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Glossary of U.S. Immigration Terms

This is a glossary of U.S. immigration terms for the use of our clients and other interested parties.

A - F

"A" Number

Alien registration number.

Accompanying Visa

A type of visa in which family members travel with the principal applicant to the United States (in immigrant visa cases, within six months of issuance to the principal applicant).

Adjust Status

1) To change from a nonimmigrant visa status or other status.
2) To adjust the status of a permanent resident (green card holder).

Admission

Entry to the United States that is authorized by an U.S. immigration inspector (an employee of the DHS). Admission or entrance into the U.S., by non-United States citizens, must be authorized by U.S. immigration at the port-of-entry. U.S. immigration will determine if you can enter the country and the length of stay granted. Once you are allowed to enter, the length of stay and immigration classification given are recorded with the Duration of Status (D/S) on Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, or Form I-94W, provided you are arriving on the Visa Waiver Program. If you choose to stay longer that the date authorized, permission must be requested from the DHS’s USCIS.

Adopted child

An unmarried child under age 21, adopted while under age of sixteen, has been in legal custody, and lived with the adopting parent(s) for at least two years. These rules do not apply to orphans adopted by American citizens. The adoption decree must give the child all the rights of an U.S. born child.

Advance Parole

Permission to return to the U.S. after travel abroad. Advanced parole is granted by DHS prior to leaving the U.S. The following might require advance parole:

  • People on a K-1 visa
  • Asylum applicants
  • Parolees
  • People with Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • People trying to adjust status, while in the U.S.
  • If these people do not apply for advance parole before they leave the United States, they may be unable to return.

Advisory Opinion

An opinion regarding a point of law from the Office of Visa Services in the Department of State in Washington, D.C. This opinion would be in answer to a question from an embassy or consulate about interpretation of immigration law, or a response to a request of review of the legal correctness of an applicant or his/her representative regarding a visa refusal.

Affidavit of Support

A document promising that the person who completes the document will support an applicant financially in the United States. Family cases and certain employment immigration cases require the I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is legally binding. All other cases regarding immigration use the I-134 Affidavit of Support.

Affiliated

Associated or controlled by the same owner or authority.

Agent

In regard to immigrant visa processing, the applicant selects a person who receives all correspondence regarding the case and pays the immigrant visa application processing fee. The agent can be the applicant, the petitioner, or another person selected by the applicant.

Alien

A foreign national who is not an American citizen. An Immigrant/foreigner.

AOS

See "Adjustment of Status"

Applicant

A person who wants something for him/herself and makes a request for it (asks for it). The request is usually in writing.

Approval notice

A DHS, USCIS immigrant form, (Notice of Action, Form I-797) that states the USCIS has approved a petition.

AR-11

Alien’s Change of Address Card. The AR-11 form is used to inform the USCIS of a change of address.

Arrival-Departure Card

Also known as Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. The DHS U.S. immigration inspector at port-of-entry gives foreign visitors (all non-U.S. citizens) an Arrival-Departure Record, (a small white card) when they enter the United States. Recorded on this card are the immigrant classification and the authorized period of stay in the U.S. This is either recorded as a date or the entry of Duration of Status. It is important to keep this card safe because it shows the length of time you are permitted and authorized by the DHS to stay in the U.S. It is best kept stapled with your passport, kept in a safe place. The visitors return the I-94 card when they leave the country. The I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record (green card) is for travelers on the Visa Waiver Program.

B visas ( B-1 and B-2)

The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) and for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2).

BCIS

The former Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service, known prior as the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) and currently known as the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).

Beneficiary

An applicant for a visa as named in a petition from the DHS, USCIS. One who is petitioned.

Bona Fide

Genuine, sincere, and in good faith.

Cancelled Without Prejudice

A stamp and embassy or consulate puts on a visa when there is a mistake in the visa or the visa is a duplicate visa (two of the same kind). It does not affect the validity of other visas in the passport. It does not mean that the passport holder will not get another visa.

Case Number

The National Visa Center (NVC) gives each immigrant petition a case number. This number has three letters followed by ten digits (numbers). The three letters are an abbreviation for the overseas embassy or consulate that will process the immigrant visa case (for example, GUZ for Guangzhou, CDJ for Ciudad Juarez).

The digits tell us exactly when the NVC created the case. For example, a case with the number MNL2001747003 would be a case assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Manila. 2001 is the year in which NVC received the case from the USCIS (formerly BCIS or INS). The Julian date is 747 plus 500, so this case was created in September 4, 2001, the 247th day of the year. The 003 shows that it was the third case created for Manila on that day.

This case number is not the same as the USCIS receipt number, which is written on the Notice of Action, Form I-797. Note: a consular section abroad cannot find a case if all that you have is the receipt number.

