Key Terms and Definitions

Adjustment of Status. It is a process which allows an alien to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States without having to go abroad. At the same time you should distinguish the definition “Adjustment of Status” from the definition “Change of Status”. “Change of Status” means moving from one nonimmigrant status to another. “Adjustment of Status” is available only to certain people. Not only do you have to be eligible for a green card in the first place, you must also, in most cases, be staying in the U.S. legally, with a visa or other status.

Admission. It is a permit for someone to stay legally in the United States. Admission also attaches a number of legal rights. It is also a part of the inspection for an alien arriving in the United States from abroad.

Affidavit of Support. It is a financial support given by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to an alien who is attempting to enter the United States.

Aggravated Felony. It is a broad category of crimes stressed in INA § 101(a) (43), that may be a reason to deport a person from the United States. At the same time, aliens convicted of aggravated felonies are automatically deported through expedited procedures intended to ensure that the deportation occurs as soon as the alien is released from prison after serving the sentence imposed for the underlying crime.

Alien. Foreign-born persons who have not been naturalized to become U.S. citizens under federal law and the Constitution. Only “aliens” are subject to the immigration law.

Asylum. A status given by the US government to a person who applies and shows that it is likely that he/she would be persecuted or harmed in the home country usually because of membership in a political or religious group. It must be a threat of harm to the applicant. General conditions in a country is not usually a good enough reason to have political asylum granted.

Border Crossing Card (BCC). It is an identity card issued by a consular officer to an alien who is resident in a foreign contiguous territory (Canada/Mexico) for the purpose of crossing the border between the United States and foreign contiguous territory. The border crossing card (BCC), or “laser visa” is a laminated, credit card-style document that serves as a visitor visa (class B1/B2) to the United States.

Cancellation of Removal. It is a form of relief for a lawful permanent resident who has been lawfully admitted as a permanent residence for at least five years and has resided in the United States continuously for seven years after having been admitted in any status, who has not been convicted of an aggravated felony. It is also a discretionary remedy for non-lawful permanent resident (non-LPR) if he or she meets the following requirements. First of all you should physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least 10 years preceding the date of the application for cancellation of removal; have been a person of good moral character during the ten-year period; have not been convicted of any crime(s) that; and establish that removal would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to his or her spouse, parent, or child who is a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States. You will maintain “physical presence”, if you are out of the United States for up to 180 days during the 10 years.

Consular Processing. It is a process by which a beneficiary of an immigration petition who is outside the U.S. applies for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate overseas.

Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT or CMT). It is a criminal offense that shocks the consciousness of the court; CIMT is not defined in the INA or the regulations but is based on the interpretation by the courts.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The federal department that rules all matters relating to homeland security. The immigration functions of the department are administered by three bureaus including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Deportability. Grounds or Acts that make a person subject to deportation. 

Deportation. It means the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country. Grounds for deportation are listed in INA §237.

Derivative Citizenship. It is a citizenship conveyed to children through the naturalization of parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, provided certain conditions are met.

Diversity Lottery. It is an annual immigration visa lottery through which nationals of countries which the U.S. considers to be under-represented through other immigration channels, can apply for legal permanent residence in the U.S. Foreign nationals can apply from outside or inside the U.S., but those who are unlawfully present in the U.S. will not be able to adjust status even if they win the lottery.

Dual Nationality. It is the status of a person who is a legal citizen of two or more countries. Dual Nationality results from birth in one country, marriage to a foreign national and foreign naturalization. Some countries do not accept Dual Nationality, and person who obtains U.S citizenship may automatically lose citizenship of that country.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD). It is Form I-688B issued by the USCIS proving the rights of foreign aliens to accept an employment in the United States. See Work Permit.

Exchange Visitor. It is nonimmigrant visa category for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States with the purpose of teaching, studying, lecturing and instructing, consulting, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills.

Exclusion. It is a process of ejecting the person seeking admission to the United States even when he or she arrives the border.

Expedited Removal. It is a process authorizing the ICE to quickly remove certain inadmissible aliens from the United States.

Green Card. It is a document that allows an alien to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. and to work legally, travel abroad and return, bring in a spouse and children and become eligible for citizenship. The official name of this card is Alien Registration Receipt Card or Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551).

Immigrant. It is a person who is a legal resident of the United States.

Immigrant Visa. It is a document issued by a U.S. consular officer abroad that allows you to travel to the United States and apply for admission as a legal permanent resident. See also Visa, Labor Certification, and Preference Categories.

Immigration Judge. An attorney appointed by the Attorney General to act as an administrative judge within the Executive Office for Immigration Review. They are qualified to conduct specified classes of proceedings, including removal proceedings.

Inadmissibility. It is a number of grounds that make a person ineligible for lawful admission into the United States.

Inspection. It is obligatory process that all persons who arrive in the country must go through at the border. A person must confirm his or her right to enter the country by presenting necessary proves. It ends in admitting, removal or parole into the country.

Labor Certification. the process an employer must go through with the Department of Labor to certify that no American workers are available to fill the job for which the employer is sponsoring a foreign national for legal permanent residence.

