Listed below are definitions of technical immigration terms to help our readers better understand the content of our website.


The term “cap gap” refers to the period of time between the time an F-1 student’s status would ordinarily end and his or her H-1B status begins. More on our website.
Cap-Gap Extension
A period in which an eligible F-1 student’s status is automatically extended to bridge the gap between the end of F-1 status and start of H-1B status. If the student is in a period of authorized post-completion OPT on or after the date the student becomes eligible for the extension, the student’s post-completion OPT is also automatically extended.
Change of Status
For foreign nationals on nonimmigrant visa who are currently in the United States, and would like to change the purpose of their visit while in the United States, they (or in some cases their employer) must file a request with USCIS on the appropriate form before their authorized stay expires. More on USCIS website.
Country of Chargeability
Where the immigrant is “charged”, means that person is counted towards a given country’s numerical limit.  For example, an immigrant born in Ethiopia is “charged” to Ethiopia, and therefore counted towards reaching the numerical limit for that country. The person would be “charged” to Ethiopia, even if the immigrant born in Ethiopia was born of Yemeni parents and has a passport from Yemen.  Although immigrants are normally “charged” to their country of birth, they are sometimes able to claim another country of chargeability through their spouse for the sake of immigration.  This is also known as “cross-chargeability.”  For example, an applicant born in India may “cross-charge” to his or her spouse’s country of birth if it would help him or her reach the visa “cut-off date” faster.
Current / Non-Current
This refers to the priority date of a petition in an immigrant visa preference category in relationship to the immigrant visa cut-off date. A case is current if the priority date comes on or before the cut-off date published on the monthly Visa Bulletin. This means that an immigrant visa is available, and the immigrant visa application or adjustment of status application can now be processed. On the other hand, a case is not current if the priority date comes after the cut-off date.  This means that the applicant will need to wait longer.
Curricular Practical Training
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a training program which allows students to accept internships and work during the school year. CPT must relate to the students’ major and the experience must be part of their program of study.
E-Verify is a free internet-based system operated in partnership with the Social Security Administration. E-Verify electronically compares information contained on the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 with records contained in SSA and DHS databases to assist employers verify identity and employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. More on USCIS website.
Numerical Limit
The number of immigrant visas that can be issued to foreign nationals is subject to per-country numerical limits. The limit is based on place of birth, not citizenship. Because of this, there is typically a waiting time before immigrant visas can be granted. Continue to Operation of the Immigrant Numerical Control System >>
Post-completion OPT
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in post-completion OPT after his or her program end date. The post-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. More on our website.
Pre-completion OPT
An F-1 student may be authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT after he or she has been enrolled for one full academic year. The pre-completion OPT must be directly related to the student’s major area of study. Students authorized to participate in pre-completion OPT must work part-time while school is in session. They may work full time when school is not in session. F-1 students should check with their International Students and Scholars Office on campus for more information about pre-completion OPT.
Prevailing Wage
Prevailing wage is the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. It applies to most of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) employment-based visa programs.  DOL regulations require that wages offered to a foreign worker must be the prevailing wage rate for the occupational classification in the area of employment. This is in compliance with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requirement that the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed.
Priority Date
The priority date determines a person’s turn to apply for an immigrant visa. In family immigration the priority date is the date when the petition was filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or submitted to an Embassy or Consulate abroad. In employment immigration, the priority date may also be the date the labor certification application was received by the Department of Labor (DOL).
This refers to the backward movement of immigrant visa availability for preference categories. When there is retrogression in a preference category, the cut-off date reflected on the monthly visa bulletin moves back to an earlier date than the cut-off date published in the previous month(s). Sometimes, immigrant visas becomes totally unavailable. This means that no cut-off date is set, and a letter “U” is indicated instead. Retrogression occurs when the annual numerical limit has been reached. This usually happens near the end of a fiscal year (the fiscal year start from October 1 and end on September 30 of the next year). When the new fiscal year begins, the Visa Office gets a new supply of visa numbers and usually brings back the cut-off dates to where they were before retrogression. More on our website.
Visa Bulletin
The Visa Bulletin provides information regarding the cut-off dates which govern visa availability in the numerically limited visa categories and other immigrant visa related information. More on DOS website.
Visa Numbers
Congress establishes the amount of immigrant visas granted each year. While immigrant visas for immediate relatives is unlimited, the availability for preference categories are limited. To distribute the visas fairly among all categories of immigration, the Visa Office in the U.S. Department of State (DOS) distributes the visas by providing visa numbers according to preference and priority date. Continue to Operation of the Immigrant Numerical Control System >>