Glossary of Immigration Terms
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This page provides a brief description of
terms used in immigration. Just click on any term for a
- Adjustment of Status
The process through which foreign nationals apply for permanent
resident status from within the United States as opposed to applying
from abroad, which is referred to as
A foreign national who is not a
citizen of the United States. This includes lawful permanent residents
(green card holders), temporary visa holders, and undocumented foreign
Request for an immigration benefit
(either temporary or permanent visa classification) filed by a
The status sought by a person in the United States with a well-founded
fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality,
membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, if made
to return to the country of nationality or last place of residence.
Asylees differ from refugees in that the asylee has already entered the
country when they are trying to obtain status. For more
information, see the Asylum
- Change of Status
application for a change from any
nonimmigrant visa classification to another nonimmigrant visa classification.
Citizen refers to a national of
a country, with the right to protection by that nation's government.
Countries define citizenship in various ways, including one's descent,
place of birth, marriage or naturalization procedures. In
the United States, citizens are either
citizens when they are born or
become citizens through
- Consular Processing
adjustment of status, consular
processing refers to the procedure in which
foreign nationals apply for immigrant visas (that is, permanent resident
status) at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States.
- DHS / Department of Homeland
Abbreviation for the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security
manages admission, authorized stays and other immigration related
benefits, as well as other security issues in the United States.
Also known as the "green card lottery" or "visa lottery." Name given to the
immigrant visa lottery program established by the Immigration Act of
1990 that makes available up to 50,000 immigrant visas per year to
persons from states with low-admission rates to the United States. This
program is administered by the U.S.
Department of State,
which established the rules for the lottery and tracks the available
visa numbers. More information is available on our
Diversity Lottery page.
- DOS / Department of State
- DOL /
Department of Labor
The Department of
Labor manages the wages and working conditions connected to the H-1B
visa, and certifies labor certification applications for permanent
- EAD / Employment
Abbreviation for Employment
Authorization Document. The specific categories that are eligible
for an Employment Authorization Document include asylees and asylum
seekers, refugees, students seeking particular types of employment,
applicants to adjust to permanent residence status, people in or
applying for temporary protected status, fiancés of American citizens,
and dependents of foreign government officials.
- Employer Sanctions
Civil and criminal penalties
imposed on employers and individuals who fail to properly complete
and maintain the I-9 Employment Eligibility Form for their employees
or who improperly employ foreign nationals not authorized to work in
the United States.
- Employer Verification
process requiring employers to verify the identity
and proper employment authorization of their employees by completing the
Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
The small white card which indicates
the authorized period of stay for foreign nationals entering the United
States. The Form I-94 is stapled into the passport. The Form I-94, not the visa in the passport,
determines the time and the purpose of a foreign national's status.
The popular name for
the Alien Registration Receipt Card, which is given to individuals who
become legal permanent residents of the United States. While the
card was once green, it is presently pink. The card serves as an
entry document, enabling permanent residents to return to the United
States after temporary absences. The card and the benefits of
permanent residency are permanent, and cannot be lost unless you abandon
your U.S. residence or commit certain types of crimes. However,
you must apply for a new, updated green card every ten years.
- Green card lottery
The H-1B visa category is available for individuals employed in the
United States in a "specialty occupation." A specialty occupation
requires a bachelor's or higher degree in a specialized field of
knowledge as a minimum for entry into the occupation. Specialty
occupations include accounting, engineering, law, architecture,
scientific research and many other types of jobs.
- H-1B Dependent Employer
Employers who have a significant
number or percentage of H-1B visa holders. H-1B dependent employers
are therefore subject to additional requirements, particularly
related to obtaining the required labor condition application. The
following guidelines determine whether an employer is considered
- Employers that have at least 51 employees:
Dependent if H-1B workers
make up at least 15% of its workforce.
- Employers that have 26 to 50 employees:
Dependent if it employs more than 12 H-1B workers.
- Employers with 25 or fewer employees:
Dependent if it employs more than 7 H-1B employees.
INA / Immigration and Nationality
Immigration and Naturalization Service
issued by a consular officer outside of the United States to an
eligible, permanent immigrant. The immigrant visa permits entry
into the United States as a permanent resident.
