Business Schools

Beyond H-1B: An Immigration Glossary


Foreign B-school students wishing to study or work in the U.S. encounter a host of terms, beyond the first visa

For foreign MBAs, the process of entering the U.S. (BusinessWeek.com, 5/14/07)—and staying stateside to study and then work—can be a complicated one. The first challenge is finding a good immigration lawyer or a sponsoring company with a good immigration lawyer. The second challenge is understanding what your lawyer is telling you.

The most commonly heard immigration term on business-school campuses these days is H-1B, as in H1-B visa, for MBA graduates who want to continue to work in the U.S. after finishing business school. It refers to the visa that applies to a non-U.S. citizen who will be temporarily employed in a specialty occupation, according to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). There is a shortage of these visas, which is why international MBA students often start asking about these visas midway through their programs (BusinessWeek.com, 3/18/08).

But the H-1B is only the beginning of the alphabet soup of forms and work visas that a business-school student can encounter. Indeed, a non-U.S. student needs to acquire a whole new vocabulary that most Americans do not speak. Here is a starter glossary, prepared with the help of immigration attorney David A.M. Ware, that you'll need to know to get started on studying and working in the U.S. legally. For a lengthier list, you can also check out the State Dept. A-Z Subject Index.

Adjustment of Status (AoS): The last step to becoming a permanent resident, this is when a person changes from nonimmigrant status to immigrant status. It allows eligible applicants to become lawful permanent residents of the U.S. without having to go abroad and apply for an immigrant visa. The alternative to this step is consular processing, which allows you to apply and process a visa through a U.S. consulate abroad.

Advance Parole (AP): Commonly given to people in the last step of the permanent residence process, this classification gives foreigners permission to reenter the U.S. after leaving temporarily.

B-1 Visa: When foreigners come to the U.S. for conferences or meetings, they are entering with this visa. People with this status can also do some work, but the kind of work is very limited.

B-2 Visa: You might call this a tourist's pass. It allows people to visit the U.S. for pleasure or medical treatments.

E-1 or E-2: The U.S. has reciprocal treaties with various countries—such as Australia and Britain—that permit people in either place to invest and trade in the other's territory. The E-1 is for those who partake in substantial trade in a U.S. business. An E-2 allows you actually to participate in and/or create a business in the U.S.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD): A plastic card given by USCIS, this is usually valid for one year and is based on eligibility in one of many categories. It grants proof that the nonimmigrant is able to work in the U.S., according to USCIS.

F-1 Visa: Given to academic or language students on entering the U.S., this classification is encountered by all international students.

Form I-20: This document must be filled out by those who want F-1 status (or M-1, which is for vocational students) in order to attend school in the U.S. The form certifies that you have met the requirements of admittance to a particular university or school, will pursue a full course of study, and have shown that you can afford to live and study in the U.S. It has a period of validity. When time runs out, you can no longer stay in the country.

Form I-539: All persons who want to change immigration status or extend their stay in the U.S. must complete this form.

Green Card: Also known as Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR), this gives you official immigrant status in the U.S.

H-4: Referring to the classification of dependents of someone with an H-1B visa, this term describes wives and children under age 21 of international MBA graduates working with H-1Bs.

J-1 Visa: Anyone coming to the U.S. under the auspices of an educational or cultural exchange is eligible for this visa, including researchers, exchange students, dancers, and performers.

L-1 Visa: With this nonimmigrant visa, a U.S. entity can request the transfer of a person from a non-U.S. entity. For example, IBM could transfer a vice-president from one of its European offices to New York.

Labor Certification (LC): This is the first step in the permanent resident process. It involves your employer proving it cannot find a U.S. worker to do the job you're doing.

Nonimmigrant Status: When people are coming to the U.S. for a temporary stay, they are given this status on entry. It is also given to those extending their stay or changing their status. If persons with nonimmigrant status fail to comply with the rules and regulations of this status, they could lose the right to U.S. benefits and become deportable.

Petition: What an employer does on behalf of foreign employees to help them become permanent residents.

What other vocabulary would you like defined here? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.

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