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Immigration Glossary


Advance Parole
Advance Parole, also referred to as the Travel Document, allows a person who has pending application to change from nonimmigrant to status immigrant to re-enter the United States after travelling abroad. An application for Advanced Parole must be filed prior to leaving the United States. 
 
AILA
American Immigration Lawyers Association. 
 
Alien
A person who is not a citizen of the United States of America. 
 
AOS/I-485
Adjustment of Status is a process that allows an eligible candidate to become a permanent resident of the United states without needing to go abroad and apply for a visa. Consular Processing is an alternative to AOS.
 
Asylum
Safe haven provided to a person who cannot return to their own country because of well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. If Asylum is granted, the person will be allowed to live and work in the United States and can apply for permanent residency after one year. 
 
Beneficiary 
A beneficiary is the person on whose behalf a petition is filed. 
 
Biometrics
Some applications require the applicant to appear at a USCIS Application Support Center for fingerprinting and photographs.  A notice is sent by USCIS with a particular date and time for the appointment.
 
Change of Status 
A petition, filed with USCIS, to change the status of a person from one nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant status.
 
Citizenship
See Naturalization.
 
Consular Processing
Consular Processing is process by which a foreigner can become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The applicant must apply for an immigrant visa at a United States Embassy/Consulate.
 
CPT
Curricular Practical Training (like OPT) is authorized student temporary employment. CPT must be authorized by the school on the I-20 but unlike OPT, the student does not require an EAD from USCIS.
 
DHS
United States Department of Homeland Security. The DHS oversees all immigration matters through its various departments including USCIS.
 
DOL
United States Department of Labor. The DOL oversees the Labor Certification process (as part of a Green Card application) as well as the processing of the LCA (part of H-1B petition).
 
DOS
United States Department of State. The Department of State oversees all  US Embassies and Consulates around the world. 
 
E1/E2 Treaty Trader/ Investor
The United States has signed treaties of friendship, commerce and navigation with various nations around the world. Citizens of these nations can obtain visas to work in the United states under certain circumstances.
 
E1 Visa
Reserved for those involved in significant amount of trade between United States and their country of citizenship.
 
E2 Visa
For individuals who have made significant investments in an operating business in the United States.
 
E3 Visa
This is nonimmigrant work visa available to citizens of Australia for employment in specialty occupations. E3 spouses and dependents are permitted to work in the United States. 
 
EAD
Employment Authorization Document (EAD) provides proof that the EAD card holder is authorized to work in the United States. This is only applicable to persons residing in the United States on certain temporary visas or those in thr final stage of a green card process.
 
Employment- Based (EB) Immigration 
This is a process of obtaining permanent residency (green card) through employment. 
 
E-Verify 
Is a web-based system operated by U.S
 
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) which enables an employer to verify employment eligibility of job applicants and their Social Security numbers.
 
EWI
An abbreviation for Entry Without Inspection.  This is the technical term for crossing the U.S. border illegally.
 
Family- Based Immigration
This is the process of acquiring a greencard as a result of a relationship with a relative who is a US Citizen or LPR
 
Green card
A card issued by USCIS that identifies the holder as a lawful permanent resident. The name “green card” is a historical artifact since the days when the cards issued were green in color. 
 
H-1B
The H-1B is a nonimmigrant status in the United States under the Immigration & Nationality Act. It allows U.S. employers to employ foreign  workers in specialty occupations. See visa section on this website for further information on H-1B visa.
 
I-20
Form issued to foreign-born students by the college or university as evidence of the student’s nonimmigrant status.
 
I-94
The I-94 (arrival/departure) form issued by USCIS shows the arrival date, “place of entry” and the date your period of stay expires. The I-94 is issued at the port of entry and should be surrendered when leaving the United States.
 
ICE
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a branch of the US Department of Homeland Security
 
Charged with the enfacement of immigration laws
 
INS
Immigration and Naturalization Service. This government body no longer exists and its functions have been taken over the US Department of Homeland Security. 
 
J-1
Exchange visitor visa. See visa section on this website for further details. 
 
K-1
Fiancé Visa. The nonimmigrant visa that enables the applicant to enter the United States to marry a US citizen. K-2 is for dependents. 
 
K-3
Nonimmigrant status that allows foreign-born spouses of US Citizens to come to the U.S. while applying for legal permanent resident status.  Children are issued K-4 visas to accompany a K-3 parent.
 
Labor Certification
Part of the immigration process required to obtain an employment based green card. Labor Certification is a process of proving that there are no US citizens available for the position being offered. This process is also referred to as PERM.
 
LCA
Prior to filing an H-1B petition, a Labor Condition Application (LCA) must be filed with DOL by the employer. The LCA essentially commits the employer to paying the H-1B worker the same or higher wage as that paid to others for the same type of job. The wage paid to an H-1B worker must also be the same or higher than the prevailing wages for the same job in the same geographical area where the H-1B worker is going to work.
 
LPR
Lawful Permanent Resident is a non-US citizen, residing legally in the United States – also known as Green card holder, or Permanent Resident Alien.
 
Motion to Reconsider
This is a formal request to reconsider a decision that is believed to have been made in error during the processing of a petition. The burden is on the petitioner to demonstrate why the decision was legally incorrect. 
 
Naturalization
A process by which a qualified foreign national can become a citizen of the United States. Citizenship may be acquired via family or employment-based immigration processes.
 
NIW
National Interest Waiver. A greencard category where an individual may seek a waiver of the labor certification requirements based on their expertise in a field of importance to the United States. The NIW is part of the employment-based, second preference category (EB2). The individual must hold advanced degrees or have exceptional ability. See Green card section on this website for further details.
 
Nonimmigrant 
A person who has entered the United States legally on a temporary basis for a particular and limited purpose.
 
Nonimmigrant Visa 
A passport visa stamp that authorizes a foreign national to travel to US on a temporary basis. 
 
NTA
Notice to Appear. A document, issued by USCIS, that places a person in removal proceedings.
 
O-1
Nonimmigrant visa for persons with extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, sciences, education and business. 
 
OPT
Optional Practical Training is USCIS authorized temporary employment available to F-1 Students after one year of academic studies. Students must apply for EAD prior to starting employment.
 
Out of Status
A term used to describe various situations where a non-US citizen has failed to maintain legal non-immigrant status. Some examples of being out-of-status include staying past the I-94 expiry date, working for a different employer than the one that sponsored the individual or end of your H1 or L1 employment.
 
PERM
Program Electronic Review Management is an electronic labor certification system designed to reduce labor certification times. All labor certification filed as of March 2005 are filed under PERM.
 
Petition
An application for immigrant or nonimmigrant visa filed on behalf of the beneficiary.
 
Priority Date
The date that an applicant’s labor certification is filed with the DOL is the applicant’s priority date. The DOS regularly publishes cutoff dates for immigration categories and countries of birth. Only those applicants whose priority dates falls before the cutoff date can apply for Adjustment of Status or obtain an immigrant visa at a US consulate.
 
RFE
Request For evidence (RFE). This s an official request by the USCIS to solicit further information on a pending case.
 
SEVIS
Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. A web-based system used by the DHS to record educational history of foreign students studying in the United States.
 
USCIS
In March 2003 what used to be known as US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security as United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
 
Visa
The actual stamp or paper that is affixed to a passport page by a consulate or embassy as evidence of the passport-holder’s authorization to enter a country for a specific purpose and time period.
 
Visa Bulletin
Report issued by the U.S. Department of State each month to summarize the availability of immigrant visas for that month.
 
VWP
The Visa Waiver Program enables the citizens of certain countries to travel to United States for periods of up to 90 days without having to get a visa.