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Glossary of Immigration Terms

As you go through the US Immigration process, you may come across terms that are unfamiliar to you. We have attempted to catalog the most common terms so you can understand their meaning. If you hear or read about a term that is not listed here and you are not sure of its meaning, it would be in your best interest to look up the word or term to avoid any confusion or difficulty.

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z


"A" Number
The term used on the Alien Registration number. An “A" number is issued to all aliens applying for permanent residence.

Academic Training
This type of training is for students on a J-1 visa. The training is similar to students on an F-1 visa doing the Optional Professional Training (OPT). However, academic training is only for J-1 visa holders.

Acquired Citizenship
Citizenship bestowed at birth on children who are born overseas to U.S. citizen parent(s).

Act means the "Immigration and Nationality Act" (or INA), as amended.

American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998.

The term describing the USCIS process of reviewing and processing applications and petitions.

Adjustment of Immigrant Status
A process that permits a number of foreigners who are already in the United States to apply for immigrant status. Foreigners who enter the United States as non-immigrants, refugees, or parolees might have their status altered to that of legal permanent resident if they are qualified to obtain an immigrant visa and one is available right away. If the status is changed successfully, the alien is considered an immigrant as of the date of the adjustment regardless if the alien may have been in the United States for a long period of time.

Admission in immigration terms is related to the lawful entry into the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer. Note that admission does exclude a person who is paroled or permitted to land temporarily.

Admission Number
The particular number is found on your I-94 card, which will change every time you enter the Unites States. Remember to give this card back once your leave the U.S. so there is a record of your U.S. entry and departure.

See Orphan.

Advance Parole
The term used for legal permission to leave the United States and re-enter during the adjustment of the individuals status procedures.

Affidavit of Support
The affidavit of support is a sworn document provided by an individual who will provide financial support to an alien who seeks to adjust existing status or enter the United States. In some cases, the Affidavit of Support is required and needs to be included as a part of the petition process. There are two Affidavits of Support: Form I-864 and Form I-134. The law and regulations must be consulted to learn the appropriate use and requirements for each.

Aggravated Felony

Aggravated Felony refers to more serious crimes. If you have committed an aggravated felony, you are not eligible for naturalization. The Immigration and Nationality Act and the laws in each state determine what is considered an aggravated felony.

Agricultural Worker
An agricultural worker is a foreign worker who is coming to the United States to carry out agricultural work or services, as defined by the Secretary of Labor, for a temporary period of time as a nonimmigrant.

Abbreviation for "American Immigration Lawyers Association."

Belonging to another country or people. A foreign born resident of a country who has not been naturalized.

Aliens Previously Removed
A term used to describe the inadmissibility for individuals previously removed from anywhere between 5 to 20 years, depending upon the circumstances of each case. INA Section 212(a)(9)(A), 8 USC Section 1182.

Amerasian Act
Public Law 97-359 (Act of 10/22/82) that permits certain Amerasian children to immigrate to the United States. An alien must have been born in Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and have been fathered by a U.S. citizen for him/her to meet the requirements for benefits under this law.

Amerasian (Vietnam)
Immigrant visas are granted to Amerasians under Public Law 100-202 (Act of 12/22/87). This law grants aliens who are born in Vietnam after January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976 admission to the United States provided he/she was fathered by a U.S. citizen. The alien may be accompanied by spouses, children, and parents or guardians.

The individual applying for visa, change of status or citizenship.

Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration
The procedures for applying for immigrant status through a U.S. consulate.

Application Support Centers (ASC)
USCIS applications for Naturalization or to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status necessitate the USCIS to carry out a FBI fingerprint background check on the applicant. Most applicants who require a background check have to be present for one at a specific Application Support Center (ASC) or Designated Law Enforcement Agency (DLEA) for fingerprinting purposes.

Apprehension refers to arresting a removable foreigner by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

AR-11, Alien's Change of Address Card
The form you must submit to notify USCIS of a change in address.

Abbreviation for USCIS "Application Support Center."

A foreigner in the United States or at a port of entry who is established to be incapable or reluctant to go back to his or her country of nationality, or to ask for the protection from that country because of persecution or a well-substantiated fear of persecution. The reasons for fear of persecution have to be the foreigner’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a unique social group, or political views. The country of nationality is considered to be the country in which the foreigner most recently lived for those without any nationality. Asylees are entitled to adjust to the legal permanent resident category after one year of continuous presence in the United States. This category is limited to 10,000 adjustments per fiscal year.



BCIS stands for the "Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services."

Foreigners who obtain lawful immigration statuses as a result of their relationship to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or U.S. employers.

Abbreviation for "Board of Immigrant Appeals."

Bona Fide
Genuine or true. Authentic.

Border Crosser
Border crosser is a foreign resident who reenters the United States after being not present for less than six months in Canada or Mexico. It also refers to a nonresident alien who reenters the United States via the Canadian border for stays that are less than six months or across the Mexican border for stays that are less than 72 hours.

Business Nonimmigrant
A foreigner who enters the United States on a temporary basis to take part in commercial deals that do not involve lucrative work in the United States such as someone who is involved in international commerce on behalf of a foreign company.



Cancellation of Removal
It is a legal procedure undertaken in front of an immigration judge in order to adjust the status of a foreigner from deportable to a legal permanent resident.

