Special Reports

Visa Definitions

September 27, 2012

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

ESTA: Electronic System of Travel Authorization. Registration in ESTA is required before nationals of 36 countries may participate in the Visa Waiver Program.

I-129 Petition: Used 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, it generally will issue to that alien a small white card that states the visa classification and length of time for which the alien is admitted. This card is known as the I-94. Once in the U.S., the I-94 is far more important to the alien than the 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.

NCSC: National Call Service Center (part of USCIS), the toll-free number for most forms of assistance from USCIS, 1-800-375-5283.NCSC has live agents available Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in each time zone.

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.

PIMS: The 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)

Premium Processing: Procedure by which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) promises visa processing within 15 calendar days in exchange for more money, specifically $1,225 per petition, in addition to the standard processing fee of $325 per petition.

Regular or Standard Processing: Procedure by which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) aims to process visas within 14 to 90 days for a fee of $325 per petition.

RFE: Request for Evidence (see definition of I-797 above) USCIS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

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.

VO: Visa Office of the Department of State

VSC: Vermont 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.

Reprinted from ArtistsfromAbroad, with permission from the League of American Orchestras and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.



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