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Adjustment of status -  An application to change from a non-immigrant visa status to permanent residence (green card)

Alien - Any person who is not a United States citizen

Affidavit of Support – A document promising where a person promises to financially support and be financially responsible for a visa applicant.

Amnesty – A pardon, or legal forgiveness, granted for an offense such as entering a country illegally.

Asylum – A process of seeking protection in the United States because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Advance Parole – Permission to return to the United States after travel abroad.

Arrival / Departure Card – Also known as Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. Effective May 25, 2013, a new electronic I-94 process was fully implemented at air and sea ports-of-entry. Under the new process, a CBP official at the port-of-entry provides each admitted non-immigrant traveler (all non-U.S. citizens) with an admission stamp on their passport. CBP will no longer issue a paper form I-94, with some exceptions. 


B1 / B2 visa – This is a nonimmigrant visa for someone who wants to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1 / B-2)

Biometrics – Biologically unique information used to identify individuals. This information can be used to verify identity or check against other entries in the database.  


Cancellation of Removal – Done at the discretion of an immigration judge, a cancellation of removal changes an alien's status from "deportable" to "lawfully admitted for permanent residence."

Change of status – The process of changing from one nonimmigrant visa status to another nonimmigrant visa status while a person is in the United States.  The visa holder must file a request with USCIS before his or her authorized stay expires, which generally is the date on the visa holder’s admission stamp or paper Form I-94,

Child – Unmarried son or daughter under 21.


Deferred Action – Deferred action for childhood arrivals allows certain individuals, who meet specific guidelines, to request consideration of deferred action from USCIS. Individuals who receive deferred action will not be placed into removal proceedings or removed from the United States for a specified period of time unless terminated.

Deportation / Removal – Formally removing an alien from the United States for violating immigration laws. An immigration judge must find the alien removable and order deportation.

Derivative Status – Getting a status (visa) through another applicant.

Diversity Visa Lottery Diversity Visa Program –  The Department of State has an annual lottery for immigration to the United States. Up to 55,000 immigrants can enter the United States each year from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Duration of Status (or D/S) –  For certain visa categories such as students and exchange visitors, the alien may be admitted into the United States for as long as the person is still doing the activity for which the visa was issued, rather than being admitted until a specific departure date.


Employment authorization document (or EAD) – A document issued by USCIS to certain aliens who are temporarily in the United States as evidence to authority to legally work.

Exchange Visitor – A foreign citizen coming to the United States to participate in a particular program in education, training, research, or other authorized exchange visitor program.

Expedited Removal – The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 authorized the INS to remove certain inadmissible aliens from the United States without referring them to an immigration judge. These include aliens who enter or attempt to enter the United States without being admitted or paroled by an immigration officer at a port of entry, and aliens who have no entry documents, or used counterfeit, altered, or otherwise improper documents. The INS has the authority to order the removal of these aliens, except in the cases of those who claim legal status in the United States or who demonstrate a credible fear of persecution if returned to their home country.


Following to Join –  A type of derivative visa status when the family member gets a visa after the principal applicant.


Green Card – Also known Permanent Resident Card and Form I-551 , is a wallet-sized card showing that the person is a lawful permanent resident (immigrant) in the United States.


H-1B – The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. This visa category applies to people who wish to perform services in a specialty occupation. Specialty occupations include occupations in  biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum.


Immediate Relative – Includes spouse, widow(er) and unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen. A parent is an immediate relative if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older. There are no numerical limits to immigration of immediate relatives. 

Immigrant Visa – A visa for a person who plans to live indefinitely and permanently in the United States.

Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) – No longer in existence, the INS was until recently the bureau for all immigration related matters. INS was renamed and became part of DHS on March 1, 2003.

Inadmissible – The status of an alien at a United States port of entry who does not meet the legal criteria for admission. The person may be placed in removal proceedings, or in some cases, may be allowed to withdraw his or her application for admission.

Intracompany Transferee – The L-1 visa for intra-company transfers allows executives, managers, and employees with specialized skills to transfer from the foreign company to a U.S. office, subsidiary, or affiliated company to perform temporary services.




Labor Certification – A certification required before U.S. employers can hire an alien who would immigrate to the United States on the basis of his or her occupational skills. It is issued by the Department of Labor and is based on labor availability at the time and location where the applicant for immigration would like to work. The process works to make sure that the work of foreign workers in the United States will not adversely affect job opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. workers.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) – A person who has immigrated legally, admitted to the United States by DHS as a permanent resident of the United States. Permanent resident status is not the same as being a U.S. citizen. However, an LPR has the right to live and work in the United States permanently, as well as other rights and responsibilities. 

Lottery Admissions – Lottery admissions are immigrants from countries considered underrepresented in the flow of immigrants to the U.S. The program distributes 55,000 visas each year by lottery. This program is also known as the diversity visa program.



Naturalization – The process of conferring citizenship upon a person after his or her birth, by any means.

Naturalized citizen – An immigrant who has been sworn in as a U.S. citizen.

National Visa Center (NVC) – A Department of State facility which supports the worldwide immigrant visa operations of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office. The NVC processes immigrant visa petitions from DHS for people who will apply for their immigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad.

Non-immigrant – An alien who seeks temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose. He or she must have a permanent residence abroad (for some classifications, this is not necessary) and qualify for the nonimmigrant classification sought. The classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, foreign students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens, intracompany transferees, religious workers, and some others. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied by spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.



Poverty Guidelines –  A list published by the Department of Health and Human Services giving the lowest income acceptable for a family of a particular size so that the family does not live in poverty. Immigration officers use these figures in immigrant visa cases to determine whether a sponsor’s income is sufficient to support a new immigrant.

Port of Entry –  A location through which aliens may enter the United States.

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 at a DHS office or submitted to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. In employment immigration, the priority date may be the date the labor certification application was received by the Department of Labor (DOL).


Re-entry Permit – A travel document issued to lawful permanent residents who want to stay outside of the United States for more than one year and less than two years.

Refugee – A person who has a well-founded fear of persecution if he/she should return to his/her home country. He/she applies to come to the United States in another country and enters the United States as a refugee.

Removal / Deportation Removal – The expulsion of an alien from the United States, based on grounds of either inadmissibility or deportability.


Sponsor – A person who fills out and submits an immigration visa petition; or  a person who completes an Affidavit of Support (I-864) for an immigrant visa applicant.

Stepchild – A spouse’s child from a previous marriage or other relationship. In order for a stepchild to be able to immigrate as a “child,” the marriage creating the stepchild/stepparent relationship must have happened before the stepchild was 18 years of age.


Tourists – People who do not permanently reside in the country of arrival, and who are in that country under a tourist visa, for purposes of recreation, visits to friends or relatives, health or medical treatment, or religious pilgrimage.

Trafficking – The process of illegally recruiting, coercing, or moving a migrant or prohibited substances across national or state borders. Traffickers are the people who transport migrants and/or drugs and who profit economically or otherwise from their relocation.



Visa – A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship. While having a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does indicate a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad has determined you are eligible to seek entry for that specific purpose.

Visa Bulletin – It is a monthly publication by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, that is a part of the Department of State.  The Visa Bulletin valuable information on immigrant visa numbers availability every month.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) – Citizens of participating countries meeting the Visa Waiver Program requirements may be allowed to enter the United States as visitors for pleasure or business without first getting a visa. Visitors can stay only 90 days and cannot extend their stay.

Voluntary Departure – The departure of an alien from the United States without an order of removal. This departure may or may not be preceded by a hearing in front of an immigration judge. Voluntary departure concedes removability, but does not bar the alien from seeking entry to the U.S. at a port of entry at any time.