Certificate of Citizenship
A legal document that is issued to derivative citizens and foreigners who obtained U.S. citizenship in order to prove identity and U.S. citizenship.

Certificate of Naturalization
An official document that is issued by the Department of Homeland Security. The certificate is the proof that an individual has become a U.S. citizen (naturalized) after immigration to the United States.

Change of Status
The application process of changing status from one immigration status to another immigration status.

The term generally refers to unmarried persons who are under age 21. There are many types of children:

  • Born within a marriage.
  • Stepchildren, but only if the child was under 18 years of age when the marriage that created the stepchild relationship took place.
  • A legitimated child if the child was legitimated while in the legal custody of the legitimating parent.
  • An adopted child under age 16 who has lived in the lawful custody of the adopting parents for a minimum of 2 years since adoption.
  • An orphan under age 16 years who has been adopted overseas by a U.S. citizen or who is coming to the United States for adoption by a U.S. citizen

The abbreviation for "Citizenship and Immigration Services." See BCIS or USCIS.

Normally citizenship describes the country in which a person was born. However, a person can change citizenship in a process called naturalization.

Civil Surgeons
Doctors trained and certified by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. These are the doctors you should go to if USCIS asks you for immigration examinations.

Community Based Organization (CBO)
There are many CBOs that assist immigrants who are new to the U.S. and/or who need assistance with the naturalization process. A CBO will help you with your application and guide you through the naturalization process.

Conditional Resident
Conditional residents are those foreigners who have conditional permanent resident status such as the spouse of an American citizen. They are usually required to formally request the elimination of the set conditions before the second anniversary of the approval of his or her conditional status.

The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. Any Changes to the Constitution are called Amendments.

A diplomat appointed by the United States government to protect its commercial interests and help its citizens in a foreign country. The consul is also responsible for issuing visas to non-U.S. citizens who wish to travel to the United States

Consular Processing
This is the application process an alien goes through to apply for permanent residency at a U.S. Consulate in his or her home country. The applicant must have an approved I-140 in addition to an immigrant number.

Official United States government office located in foreign country. Consulates deal with foreign trade and visa issues. Consulates are normally located in major cities.

"Continued" is one of the three decisions that may be given after your interview: If your case is continued, your case is being put on hold until you retake the civics or English tests or submit additional documentation.

Continuity of Residence
When an alien is seeking U.S. residency, an absence of more than one year will automatically lead to a break of the continuity of the alien’s residence. The consequences of breaking the continuity is that the alien must begin the process all over again. While an applicant can get permission to leave the U.S. during the residency period, it is generally not recommended to do so.

Continuous Residence
Continuous residence is one of the key requirements for naturalization. Continuous residence may broken if you leave the U.S. for six months or more on a single trip.

The process of a formal judgment of guilt entered by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Country of

  • Birth: The country in which a person was born.
  • Citizenship: It is the country where a person was born (if the person has not given up or lost his/her citizenship to that country), or the country of naturalization (if the person has taken citizenship to a country that is not his/her country of birth).
  • (Last) Residence: The last country where a foreigner lived before coming into the United States.
  • Former Allegiance: It is the former country of a person who became a citizen of the United States through naturalization or derivative citizenship.
  • Nationality: The country of a person’s citizenship.

CPT stands for "Curricular Practical Training." CPT is a description for off-campus work permission granted to foreigners going to school or university in the U.S. where the work is a part of an internship.

An alien who serves in a capacity obligatory for typical operations and service on board of a vessel or airplane.

Abbreviation for "California Service Center."

Cuban/Haitian Entrant
Cubans who came into the United States unlawfully or were paroled into the United States between April 15, 1980, and October 10, 1980, and Haitians who came into the United States unlawfully and were paroled into the country before January 1, 1981. Cubans and Haitians who have lived in the United States since before January 1, 1982, and who were recognized by U.S. immigration authorities before that date may change to permanent residents.



Deferred Inspection
See Parolee.

"Denied" is one of three possible decisions of your interview: If your application is denied, you were not granted citizenship and will receive a document explaining the decision. There is an appeals process available in this case.

Department of State
The Department of State is an Executive Branch Department with jurisdiction over non-domestic issues. It is the government agency responsible for managing United States foreign affairs.

Departure Under Safeguards
The physical observation of an unlawful foreigner departing the United Sates by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer.

An official term used on the spouse and children of the principal applicant.

Deportable Alien
A deportable alien is anybody who entered the United States illegally or anybody who entered legally but breached the terms of his/her classification.

Deportation is the formal removal of an alien from the United States after he/she has been found removable for infringing the immigration laws. Deportation is ordered by an immigration judge.

Derivative Citizenship
U.S. citizenship passed on to children through the naturalization of parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, if certain conditions are met.

Abbreviation for "Department of Homeland Security."

Districts are geographic regions into which the United States and its territories are divided for Immigration and Naturalization Services purposes. There are 33 USCIS districts

A category of immigrants from underrepresented countries and countries unfavorably affected by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965. The main goal of diversity visas is to increase immigrants from such countries.

Diversity Country
The description of a country that has low rates of immigration to the United States. The citizens of a diversity country can enter in the Diversity Visa Program.

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
The United States Government issues 50,000 Green Cards every year through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, commonly known as the Green Card Lottery. Applicants are selected randomly by a computer-generated drawing.

