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International, Immigration, Refugee Status

The university is proud of its international students, trainees, faculty, and staff who have chosen to travel great distances to receive their education, train, or work in Utah. Identifying a student or employee as international should be done only when the designation is relevant to the content. If such identification is not relevant, the individual should be identified in the same way as domestic students and employees that are featured in content. Likewise, do not use an international individual’s national origin or ethnic/racial identification if it is not relevant to the content.

Always ask yourself if including a certain identity is necessary for the content.  If it is, then it is critical that you ensure you are asking the person, worker, student, or professional what language they prefer and verify that they are comfortable with the information being made public.

We include general guidance on style. For information beyond the scope of this guide, refer to the resources at the end of the section.

Visa Types

There are many types of visas for citizens of a foreign country wishing to enter the U.S. The type of visa relates to the purpose of travel.

  • The F-1 Student Visa (academic student) category allows the student to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, other academic institution, or in a language training program. Must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.

  • The M-1 Visa (vocational student) category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training.

  • The J-1 Visa (exchange visitor) are nonimmigrant visas for individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S. that includes students, physicians, trainees, professors, and research scholars.

  • The H-1B Visa (specialty occupation) is the most common work visa. The temporary work visa is available to foreign nationals who work in specialty occupations, such as engineering and computer science. Learn about other common work visas here.


  • A Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) allows an individual to permanently live and work in the United States. Green Card recipients are eligible through family, employment, special immigrant status, refugee status, for crime victims, and individuals in additional categories.


Visit the University of Utah Dream Center for news and updates, as some of the policies described change.

  • Refers to a non-citizen individual who resides in the U.S. without current, lawful immigration status. Undocumented individuals either entered the U.S. with or without inspection. With inspection means the individual entered the country with a valid visa or another status and overstayed the authorized duration of that given status, therefore do not currently have lawful status in the United States.

  • Refers to couples or families with members who have different immigration statuses. Such as U.S. citizen children having undocumented parents or siblings within their family unit. Note: "Mixed-status" also can be used in the health care industry to describe a relationship in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative.
  • Refers to people who have been forced to leave their country of origin to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. As of 2016, there were approximately 60,000 refugees living in Utah, representing countries including Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union, and Burma.

    Note: Refugee is a status that is granted by the receiving country, and it does not apply to all people who have been forced to leave. It is important to note the difference between people who are displaced and refugees.

  • Refers to people who are seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.

  • The DACA (The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program provides temporary relief from deportation and employment authorization for individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children, and who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. President Barack Obama created DACA by executive order in 2012. A beneficiary of DACA may refer to themselves as “DACAmented.”

  • The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act is congressional legislation that would allow young immigrants in the country who were brought here as children to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria. The legislation has not been approved by Congress, despite various versions being introduced over the years. The DREAM Act is similar to, but not the same as DACA.
  • Many refer to those who would benefit from either DACA or the DREAM Act as Dreamers. However, the term has expanded to include any young person living in the U.S. who are neither citizens nor legal permanent residents, and do not have a valid non-immigrant visa. Never reveal a person’s immigration status or describe them as a Dreamer unless that is what they prefer and you have their explicit permission.

  • For example, undocu-Mexican, undocu-Asian, etc. Some people describe themselves using the prefix “undocu-“ to reflect their experience as a person living in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.

  • The secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for temporary protected status due to the conditions in the country that temporarily prevent its nationals from returning safely or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. Find more information on TPS here.

Instead of…
Illegal immigrant, illegals, alien
undocumented immigrant, or simply undocumented
Illegal worker, no papers
undocumented worker

Writing and Interview Guidelines

  • Many People of Color are told that their names are too complicated or too difficult to pronounce. Use the name that the subject asks you to use and do not ask to use a nickname instead. Also, be sure to include any accents or diacritics in the person’s name rather than removing them to better align with English characters.
    • Example: Use señora instead of senora, and Nguyễn instead of Nguyen.
  • The word “America” is not synonymous with the United States. Two continents and more than 35 countries and sovereign territories make up “the Americas.” Additionally, many different types of people can be American, even if they were born in a different country. Be careful to not use “American” as synonymous with “White person with European ancestry.”
  • Avoid the stereotype that everyone who qualifies for DACA is from Mexico, Central or South America.
  • Always focus on the person—their achievement, their leadership, their scholarship, their research, etc.—not their immigration status. Unless, again they asked and chosen to have it incorporated.
  • Familiarize yourself with the range of categories describing a person’s citizenship and immigration status: nationality, country of origin, citizen, permanent resident, undocumented.
  • The status of undocumented workers should be discussed between source, content creator and with the content.
  • Use terms that are legally accurate and avoid racially and politically charged labels.
  • Not all undocumented people have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status (see definition below). Be sure to differentiate between these multifaceted experiences. Never reveal someone’s immigration status unless you ask and verify that the person wants this part of their identity revealed. Always make sure the individual explicitly approves what will be published before it becomes public and if it is relevant to the story.

University of Utah Resources

Dream Center works holistically with undocumented students and mixed-status families from college access to graduation. They engage in specialized college outreach and access strategies and promote campus-wide advocacy and trainings affecting undocumented students. They also provide advising and scholarship support for current and future U undocumented students.

International Student and Scholar Services fosters and supports a global campus community as part of the U’s transformation into a global university.

The Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX (OEO/AA) is dedicated to providing a fair and equitable environment for all to pursue their academic and professional endeavors and to equally access university programs.

Other Resources
International Rescue Committee, Salt Lake City
Refugees in Utah, University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute (2017) Fact Sheet