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Immigration Glossary


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To make a decision or determination, usually related to a legal issue or dispute. When an immigration case has been “adjudicated,” it means that an officer has made a decision to either approve or deny the requested immigration benefit.

The process of applying for a green card from within the United States, as opposed to applying from outside the United States using consular processing. It is called “adjustment of status” because the applicant changes from one status (their original visa) to another (permanent U.S. residence). See our green card adjustment of status guide for more information.

Eligibility to enter the United States. If a person is found to be admissible, they will be allowed to enter the country after being inspected by an immigration officer. See also inadmissibility.

The date that a person’s immigration status in the United States will expire, as marked in their I-94 travel record. See also duration of status (D/S).

Permission to reenter the United States after traveling abroad without applying for a new visa. Green card applicants can use Form I-131 to apply for advance parole in order to travel abroad without abandoning their application. See also green card.

A sworn statement submitted in writing, often witnessed by a notary. See also Affidavit of Support.

A document in which a person promises to support an immigrant financially, and to reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of any public assistance they receive. Usually submitted as part of a green card application. Read more here.

A person who is not a U.S. citizen. Under U.S. tax law, green card holders and people who spend significant amounts of time in the United States are considered “resident aliens,” while other foreign nationals, such as temporary visa holders who haven’t yet been in the United States long enough to qualify as “resident,” are considered “nonresident aliens.” See also foreign national.

A number assigned by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to each person who files a visa or immigration application. The A-number — also sometimes called a “USCIS number” or “USCIS#” — remains the same for a person’s whole life, even if they file several different visa or immigration requests. See also case number.

A request to an outside authority to overturn an official decision or ruling. Some immigration decisions can be appealed to the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), an office within the Department of Justice. Other decisions can’t be formally appealed, but can be referred back to the issuing office for reconsideration. See motion to reopen or reconsider.

Protection and immigration benefits granted to a person already in the United States, or at a U.S. port of entry, because they fear persecution in their home country. A refugee becomes an asylee once they arrive in the United States or at a U.S port of entry. Asylees can request a green card after 1 year in the United States.

A process allowing certain nonimmigrants to take short trips to Mexico, Canada, or some Caribbean islands and return to the United States on an expired visa, without first needing to apply for a new visa. See the Department of State website for more information.


Someone for whom an immigration benefit has been requested, either by the beneficiary themselves, or by a relative or employer. The person for whom the benefit is requested is the principal beneficiary, while close family members who also qualify for such benefits are derivative beneficiaries.

Physical characteristics that can be used to identify a person. When you apply for a visa or other immigration benefits, you will often be called for a biometrics appointment at which your fingerprints will be recorded and your photograph will be taken.

A government-issued document that records the birth of a child, and includes certain key identifying information such as the full name, place of birth, and names of both parents. For immigration purposes, the U.S. government typically requires a certified copy of the long-form birth certificate, which is a copy of the original record.

A nonimmigrant visa issued for temporary travel to the United States. The B-visa includes the B-1 visa (used for business) and the B-2 visa (used for tourism and pleasure). Since many people combine business and pleasure during trips to the United States, the visa is often issued as a single multipurpose B-1/B-2 visa.


A number issued by USCIS to keep track of individual immigration and visa applications. A single person can have multiple different case numbers (also known as “receipt numbers”) tracking their different immigration requests and visa applications. See also alien registration number.

An official document that identifies the holder as a U.S. citizen. It is issued to people who were born abroad, and gained citizenship either at birth or at a later date, such as when their parents became naturalized citizens. See also Certificate of Naturalization.

An official document that identifies the holder as a U.S. citizen. It is issued to people who gain citizenship through naturalization, following the Oath of Allegiance. Learn more: Certificate of Naturalization

To be a national of a particular country. U.S. citizenship can be acquired at birth, through one’s parents at a later date, or through naturalization.

A test administered during an in-person interview as part of the naturalization process. Candidates for citizenship must show that they can speak, read, and write in English, and must also show a basic knowledge of American civics, including the country’s history and political system. Read more here.

See immigration status.

A probationary green card status issued to some U.S. residents, such as immigrants who were married for less than 2 years when their marriage-based green card was approved. Conditional residents’ green cards are marked “CR-1” and remain valid for just 2 years, after which they must apply for a permanent green card, valid for 10-year renewable periods. Learn more about the CR-1 Visa.

A period of time that a green card holder spends in the United States after gaining U.S. residence. Permanent residents must spend between 3 and 5 years continuously resident in the United States in order to qualify for U.S. citizenship. Spending more than 6 months abroad can disrupt continuous residence. See also physical presence.

The online tool used to file most visa applications submitted from abroad. You can use this portal to submit forms and documents, pay fees, and check the status of your application.

The process used to apply for a green card from outside the United States, as opposed to applying from within the United States using the “adjustment of status” process. Most of the process is handled by officials at the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to the applicant’s place of residence.

A diplomatic office in a foreign country. In many countries, the United States has a big embassy in the capital city, and a number of smaller consulates (run by officials called consuls) in other important towns and cities. Both consulates and embassies offer a wide range of immigration services. Read more about consular immigration services here.

Written communication, usually by email or letters, between two or more people or organizations. USCIS sometimes uses the term to refer to the forms and letters sent in by applicants, and notices or receipts it sends back in return.

A U.S. government agency within the Department of Homeland Security. CBP officials protect the U.S. border, enforce customs and immigration regulations, and inspect new arrivals before admitting them to the United States.

See final action date.


Green Card: An official document granting an immigrant the legal right to live and work permanently in the United States. It is also known as a Permanent Resident Card.

Visa: A document that allows a person to enter, leave, or stay in a country for a specific period, typically for work, study, tourism, or family reunification purposes.

Citizenship: The status of being a member of a particular country with all the accompanying rights and privileges, obtained either by birth or through a legal process called naturalization.

Naturalization: The process by which a foreign citizen becomes a citizen of a new country. In the U.S., naturalization grants a green card holder (permanent resident) the status of a U.S. citizen.

Asylum: A form of protection granted to individuals who have fled their home country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Refugees: Individuals who are forced to leave their home country due to persecution, war, or violence and are granted refugee status by another country for protection and resettlement.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals): A U.S. immigration policy that provides temporary protection from deportation and work permits for undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. as children.

H-1B Visa: A non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations that require specialized knowledge and a minimum of a bachelor's degree.

Family-based Immigration: A category of U.S. immigration where U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor certain family members for permanent residency.

Diversity Visa Lottery: Also known as the DV lottery, it is a U.S. immigration program that randomly selects individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. for a chance to apply for a green card.

USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services): The agency responsible for overseeing immigration and naturalization processes in the United States.

ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement): A law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security responsible for enforcing immigration laws and investigating immigration-related crimes.

Deportation: The legal process of removing an individual from a country because they have violated immigration laws or have lost legal status.

I-94: An Arrival/Departure Record issued to foreign visitors upon entry to the United States, containing important information about their legal status and authorized period of stay.

PERM (Program Electronic Review Management): The process through which an employer must demonstrate that there are no qualified U.S. workers available for a specific job before sponsoring a foreign worker for an employment-based visa.

NCE is an acronym for 'New Commercial Enterprise' and the term is used in EB-5 to identify the entity, partnership or LLC that EB-5 petitioners will invest in, and the

New Commercial Enterprise is a requirement of the US EB-5 program.
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