Docket Control
The USCIS means for following the case status of possible removable foreigners.

Documentarily Qualified
The description of an alien that has provided all documents by the consular officer as sufficient to meet the requirements of INA 222(b), and that necessary clearance procedures of the consular office have been completed. Note that the term "Documentarily Qualified" shall only be used to describe an alien's qualification to formally apply for an immigrant visa – not whether the applicant receives the visa or not.

"Department of Labor" of the United States.

"Department of State" of the United States.

Dual Intent
Dual intent is the process of non-immigrants in E, H, and L status that may simultaneously have intent to stay in the U.S. temporarily or permanently.



An "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD) is a work authorization card that is issued by the USCIS. The EAD is the same size as a driver's license.

Embassy or Consulate
Official United States government office located in a foreign country. Embassies or Consulates are usually located in the capital of the country. Embassies deal with political, economic, and visa issues, for people abroad.

Employer Sanctions
U.S. employers who hire illegal immigrants are subject to civil fines or criminal penalties if a pattern of violations is found.

Employer Verification
The procedure established by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) requiring U.S. employers to verify the identity and eligibility of individuals to legally work. Form I-9 is used for all individuals (U.S. citizens and aliens) hired or referred for a fee on or after November 7, 1986. INA Section 274A, 8 USC Section 1324a.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
The official name for a work permit and authorization by the USCIS to legally take upon work in the United States.

Employment Authorization Letter
An employment letter is needed for employees who wish to be sponsored for nonimmigrant work status or permanent resident status. The letter is completed by the sponsoring employer.

Entry Visa
The visa that the US State Department adds to a page in an individual's passport. The granting of an entry visa means that the US State Department is eligible to enter the U.S. for a particular purpose. Note that an expired visa does not affect an individual's legal stay in the U.S. As long as the I-94 card is valid, the visa can be expired. However, if the individual leaves the U.S., a valid visa is necessary to enter again. One cannot enter the U.S. with an expired visa.

Abbreviation for "Executive Office of Immigration Review."


An immigration officer who will examine the validity or status of an alien. An officer who gives the test for civics or English.

Exchange Visitor
An exchange visitor is a foreigner who enters the United States as a partaker in an official program by the Secretary of State for the purpose temporarily. Some of the activities could be teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training.

Exclusion is the official term for denying an alien entry into the United States either through an expedited removal procedure or through removal proceedings in the presence of an immigration judge.

Extension of Stay
The term used to describe the application process of extending the stay period listed on Form I-94.



F-1 Status
F-1 is the visa type used by international students to enter the United States. The I-94 Form in the passport will be marked with the letters "F-1" and "D/S". D/S stands for "Duration of Status".

Fiancé(e) of U.S. Citizen
A nonimmigrant foreigner who enters the United States to finalize a valid marriage within ninety days of her/his entry with a U.S. citizen.

Files Control Office
An USCIS field office is either a district or a sub-office of that district where foreigners' case files are maintained and controlled.

Fiscal Year
The US government's fiscal year starts October 1 and ends in September 30.

Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM)
Chapter 41 of the Foreign Affairs Manual Chapter 41 relates to nonimmigrant visas. Chapter 42 covers immigrant visas.

Foreign Alien/National
A person born outside the U.S who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Foreign Government Official
Foreigners who are accredited by a foreign government to work as diplomats, public ministers, career diplomatic or consular officials, other accredited officers, or assistants, servants or personal employees of accredited officials, and their spouses and dependent children. These officials enter the United States for a temporary period as non-immigrants.

Foreign Information Media Representative
A foreigner who enters the United States temporarily as a bona fide envoy of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media and the foreigner's spouse and dependent children.

Foreign State of Chargeability
The independent country to which an immigrant under the preference scheme is credited.

Form DS- 2019
This is a document that the university or school a person is attending provides to the new student which allows him/her to enter the U.S. legally with a J-1 visa.

Form G-325A
Biographic Data Form (for United States filing only).

Form I-94
A small white card normally stapled near your US visa stamp in your passport as you enter the US. This arrival/departure card records your arrivals and departures to and from the U.S.

Form I-130
Petition for Alien Relative.

Form I-131
Application for Travel Document. Also referred to as Advance Parole.

Form I-485
Application for Permanent Residence.

Form I-485A
Supplemental form for Form I-485.

Form I-693
Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status.

Form I-751
Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence.

Form I-765
Application form for Employment Authorization.

Form I-847 - Report of Complaint
The I-847 may be submitted if you have a complaint about the service at USCIS. This form is addressed to USCIS Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Form I-864
Affidavit of support under Section 213A.

Form N-400 - Application for Naturalization
The N-400 form is the application file to become naturalized. This form is only to be used by people over 18 years of age.

Form N-445 - Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony
The N-445 form will notify you of the time and place for the oath ceremony. On the back of the notice, there are questions that you might be asked by USCIS officers at the ceremony.

Form N-470 - Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes
The N-470 form is filed if you are planning a trip outside the U.S. for more than one year but want to maintain your continuous residency status.

Form N-565 - Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document
N-565 Form is used to request a replacement Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship if yours is lost. It may take a year before you receive a new Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship.

Form N-600 - Application for Certificate of Citizenship
The N-600 form requests a Certificate of Citizenship for people who are US citizens by birth or by law. If you were born to U.S. citizens in a foreign country, you may use this form to request a Certificate of Citizenship.

