Immigration Glossary

Immigration Glossary

Admissibility — Refers to an individual’s eligibility for admission to the United States. The law defines numerous categories of persons who are barred from admission into the U.S. because of prior misconduct or other undesirable characteristics, called grounds of admissibility.” The reasons for barring admission to immigrants are called grounds of inadmissibility. A person to whom no grounds of inadmissibility apply is admissible. Some grounds of inadmissibility can be overcome if a waiver can be obtained.

Alien Number — See A Number.

Amnesty — A pardon, or legal forgiveness, granted for an offense such as entering a country illegally. Amnesty programs were created by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

A Number — The unique file number assigned by the Department of Homeland Security to every alien who is admitted to the United States or who otherwise comes into contact with the agency. This number begins with the letter “A” followed by eight digits. It will be the alien’s file number throughout the immigration process.

Asylum — The protection that countries grant to refugees. The basis for asylum is past persecution on the basis of in the alien’s country of origin or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, if returned to the country of origin.

Asylum Seekers — People who file an application for asylum in a country other than their country of nationality.

Beneficiary — A term commonly used in immigration law to refer to a person on whose behalf a relative or employer has filed a petition for the individual to be granted lawful permanent resident status.

BIA — See Board of Immigration Appeals.

Board of Immigration Appeals — The appellate body within the Executive Office for Immigration Review that reviews appeals of decisions made by Immigration Judges and of certain decisions made by officials of the Department of Homeland Security.

Cancellation of Removal — A discretionary action of an Immigration Judge changing an alien’s status from “deportable” to “lawfully admitted for permanent residence.” Cancellation of removal may be applied for during a hearing before an Immigration Judge.

CFR — See Code of Federal Regulations.

back to top

Conditional Resident — A Lawful Permanent Residnent (LPR) whose status was granted subject to a condition. After two years in this status, conditional residents must apply to remove the condition. Conditional Resident status is granted in Immigrant petitions based on marriage and immigrants who are granted entry for the purpose of establishing a business in the U.S. Immigrants who are unable to meet the requirements for petitioning to remove the condition may in some circumstances obtain a waiver of the requirement.

Consul — An official within the U.S. State Department who is stationed at a consulate in a foreign country and whose responsibility it is, among other things, to process applications for visas. Immigrant visa applicants already living in the United States who are not eligible for adjustment of status must leave the U.S. to have an interview and receive their visa at a consulate.

Convention Against Torture (CAT) — An international treaty that the United States has ratified that prohibits the involuntary return of any individual to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — The agency created by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 which replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) on March 1, 2003. DHS is divided into three (3) units: the Citizenship and Immigrations Services (CIS) which processes immigration petitions such as naturalization and asylum applications; the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) which handles immigration enforcement within the U.S. border; and Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) which handles enforcement matters outside the U.S. border.

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

Derivative Beneficiary — See Beneficiary.

Derivative Citizenship — See Derivative Naturalization.

Derivative Naturalization — The operation of law by which a child under 18 years of age may automatically become a U.S. citizen as a result of the naturalization of one or both parents. This process has two basic requirements: the naturalization of one or both parents and the attainment of lawful permanent resident status by the child before a certain age.

Diversity Visa — An immigrant visa available to individuals from countries from which relatively few people have immigrated to the United States in recent years.

Domicile — A term that is generally used to describe a person’s primary place of residence combined with that person’s intent to reside at that residence.

back to top

Employment Authorization — Permission to accept employment in the United States.

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — A branch of the U.S. Department of Justice that operates independently of the Department of Homeland Security. The
EOIR includes the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, the Board of Immigration Appeal, and the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer.

Green Card — A term commonly used when referring to any Permanent Resident card, despite the fact that it has been years since the green versions of this card were issued.

I-9 Form — The “Employment Eligibility Verification” form used by United States employers to verify that their employees are eligible to be employed.

I-94 Card — The Arrival-Departure Record of particular foreigners used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which must be completed at the time of entry to the United States by foreign citizens that are being admitted into the United States in a nonimmigrant visa status.

I-130 Form — The form used by U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to petition for an immigrant visa for a family member.

Immediate Relative — In immigration law, a person bearing one of the following relationships to a U.S. citizen: (1) the minor, unmarried child of a U.S. citizen; (2) the spouse of a U.S. citizen; (3) the parent of a U.S. citizen who is over 21 years of age; and (4) the widow or widower of a U.S. citizen, and any minor child of the immigrant. Immediate relative immigrants are not subject to the numerical limitations that apply to most other immigrants.

Immigrant — A person who leaves his or her country to settle permanently in another country. In immigration law, the term refers to any noncitzen in the U.S. except any individual who was ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES as a NONIMMIGRANT and continues to maintain that status.