Labor Condition Application
Abbreviation of the former Immigration
and Naturalization Service. The INS was dissolved in March of
2003, and replaced with three agencies under the
Department of Homeland Security. The agency that is
responsible for immigration benefits is the U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Service or USCIS.
An application to the Department of Labor regarding employment of
H-1B professionals. The employer is required to attest that the
H-1B employment will not adversely affect the wages and working
conditions of similarly-employed U.S. workers.
Certification is the process through which the employer must recruit for
the position and demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers
for the job. This process is formally known
as the Application for Alien Employment Certification. Labor
certification is required in most employment-based petitions for
permanent residence. The employee may work for the employer
in a nonimmigrant visa category while the Labor Certification process is
The process by which citizenship
is conferred upon a foreign citizen or national. In the United
States, a foreign national must fulfill the requirements established
by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act, including
continuous residence in the United States, an ability to read and
speak English, a demonstrated knowledge of U.S. history and
government, and good moral character.
visa issued to a foreign national. Generally, U.S. Consular Officers
outside of the United States initially issue nonimmigrant visas. A visa
does not guarantee admission into the United States, and an immigration
inspector can deny entry if there is reason to believe that a particular
individual is not eligible. The period of validity of a visa is not the same as the
authorized period of temporary stay in the United States, which is
indicated on the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
A travel document issued by
the U.S. or a foreign government, including the bearer's date of birth,
country of origin, identity, and nationality.
A non-U.S. citizen who has been given
permission to live permanently in the United States. Permanent residents
are issued an identification document, often referred to as a "green
card." Permanent residents may leave and enter the United States without
additional applications or permissions, but the individual's primary
place of residence must be in the United States.
The request for a temporary or
immigration benefit filed
by an employer or family member on behalf of a foreign national.
The date on which
you first entered the immigration application process. Since
only a limited number of green cards are issued each year, you may
have to wait until a visa becomes available. Your Priority
Date marks your place in the waiting line, with others who filed
similar petitions. Each month the U.S. Department of State
makes green cards available to all those who applied on or before a
certain priority date. You can get a green card only when your
date comes up on the DOS list.
Request for Further
A person that is
unable or unwilling to return to their country of nationality
because of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race,
religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or
political opinion. Refugees apply for this status before
coming to the United States.
Reduction in Recruitment
An RFE is a
request by the Immigration Service or Department of Labor for additional documentation
or information in support of an application or petition.
Fast-track method of processing an application for labor
certification, where the employer demonstrates sustained and
unsuccessful attempts to recruit qualified U.S. workers.
for the Student Exchange Visitor Information System. SEVIS is a
computer-based system that requires institutions to report various data
regarding students on F and M visas as well as exchange visitors on J
visas. Primary visa holders and their dependents in these visa
classifications are required to report their home address, school
registration information, and other data to their schools.
The definition includes U.S.
citizens, lawful permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and temporary
It does not include temporary visa holders such as Ls or Hs.
Visa Waiver Program
A stamp placed in a
passport by a
U.S. consular officer outside of the United States. All U.S. visas serve
as entry documents to the United States. Visas can be designated as
either immigrant (permanent) or
nonimmigrant (temporary). Immigrant
visas are issued to those who will live in the United States
permanently. Temporary visitors may receive nonimmigrant visas.
The Visa Waiver
Program allows foreign nationals from certain countries to be
admitted to the United States under limited conditions and for a
limited time without first obtaining a visa. This program
permits nationals from designated countries to enter the United
States for ninety (90) days or less as visitors for business or
countries are presently participants in this program: Andorra,
Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg,
Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino,
Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United
Kingdom. Some countries (currently Andorra, Belgium, Brunei,
Liechtenstein, and Slovenia) are required to have machine-readable
passports to take advantage of this program.
Under U.S. immigration
law, there is no single document that serves as a "work permit." Certain
nonimmigrant visa categories include
limited employment authorization in the United States, as part of the
visa status. Certain other
foreign nationals present in the United States may have the right to
apply for an Employment Authorization Document ("EAD"),
before they can accept employment in the United States.