Form N-648 - Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions
You may file a form N-648 to apply for a disability exception. If you have medical disability that prevents you from taking the English and civics requirement, a certified doctor must complete and sign this form. Submit this form with your application.



G-28 - Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative
G-28 is filed if you want to bring a representative with you to the USCIS interview. You must file this with your N-400 application.

General Naturalization Provisions
The General provisions that every naturalization applicant must meet such as being 18 years of age, a legal permanent resident with five years of continuous residence in the United States who have been physically present in the country for half that period and who have a good character for at least that period.

Geographic Area of Chargeability
This term refers to Africa, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and South Asia, and the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The world is divided into these areas for the preliminary admittance of refugees to the United States.

Good Moral Character
Good Moral Character is an eligibility requirement for naturalization. Honesty and criminal records will be considered by USCIS officers and FBI to determine applicants' moral character.

"Granted" is one of the decisions that may be given as a result of your interview. If your application is granted, it means that your application has been approved. You will become a U.S. citizen after taking the Oath of Allegiance

Green Card
A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-151 or Form I-551) is evidence of lawful permanent resident status in the United States. It allows a foreign national to live, work legally, travel abroad and return to the United States. Green Card holders may also apply for U.S. citizenship after a certain period of time.

Green Card Lottery
The "Green Card Lottery" is a commonly used name for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery program, which makes available 55,000 green cards through a random selection process. Participants in the lottery are required to satisfy certain nationality, work, and/or education requirements.



H-1B Worker
The classification of an individual who qualifies to perform a specialty occupation in the Unites States. The current period is three years with an option to renew the H-1B visa for another 3 years after the first period is over.

Hemispheric Ceilings
The legal number of limitations on the number of immigrants entering the United States from all over the world.

Household Income
The calculation of the income used to determine whether a sponsor meets the minimum income requirements under Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).



Illegal Alien
A foreign person living in the United States who is not authorized to be here or whose authorization expired.

Immediate Relatives
Immediate relatives are spouses of U.S. citizens, unmarried citizens' children under the age 21, and parents of citizens 21 years of age or older. Immediate relatives are excused from the numerical limitations imposed on immigration to the United States.

See Permanent Resident Alien.

Immigration Act of 1990
Public Law 101-649 that increased the numerical limitations on legal immigration to the United States, amended the reasons for exclusion and deportation, allowed provisional protected status to foreigners of some countries, amended and established new nonimmigrant entrance classes, amended and extended the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, and amended naturalization authority and requirements.

Immigration and Nationality Act
The Act regulates the immigration, temporary admission, naturalization, and removal of aliens besides other U.S. immigration laws, treaties, and conventions.

Immigration Judge
A lawyer selected by the Attorney General, who will perform as an administrative judge within the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Immigration Judges are also in charge of removal proceedings. INA Section 240, 8 USC Section 1229a.

Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986
The law that discourages immigration-related marriage fraud by stipulating that foreigners who get their immigrant status based on a marriage of less than two years are conditional immigrants and should remove their conditional status by applying at an U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office during the 90-day period before the second-year anniversary of getting the conditional status. The conditional immigrant status may be ended and the foreigners deported if they cannot demonstrate that the marriage through which the status was obtained was and is a valid one.

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986
The law which was passed to manage and discourage illegal immigration to the United States by making illegal foreigners who had been continuously unlawfully present since 1982 legal, legalizing certain agricultural workers, punishing employers who intentionally employ undocumented workers, and increasing enforcement at U.S. borders.

Immigration Status
An individual's immigration status is noted on the I-94 card by an Immigration Inspector at the U.S. port-of-entry. During the duration of a person's stay in the U.S., this designation is very important. A visa can for example expire if this designation is changed while you are in the United States.

See "Immigration and Nationality Act."

A term that refers to a foreigner who wants to enter the United States, but does not meet the entrance criteria set in the INA. The foreigner may be then removed or permitted to remove his/her application for admission in some cases.

Industrial Trainee
See Temporary Worker.

Abbreviation of "Immigration and Naturalization Service." The INS changed its official name on March 1, 2003 to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). INS was an extension of the U.S. Justice Department with responsibility for the admission and control of aliens.

Intending Immigrant
A term used to describe any beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition filed under INA Section 204. An intending immigration is any individual who will accompany or follow-to-join the principal beneficiary.

International Representative
A nonimmigrant foreigner who enters the United States temporarily as a principal or other accredited representative of a foreign government to an international organization, an international organization officer or employee, and the foreigner's spouse and unmarried children.

Intra-Company Transferee
A foreigner who is engaged for at least one continuous year out of the last three by an international company and who requests to come into the United States temporarily to continue his/her work for the same employer as a manager, executive, or specialized worker, and the foreigner's spouse and unmarried children.

See "Immigration Reform and Control Act" of 1986.



J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
J-1 visas are issued to individuals who take part in a wide range of exchange visitor programs sponsored by schools, businesses and a variety of organizations and institutions. The individual's Form I-94 should be marked "J-1" in addition to the letters "D/S" (Duration of Status). The duration of stay is the period of time that is noted on Form IAP-66/DS-2019.