Immigrant Visa — An official authorization appended to a passport that permits the bearer to enter and settle permanently within a particular country as a lawful permanent resident.

Immigration Court — An administrative tribunal that is part of the executive branch of the government, rather than the judicial branch, presided over by an Immigration Judge, who is charged with hearing cases involving questions of immigration law, typically involving removal, deportation, and asylum.

back to top

Immigration Judge — An administrative agency official who hears and decides cases brought before an Immigration Court.

Inadmissibility — See admissibility.

INS — The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the name of the predecessor service to the Department of Homeland Security.

Inspection — An examination by an officer of the Department of Homeland Security of a person seeking to enter the United States, whether at the border or a port of entry, such as an international airport. Entry without inspection creates a host of problems and difficulties.

Joint Sponsor — A person assisting in the support of an immigrant and completing and affidavit of support when the primary sponsor lacks sufficient income and assets to support a sponsored immigrant at 125 percent of the federal poverty level.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) — An immigrant who has been granted a status that allows him or her to reside and work permanently in the United States.

Lawful Temporary Resident (LTR) — A person who applied for and was given amnesty under the provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Legalization — The technical term for the process of obtaining Lawful Permanent Resident status through amnesty.

Naturalization — The process by which immigrants become U.S. citizens, requiring, among other things, that the applicant must have lived in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident for five years, three years if married to a U.S. citizen, or one ear for certain military veterans.

Nonimmigrant — A noncitizen who has been granted a nonimmigrant status that allows him or her to remain in the United States temporarily for a specific purpose.

back to top

Permanent Resident Card — A card, commonly called a “Green Card,” issued to immigrants as proof they have been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.

Refugee — A noncitizen given permission to come to the United States because he or she was persecuted, or has a well-founded fear of being persecuted (on account of race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group), in his or her home country.

Removal — The expulsion of a noncitizen from the United States by legal process.

Resident Alien Card — See Permanent Resident Card.

Self-petition — A petition for an immigrant visa filed by an individual who is also the beneficiary of the petition. This group includes certain abused immigrants filing under the Violence Against Women Act and widows or widowers of U.S. citizens who qualify as immediate relatives.

Social Security Card — A card issued by the Social Security Administration to identify individuals for Social Security purposes. Lawful Permanent Residents and other immigrants permitted to work indefinitely in the United States qualify for an unrestricted card, which is the same as the one provided to U.S. citizens. Other work-authorized immigrants receive a card that states that is it valid for work only.

Sponsor — An individual who completes an AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT to help a sponsored IMMIGRANT enter the United States.

Stay of Deportation or Removal — An order temporarily halting the execution of a deportation or removal order.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) — A temporary (typically 12 to 18 months) grant of permission to remain in the United States and to work that is granted to nationals of a particular country when the Attorney General determines that unstable or dangerous conditions in that country warrant such relief.

Undocumented Immigrant — A noncitizen who entered the United States without inspection or violated the terms of his or her nonimmigrant status.

back to top

U.S. Citizen — Any person, with the exception of the children of certain diplomats, who was born in the United States or its territories, certain persons born abroad whose parents are U.S. citizens who qualify for acquisition of citizenship, and non citizens who become citizens through naturalization.

Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) — An act of Congress that established a procedure by which abused immigrants can self-petition to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status and created two new nonimmigrant statuses: the T status for victims of trafficking, and the U status for victims and witnesses of certain crimes.

Visa — An official authorization appended to a passport that permits the person to whom it is issued to enter and travel or settle within the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas allow
only temporary stays in the United States, whereas immigrant visas provide for permanent residence.

Visa Lottery — The process whereby Diversity Visas are assigned at random to eligible applicants seeking to immigrate to the United States.

Visa Petition — An application filed by a U.S. Citizen or LPR as petitioner for a relative or an employer as petitioner for an employee that must be filed and approved before an immigrant beneficiary can receive a family-based visa or an employment-based visa.

Voluntary Departure — A form of relief in which individuals who are removable or deportable agree to leave the United States by a designated date, thus avoiding having an order of deportation or removal entered against them.

Waiver — A discretionary determination to excuse a ground of inadmissibility or deport ability that would otherwise apply to a noncitizen.

Withholding of Removal — Status available in removal proceedings that prohibits the DHS from returning an individual to a country where his or her life or freedom would be endangered. This status is similar to, but separate from, asylum.

Work Authorization — See Employment Authorization.

back to top

Serving Southwest Ohio clients in Cincinnati, Mason, Lebanon, West Chester, Montgomery, Hamilton, Middletown, Batavia, Wilmington and surrounding areas.

Warren County • Butler County • Hamilton County • Clermont County • Clinton County