroad. 
  • POE:  Port of Entry (air, land or sea)
  • RFE:  Request for Evidence (see definition of I-797 above)
  • USCIS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • USCIS Contact Center: The USCIS Contact Center (part of USCIS), the toll-free number for most forms of assistance from USCIS, 1-800-375-5283. Representatives are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern, Monday – Friday (excluding federal holidays).
  • Visa:  A physical item embossed in a passport that contains a biometric photo embedded with fingerprint and other data, including the nonimmigrant classification involved. Of itself, a visa does not impart status of any kind; rather, it simply is a travel document that enables the alien to present himself/herself at a POE or PFI for admission in a certain status. An alien can apply for entry at any point during the visa's validity. That the visa may expire while the alien is in the U.S. is irrelevant. What matters is the expiration date on the I-94 CBP issued to the alien on entry.  That departure date should be on, or no more than 10 days after, the expiration date of the underlying classification period, as it is to that date, not the visa expiration date, that CBP is supposed to admit the alien. In general, all aliens require visas to enter the U.S. The visa requirement is waived for certain aliens, including those entering in Visa Waiver Program and Canadian citizens.

    Visas can last for varying periods of time, depending on a variety of factors. Work-related visas, such as Os and Ps, generally expire at the end of the approved classification period. However, the visa might be for a shorter period if, for instance, the alien chooses to pay a lower fee for a visa of shorter duration (in Russia) or if the alien is from a country that unduly limits the stays of U.S. nationals coming to that country for a similar purpose.  In such cases, the U.S. reciprocates by issuing much shorter U.S. visas to the nationals of those countries.  Indeed, nationals of some countries not only receive visas for shorter periods than normal, they can also be limited to as little as a single entry. For instance, O and P visas for Mexican nationals last for no more than six months, but with no limit on the number of entries for which the visa can be used. Those for nationals of the People's Republic of China are valid only for a single entry within a three-month period, while those for Brazilian nationals are valid for multiple entries during a three-month period. The "reciprocity schedule" for particular countries changes every so often. 
  • VO:  Visa Office of the Department of State
  • VSCVermont Service Center is one of two U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Centers that process I-129 petitions and I-539 applications.
  • VWP:  Visa Waiver Program, now in effect for nationals of 36 countries, whereby, by virtue of reciprocal agreements, citizens of the countries involved may travel by commercial air carrier to the other country as a tourist or business visitor without a visa, for up to 90 days. 
  • Work-related:  The category in question permits the alien to work in the U.S.  Aliens in the U.S. on B visas or in VWP status cannot work in the U.S., except in very narrow circumstances.  If authorized, those in F-1, M-1, and J-1 status may do so for any employer.  Aliens in “employer-specific” classifications such as O and P (and H-3 and Q-1) may work only in accordance with the itinerary or activities specified in the petition though, in certain circumstances, they may render similar services not previously disclosed.