Joint Sponsor
The description of a person who accepts legal responsibility for supporting an immigrant, with an I-864 Affidavit of Support along with the sponsor. There are certain requirements for joint sponsors: he or she must be at least 18 years of age, an American citizen or lawful permanent resident and have a domicile in the United States.

The term used to describe the level of authority to apply the law in a territory or region.



K-1 Fiancée/Fiancé Visa
The K-1 Visa, also known as the Fiancée/Fiancé Visa, may be used by United States citizens who wish to bring their prospective husbands or wives to the United States with the intention of getting married.

Kentucky Consular Center (KCC)
KCC is a U.S. Department of State facility located in Williamsburg, Kentucky. The main task of the office is to provide domestic support to the worldwide operations of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office. KCC also manages the Diversity Visa (DV) Program.



Labor Certification
Labor certification is a condition U.S. employers should fulfill in order to hire certain skilled workers. The certification is issued by the Secretary of Labor and includes attestations by U.S. employers as to the statistics of U.S. workers available to take on the employment sought after by foreigners, and the consequence of the foreigner's work on the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers who fold similar jobs.

Labor Condition Application (LCA)
The LCA is a document that must be filed with the Department of Labor (DOL) before and H-1B petition can begin. The LCA must be approved before the actual H-1B petition is processed. The LCA states that the company hiring the H-1B employee will pay the required wage rate, which is the higher of the prevailing wage or actual wage. In addition to the wage rate, the LCA also includes statements about the employer's attempt to find national employee and information about the current work situation in terms of strikes, lock outs, or work stoppage due to labor disputes.

Last Residence
This is a term that is frequently found on immigration and visa forms. The country of your "Last Residence" is the country that an individual lived in before entering the United States.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
Any person who is not a citizen of the United States and who lives in the U.S. under lawfully recognized and legally recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. It's also called Permanent Resident Alien, Resident Alien Permit Holder, and Green Card Holder.

Legal Entry
The process that most visitors and foreign workers go through when entering the United States via official borders. A USCIS official will inspect your documents and grant you permission to enter the United States.

Legalization Dependents
The spouse and or children of foreigners who became legal immigrants under the stipulation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 between 1992 and 1994.

Legalized Aliens
It refers to some illegal aliens who were entitled to submit an application for temporary resident status under the legalization provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

A child is legitimated if a natural father of a child born out of wedlock acknowledges the child through a legal procedure. A legitimated child from any country has two legal parents and cannot qualify as an orphan unless only one of the parents is living or both of the parents have deserted the child.



Medical and Legal Parolee
See Parolee.

Medical Waiver
A medical waiver allows an immigration applicant to be allowed into, or stay in the United States even though he/ she have health conditions that makes them inadmissible.

A migrant is an individual who departs his/her country to live in another country.

Formerly the "Missouri Service Center" but now called the "National Benefits Center" or NBC.



"Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act."

An individual who has pledged allegiance to a certain country.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)
An immigrant visa for which can apply to outstanding aliens who are exceptional in their field.

National of the United States
A national of the United States is a citizen of the United States, or a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States. For more information, see INA Section 101(a)(22), 8 USC Section 1101(a)(22).

The description used on an individual's citizenship or country where the person is deemed a national.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Official
A nonimmigrant foreigner who enters the United States temporarily as a member of the armed forces or as a civilian employed by the armed forces on assignment with a foreign government signatory to NATO, and the foreigner's spouse and unmarried children.

The bestowment of citizenship upon a person when he/she is born. Naturalization is also the process by which immigrants become legal U.S. citizens.

Naturalization Application
The form used by legal permanent residents to submit an application for U.S. citizenship.

Naturalization Eligibility WorkSheet
The Naturalization Eligibility Worksheet is used to help immigrants determine their eligibility for naturalization.

"National Benefits Center." Formerly the "Missouri Service Center".

Non-diversity Country
A country that high rates of immigration to the United States. Not that passport holders of non-diversity countries cannot participate in the Diversity Visa Program. Another word for non-diversity countries are occasionally called non-qualifying or excluded countries.

A foreigner who enters the United States temporarily for a specific purpose and who must fulfill two requirements: a permanent residence overseas and actual qualification for the nonimmigrant classification. Some of the nonimmigrant classifications are students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, exchange visitors, intra-company transferees, NATO officials, religious workers among others. Most non-immigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor children.

Non-Immigrant status
The term used to describe an individual's status for a set period of time. It is a limited status while in the United States. The individual is not a permanent resident of the United States while on a Nonimmigrant Status.

Non-Preference Category
This category was removed by the Immigration Act of 1990 and used to grant non-preference visas to qualified applicants who were not entitled to a visa under the preferences categories.

North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
The agreement that governs the mutual trading relationship between the United States and Canada and establishes a similar relationship with Mexico.

Not Subject to Numerical Limitation
This means that an alien is entitled to immigrant status as an immediate relative within the meaning of INA 201(b)(2)(i), or as a special immigrant within the meaning of INA 101(a)(27) (A) and (B), unless specifically subject to a limitation other than under INA 201(a), (b), or (c).

Notice of Action
A form issued by the USCIS as a proof that a petition or application is received and in process. The Notice of Action is also issued by the USCIS as a receipt for paid fees. The Notice of Action number is I-797. This is not a downloadable form, it is sent to the applicant by the USCIS.

Abbreviation for "Notice of Proposed Rule Making."