Labor Condition Application. It is an application to the Department of Labor regarding employment of H-1B professionals. The employer is required to attest:

  1. that the H-1B employment will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly-employed U.S. workers,
  2. that there is no strike, lockout, or work stoppage in the occupation for which the H-1B nonimmigrant is being hired; and
  3. that notice of the hiring of the H-1B nonimmigrant has been provided.

Laser Visa. See Border Crossing Card.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). It is a person who is allowed to reside indefinitely within a country despite not having citizenship.

Legacy INS. It is the predecessor to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Legalization. It is a program that allows to receive temporary residence status to certain aliens. Synonyms are also “temporary resident status” and “amnesty”

Naturalization. The process by which a foreign person becomes a U.S. citizen.

Nonimmigrant. It is a person who does not have immigration intentions and can establish that he or she has a residence abroad. This category includes students, tourists, treaty investors, and foreign government officials.

Nonimmigrant Visa. It is a document that allows an individual to come to the United States temporarily and for a limited purpose. The period of validity of these visa varies from 30 days up to 10 years. An alien is allowed to apply for admission at the port of entry during the period of visa’s validity. You should understand that the visa’s period of validity is not the same as the authorized period of temporary stay in the United States. The authorized period of temporary stay is indicated in the Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. It may be less or longer than the visa’s period of validity.

Parole. It is a permission allowing a person to physically enter the U.S. for a limited purpose, such as applying for asylum or to be placed in removal proceedings.

PERM. PERM is the U.S. Department of Labor’s most recent program for permanent labor certification program. It was officially promulgated on December 27, 2004. PERM rules must be followed for all labor certification applications filed on or after March 28, 2005

Preference Categories. There are two separate preference categories established for permanent U.S. immigration: family-based and employment-based. The family-based categories require an immediate family relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident while the employment-based categories normally require sponsorship by a U.S. employer. A person is grouped into the appropriate preference category and given an opportunity to obtain a green card under the annual quota limitation.

Pre-inspection. It is a process of inspection of all airport passengers before they leave a foreign country during which they fill Form I-94.

Priority Date. For some family-based and some employment-based applications for legal permanent residence it is the date on which the initial part of the application was filed, and which CIS refers to in determining whether or not a visa is available for the second part of the application process.

Quotas. There are some restrictions on many immigration forms, they are called quotas.

Reduction in Recruitment (RIR). An alternative method of processing an application for labor certification, where the employer demonstrates sustained and unsuccessful attempts to recruit qualified U.S. workers.

Refugee. Any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular.

Removal. It is a legal proceeding through which immigration officials seek to remove a foreign national from the United States for violating an immigration law or other U.S. law. The terms “deportation” and “exclusion” were used till 1996.

Service Centers. There are 5 offices which handle the filing, data entry, and adjudication of certain applications for immigration services and benefits.

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). It is a networked computer system set up in the United States to track and monitor information on non-immigrant students and visitors.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS). It is temporary status that the U.S. government occasionally gives to nationals of particular countries which have undergone extraordinary physical (such as an earthquake) or other political conditions (such as civil war.) The status is valid for one year and allows the foreign national to obtain employment authorization. The U.S. determines on an annual basis whether or not to renew the status for nationals of the country. It does not generally lead to permanent status in the U.S.

Unlawful Presence. It is time accumulated in the U.S. after a foreign national’s authorized stay expires. This can lead to problems with the 3 year/10 year bar. The period of authorized stay is usually noted on Form I-94, or Form I-94W. Besides Canadians admitted without being issued an I-94, and F, J, and M students and exchange visitors admitted for “duration of status” do not accrue under unlawful presence until and unless an immigration judge or DHS official finds such person to be out of status.

US-VISIT (U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program). It is a program that allows to collect information about the entry and the exit of non-U.S. citizens and to verify their identity.

Visa. A stamp placed in a passport that allows their holders to enter the United States according to the conditions for that visa type. The validity period on the visa is the time period in which someone may make an entry into the United States. The validity period of the visa has no relation to the period of time someone is allowed to remain in the U.S. Visas can be designated as either immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas. 

Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all visitors from VWP countries are eligible for the program. No extension or change of status is permitted.

Voluntary Departure. It means that you agree to leave the United States, without attempting to assert any rights to stay.

Waivers. There is number of grounds of admissibility which can be waived under certain circumstances. At the same time the waivers can not obtain a visa or status.

Withholding of Removal. Withholding of removal is similar to asylum in that an individual must prove that there is some type of threat to his or her life or freedom. In addition, like asylum, the applicant must show that this threat is connected to one of the five statutory grounds–race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. However, there are substantial differences between asylum and withholding of removal. Withholding of removal carries a higher burden of proof.

Work Permit. Provisional status given by the government to aliens, allowing them to work legally in this country. It certifies that they have gained entry to the country legally and are allowed to work for a stated period of time. At the same time there is no single document in U.S. immigration law that is a “work permit”.

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