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General Information/Glossary
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What is a visa?

A visa is the “stamp” in your passport that represents the classification (student, visitor, worker, etc.) that you have been granted at a U.S. embassy or consulate prior to your arrival in the United States. The visa will indicate the number of times you may enter or re-enter the United States with a particular visa classification. Please note that Canadian citizens are visa exempt.

What kind of visa should I apply for as a postdoc?

Normally a J-1 or H-1B visa. On the next page is a chart outlining the differing aspects of these two visas.

What does the term "home residency requirement" mean?

This only applies to some, but not all, J-1 or J-2 visa holders. The home residency requirement indicates that you must remain in your country of last legal permanent residence or nationality for two years before applying for permanent residency in the United States or for an H-1B visa. This restriction applies if you are receiving U.S., home government, or international organization funding, or if your home country is on the “Home Country Skills List” and your area of specialization during the J-1 program is noted on that list.

What is DHS?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) manages admission, authorized stay and other immigration related benefits.

What is USCIS?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) replaced the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This is the entity within the Department of Homeland Security that essentially adjudicates requests for immigration status in the United States.

What is CBP?

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the entity within the Department of Homeland Security that inspects and admits foreign nationals coming to the United States. In order to be admitted to the United States, you need to convince the CBP inspector that the purpose of your trip matches up with the immigration documentation you have been issued.


What is DOS?

The Department of State (DOS) issues visa stamps and conducts other U.S. diplomatic business abroad.

What is DOL?

The Department of Labor (DOL) manages the wages and working conditions connected to the H-1B visa.

What is SEVIS?

The Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an internet-based system that requires institutions to report various data regarding students on F and M visas as well as exchange visitors on J visas. Primary visa holders and their dependents in these visa classifications are required to report their home address, registration information, etc.

What is the Form DS-2019?

It is a certificate of eligibility for a J-1/J-2 visa and confirms that the institution has screened the exchange visitor for appropriate academic credentials and adequate financial support to undertake the research stay in the United States. The Form DS-2019 has an expiration date and must be maintained with periodic institutional validations.


What is Form I-797?

The Form I-797 is the basic form used by USCIS in adjudicating visa petitions. H-1B approval notices are issued on Form I-797 and it is this document that needs to be presents to the DOS Consular Officer and the CBP Inspector to establish entitlement to H-1B benefits.