"Nebraska Service Center."

Numerical Limit, Exempt from
Those foreigners granted lawful permanent resident statuses and that are usually exempt from numerical limits set by the Immigration Act of 1990. Exempt categories consist of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, refugees, asylees, Amerasians, aliens adjusted under the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and certain parolees from the former Soviet Union and Indochina.

Nursing Relief Act of 1989
The act allows H-1 nonimmigrant registered nurses to become legal permanent residents if they had been employed as nurses for at least 3 years and who meet certain labor certification requirements.

"National Visa Center."



Oath Ceremony
The oath ceremony is the ceremony in which you take the Oath of Allegiance to the US. You are not a legal citizen until you take the oath.

Oath of Allegiance
Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. is the oath you take to become a U.S. citizen. During the oath you must promise to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and its laws.

It refers to the employment held in the country of last legal residence or in the United States for those foreigners who enter the United States or change status without a labor certification. Occupation is the employment for which certification has been issued for an alien with a labor certification.

OPT stands for Optional Practical Training. OPT is an opportunity for foreign students to work year of off-campus. An new OPT can received at different study levels.

The Immigration and Nationality Act defines an orphan for the purposes of immigration to the United States as:

  • A child, whose both parents died, disappeared, or deserted.
  • The child of an unmarried mother or surviving parent may be considered an orphan if that parent is unable to care for the child suitably and has irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption in writing.
  • The child of an unmarried mother may be considered an orphan only if the mother does not marry and the child's biological father does not legitimate the child.
  • The child of a surviving parent if the surviving parent has not married since the death of the other parent.

Outlying Possessions
American Samoa and Swains Island.

A visitor who has exceed the stay in the U.S. after the date indicated on the Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94.



Panama Canal Immigrant Act

  • Some ex-employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government, their spouses and accompanying children.
  • Some previous employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone who are Panamanian nationals, their spouses and children.
  • Some previous of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1, 1979, their spouses and children. The Act provides for admission of a maximum of 15,000 immigrants, at a rate of no more than 5,000 each year.

Panel Physician
An overseas Doctor who is appointed by a local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to offer medical exams as required by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). Medical examinations that are not administrated by a Panel Physician will not be accepted by USCIS.

A parolee is a foreigner who appears to be inadmissible to the inspecting officer; however, he/she is permitted to enter the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or when that foreigner's admittance is deemed to be of an important public benefit. Parole is not an official right of entry to the United States and grants temporary status only, which require parolees to leave when the conditions supporting their parole stop to exist.

A document that is issued by the government of the country of your citizenship. Passports have expiry dates, and while you travel in the U.S. your passport must remain valid throughout the entire duration of your stay.

Per-Country Limit
The number limits of family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas that can be issued to citizens of any country in a fiscal year.

Permanent Resident
Any person who is not a citizen of the United States and who lives in the U.S. under lawfully recognized and legally recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. It is also called Permanent Resident Alien, Resident Alien Permit Holder, and Green Card Holder.

Permanent Resident Card
A Permanent Resident Card is proof of one's Permanent Residency status issued by USCIS.

Physical Presence

This is an important eligibility requirement. An applicant must spend a specified amount of time in the U.S. to be eligible to apply for naturalization.

A generic word used to describe the forms used by the USCIS to determine eligibility for different visa categories.

Port of Entry
Any location in the United States or its territories where foreigners and U.S. citizens alike can enter the United States such as airports and border crossings.

Practical Training
A work program designed to let foreign students work in the United States after obtaining their university degree or during the course of their academic studies.

The process of inspecting airport passengers before departing from foreign countries to the United States. United States immigration does not require inspection upon arrival, however.

Preference System (Immigration Act of 1990)
The nine classes under which the family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant preference visas are granted as of 1992.

  • The family-sponsored preferences are:
    • 1. Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
    • 2. Spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent resident aliens.
    • 3. Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
    • 4. Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

  • The employment-based preferences are:
    • 5. Investors.
    • 6. Priority workers or those individuals that possess extraordinary abilities.
    • 7. Professionals with advanced degrees or foreigners with exceptional ability.
    • 8. Skilled workers, professionals without advanced degrees, and needed unskilled workers.
    • 9. Special immigrants.

Prevailing Wage
This is the wage that is provided by the Employment Development Department (EDD) after the sponsoring company has submitted a Prevailing Wage Determination Request.

Principal Alien
It is the foreigner who submits an application for immigrant status and from whom another foreigner may get lawful status under immigration law or regulations such as spouses and children. The principal is the primary person applying as opposed to dependent. Example; TN is a principal classification, and TD is the dependent classification.

Priority Date
This term refers to the date a petition is filed during a USCIS Immigrant visa application process. If the foreigner relative has a priority date on or before the date listed in the visa bulletin, then he or she is currently eligible for a visa.



Quota system
The system used to limit the number of visas available to each country for particular visa classifications.



Re-Entry Permit
A declaration of an individual's intention to maintain U.S. permanent residence during prolonged absence from the United States. Its official name is "Form I-131, Application for Travel Document." Note that the alien must be physically present in the United States to file an application for a re-entry permit.

A refugee is anybody who is incapable or reluctant to go back to his/her country of nationality while they are in another country because he/she will be persecuted or afraid of being persecuted. The reasons for persecution or fear of persecution have to be the foreigner's race, religion, nationality, membership in a unique social group, or political views. The country of nationality is considered to be the country in which the foreigner most recently lived for those without nationality. Refugees are entitled to adjust to the legal permanent resident category after one year of continuous presence in the United States.

Refugee Approvals
The number of refugees that are permitted to be admitted into the United States during a fiscal year.

Refugee Arrivals
The number of refugees that actually entered the United States during a fiscal year.

Refugee Authorized Admissions
The ceiling number of refugees allowable to come into the United States during a fiscal year which is decided by the President of the United States after consulting with Congress.

Refugee- parolees are those individuals who eligible for provisional admittance to the United States between February 1970 and April 1980, but could not be accepted because of insufficient numbers of seventh preference visas. As a consequence, these individuals entered the United States as parolees.

Regional Offices
There are three USCIS Regional Offices that supervise the work of USCIS Districts and Border Patrol Sectors. They are located in Burlington, VT, for the Eastern Region; Dallas, TX, for the Central Region; and Laguna Nigel, CA, for the Western Region.

Registry Date
Aliens who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 1972, are of good moral character, and are not inadmissible, are eligible to adjust to legal permanent resident status under the registry provision. Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 amended the date, aliens had to have been in the country continuously since June 30, 1948 to qualify.

A rule which is established under the provisions of INA 104(a). The rule is further duly published in the Federal Register.

The process of removing foreigners from the United States which is justified because they are found to be either inadmissible or deportable.

Request for Evidence (RFE)
A letter that the USCIS uses to request additional information on a pending case.

Required Departure
See Voluntary Departure.

The process of relocating refugees permanently to a place outside their country of origin and permit them to become legal residents of that place. Refugee resettlement is done through private charitable agencies that work with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement to help refugees relocate.

Resident Alien
Any person who is not a citizen of the United States and who lives in the U.S. under lawfully recognized and legally recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. It is also called Permanent Resident Alien, Resident Alien Permit Holder, and Green Card Holder.

Returning Resident
Any legal Permanent Resident who has been outside the United States and is returning to the U.S. It is also called special immigrant. The returning resident must submit an application to be readmitted to the U.S if he/she was outside of the United States for more than 180 days. He /she is generally required to have a re-entry documentation from USCIS or an immigrant visa from the Department of State if he/she was outside of the United States for more than one year and is coming back to his or her permanent home in the United States.

Revalidation of a Visa
Another term for renewal of a visa.



Safe Haven
Impermanent protection granted to refugees or asylees who have run away from their countries of origin to request help, safety or respite from persecution or other hardships. The protection is usually granted until they can go back to their countries safe and sound or, if needed, until they can get permanent relief from the conditions from which they are running away.

Abbreviation for "Special Agricultural Worker."

Selective Service
Selective Service is a Federal agency in charge of recruiting for the U.S. Armed Forces in case of emergency. Male applicants between the ages of 18 to 26 must register with the Selective Service before applying for naturalization.

Service Center
Four offices established to handle the filing, data entry, and adjudication of certain applications for immigration services and benefits. Service Centers will not receive walk-in applications or questions, so all applications have to be mailed.

SEVIS stands for "The Student Exchange Visitor Information System." This particular system is used by the federal government to monitor student visas in the United States.

Special Agricultural Workers (SAW)
Foreigners who worked in perishable agricultural commodities for a specified period of time and were allowed to enter the United States for short-term and then became permanent residents under a provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Special Immigrants
Some classes of immigrants who were excepted from numerical restrictions before fiscal year 1992 and subject to control under the employment-based fourth preference beginning in 1992 such as persons who lost citizenship by marriage, persons who lost citizenship by serving in foreign armed forces and so forth.

Special Naturalization Provisions
Such special provisions permit special classes of persons to become U.S. citizens despite the fact that they do not meet all the common requirements for naturalization:

  • Wives or husbands of U.S. citizens are allowed to file for naturalization after three years of legal permanent residence instead of the general five years period.
  • Surviving spouses of a U.S. citizen who worked in the armed forces are allowed to file for naturalization in any district instead of where he/she resides.
  • Children of U.S. citizen parents can become citizens without meeting certain requirements or taking the oath if they are too young to comprehend the meaning.
  • Other categories of persons who may qualify for special consideration such as previous U.S. citizens, servicemen, seamen, and employees of organizations supporting U.S. interests overseas.

To sponsor a foreigner means to bring to the United States or petition for that foreigner in the immigration sense. A "sponsor" is also a person who completes Form I-864, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the Act.

Sponsored Immigrant
An immigrant on whose behalf a sponsor has executed an affidavit of support. The affidavit of support includes any spouse or child who will accompany or follow-to-join the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition filed by a sponsor.

A person who is not a national of any country.

A foreigner who comes secretly to the United States by hiding in an airplane or ship without being officially authorized to enter. Such a person will be denied admission and will be returned to the point of embarkation by the transporter.

A nonimmigrant foreigner who comes to the United States temporarily to study in an approved program in either an academic such as college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, other institution, or language training program; a vocational or other recognized nonacademic organization.

Subject to the Numerical Limit
The classes of legal immigrants subject to numerical limitations under the provisions of the flexible numerical limit of 675,000 set by the Immigration Act of 1990. The largest classes are the family-sponsored preferences, employment-based preferences, and diversity immigrants.

Offices established in some Districts so as to provide many services and enforcement functions and to increase convenience to customers.

Suspension of Deportation
A remedy in deportation proceedings which must be initiated before removal proceedings began under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 [IIRAIRA] on April 1, 1997. It involves certain individuals who have been in the U.S. for 7 or 10 years and who met other criteria as set forth in former INA Section 244(a).

Abbreviation for "State Workforce Agency."



Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
The TPS sets up a legislative foundation for permitting a group of people provisional refuge in the United States. The Attorney General may select nationals of a foreign country to be entitled for TPS with a finding that conditions in that country present a risk to personal safety because of continuing armed wars or a natural catastrophe. TPS is allowed for periods of 6 to 18 months in the beginning and may be extended depending on the situation. Removal procedures are generally suspended against foreigners while they are in Temporary Protected Status.

Temporary Resident
See Nonimmigrant.

Temporary Worker
Nonimmigrant temporary worker classes of admission, who come to the United States to work temporarily, are:

  • H-1A - Temporary registered nurses (discontinued).
  • H-1B - specialty occupations workers admitted on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience.
  • H-1C - registered nurses who work in areas that have a shortage of health professionals under the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999 (discontinued).
  • H-2A - temporary agricultural workers coming to the United States to carry out agricultural services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature when approved workers are unavailable in the United States.
  • H-2B - temporary non-agricultural workers coming to the United States to carry out temporary services or labor if unemployed persons able to perform the service or labor cannot be found in the United States.
  • H-3 - aliens coming temporarily to the United States as trainees, other than to receive graduate medical education or training.
  • O-1, O-2, O-3 - temporary workers with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; those entering exclusively to escort and help such workers in addition to their spouses and children.
  • P-1, P-2, P-3, P-4 - athletes and entertainers at an internationally recognized level of performance; artists and entertainers under a mutual exchange program; artists and entertainers under a program that is "culturally unique" in addition to their spouses and children.
  • Q-1, Q-2, Q-3 – members in international cultural exchange programs; members in the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program in addition to spouses and children of Irish Peace Process members.
  • R-1, R-2 - Religious temporary workers and their spouses and children.

Transit without Visa (TWOV)
A transit alien admitted under agreements with a transportation line, which assures instant and incessant passage to a foreign destination without a nonimmigrant visa.

Treaty Country
A foreign state which is qualified as a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, or Navigation or its equivalent exists with the United States of America.

Treaty Trader or Investor
A nonimmigrant foreigner coming to the United States, under the provisions of a treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and the foreign state of such alien, to perform extensive trading or to manage the business in which he/she has invested a considerable sum of money in addition to the spouse and unmarried minor children.

The acronym for two instances: "Texas Service Center" OR "Terrorist Screening Center."



Underrepresented Countries, Natives of
Natives of those countries that received less than 25 percent of the utmost visa numbers allowed under the country limitations.

United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement
The agreement that governs the mutual trading relationship between the United States and Canada and establishes a similar relationship with Mexico.

United States National
A U.S. National is a person who owes permanent allegiance to the U.S., but is not an actual U.S. citizen. They are eligible for naturalization because they live in outlying possessions of the U.S.

United States Passport
A United States Passport is a document that is available to U.S. citizens. It allows them to travel freely outside the United States and return to the U.S.

USCIS is the abbreviation for "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services." It is a bureau created under the Department of Homeland Security. The former official name was INS, but INS was replaced by USCIS on March 1, 2003.

USCIS Forms Line
USCIS distributes all forms for immigration and naturalization. The number to request any USCIS forms is 1-800-870-3676.

USCIS Information Counter
USCIS Information Counter is located in USCIS offices. USCIS employees called Immigration Information Officers staff these counters. These Officers can answer any question you have about the naturalization process.



A United States visa grants the holder the right to apply for entry to the United States, but does not grant the visa holder the right to enter the United States. Entry can be refused at the port of entry. The Department of State (DOS) is in charge of visa administration at U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside of the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) immigration inspectors decide admittance, duration of stay and conditions in the U.S. at a port of entry. DHS immigration inspectors will record the terms of your admission on your I-94 or I-94W and in your passport upon approval of entry.

Visa Quota
Number of Visas granted/allotted.

Visa Waiver Program
The program permits citizens of certain countries to enter the U.S. for business or pleasure up to 90 days. The following countries are currently in the visa waiver program: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Voluntary Departure
A foreigner departs voluntarily from the United States without an order of removal with or without a preceding hearing before an immigration judge. A foreigner who departs voluntarily admits removability but he/she is not barred from seeking admission at a port-of-entry at any time. However, failure to depart, if removable, can result in a fine and a ten-year ban to several forms of relief from deportation.

"Vermont Service Center."



The term used to describe the change of inadmissibility for certain aliens, either in the United States or outside the United States.

Western Hemisphere
Used on North America, Central America, South America, and the adjacent islands according to INA 101(b)(5).

Withdrawal happens if arriving foreigners voluntarily withdraw their application for admission to the United States instead of having to appear in front of an immigration judge for a removal hearing or a fast removal. Withdrawals are not listed under a person's nonimmigrant admittance data.

Work Permit
A work permit is normally used to describe an Employment Authorization Document.







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