Certificate of Citizenship

A document issued by the DHS as proof that the person has U.S. citizenship by birth (when born abroad) or derivation (not from naturalization). The Child Citizenship Act of 2001 gives American citizenship automatically to certain foreign-born children of American citizens. These children can apply for certificates of citizenship.

Certificate of Naturalization

A document issued by the DHS as proof that the person has become a U.S. citizen (naturalized) after immigration to the United States. A certificate is given, at the oath ceremony, which serves as proof of citizenship.

CFR

Code of Federal Regulations

Change Status

To go from one nonimmigrant visa status to another nonimmigrant visa status while a person is in the U.S. Requests for change of status must be made by the visa holder to the DHS, USCIS.

Charge/Chargeable

There are numerical limits on the number of immigrant visas that can be granted to aliens from any one foreign country. This limit is the same for all countries. The limit is based on place of birth, not citizenship. Where the immigrant is “charged”, means that the person is counted towards a given country’s numerical limit. For example, an immigrant born in Ethiopia is “charged” to Ethiopia, and therefore counted towards reaching the numerical limit for that country. The person would be “charged” to Ethiopia, even if the immigrant born in Ethiopia was born of Yemeni parents and has a passport from Yemen.

Although immigrants are normally “charged” to their country of birth, an immigrant is sometimes able to claim another for the sake of immigration. You would do this if it helps the immigrant in reaching the “cut-off date” date faster. For example, suppose you were born in India, but your spouse was born in Sudan. The “cut-off date” for a person in India is earlier in family fourth preference immigration category than the “cut-off date” for a person born in Sudan. We can “charge” you to Sudan rather than India, and you can use the more favorable cut-off date for Sudan. Therefore, you would be able to immigrate years earlier with chargeability to Sudan rather than chargeability to India.

Child

Unmarried child under the age of 21 years. A child may be natural born, step or adopted. If the child is a stepchild, the marriage between the parent and the American citizen must have occurred when the child was under the age of 18. If the child is adopted, he/she must have been adopted with a full and final adoption when the child was under the age of 16, and the child must have lived with and been legal custody of the parent for at least two years. An orphan may qualify as a child if he/she has been adopted abroad by an American citizen or if the American citizen parent has filed an immediate-relative (IR) visa petition for him/her to go to the United States for adoption by the American citizen.

In certain visa cases a child continues to be classified as a child after he/she becomes 21, if the petition was filed for him/her when he/she was still under 21 years of age. For example, an IR-2 child of an American citizen remains a child after the age of 21 if a petition was filed for him/her on or after August 6, 2002, when he/she was still under 21 years old. The child must meet other requirements of a child as listed above.

Cohabit

To live together without a legal marriage ceremony.

Common-law Marriage

An agreement between a man and a woman to enter into marriage without a civil or religious ceremony. It may not be recognized as a marriage for immigration purposes.

Conditional residence visa

A visa granted on certain conditions. For example, a person has been married for less than two years when their husband or wife (spouse) gets lawful permanent resident status (gets a green card), the spouse gets residence on a conditional basis. After two years you and your spouse must apply together to the DHS to remove the condition to the residence.

The investor visa (EB5 or T5/C5) is also a conditional residence. It requires an application procedure after two years to remove the condition on the permanent residence.

Consulate/Embassy

Satellite Immigration office abroad.

Current/noncurrent

There are numerical limits on the number of immigrant visas that can be granted to aliens from any one country. The limit is based on place of birth, not citizenship. Because of the numerical limits, this means that there is a waiting time before the immigrant visa can be granted. The terms current/noncurrent refers to the priority date of a petition in preference immigrant visa cases in relationship to the immigrant cut-off date. If your priority date is before/earlier than the cut-off date according to the monthly Visa Bulletin, your case is current. This means your immigrant visa case can now be processed. However, if your priority date is later/comes after the cut-off date, you will need to wait longer until your priority date is reached (becomes current).

Immediate relative immigrant visa cases do not have country numerical limits, with waiting times as a result of the country limits. The term priority date, cut-off date and current/noncurrent does not apply for immediate relative cases.

Cut-off Date

The date determines whether a preference immigrant visa applicant can be scheduled for an immigrant visa interview in any given month. The cut-off date is the priority date of the first applicant who could not get a visa interview for a given month. Applicants with a priority date before or earlier than the cut-off date can be scheduled. However, if your priority date is later (comes after) the cut-off date, you will need to wait longer, until your priority date is reached (becomes current).

Denomination/Sect

A religious group or community.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The U.S. government department responsible for most areas of national security, including all areas related to foreign visitors in the U.S. Under its jurisdiction are three bureaus that handle the work previously done by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Foreign students come into contact with DHS at the ports of entry to the United States, through the SEVIS database, and when applying for nonimmigrant benefits, e.g., employment authorization.

Department of Labor

The cabinet of the executive branch of the government of the United States that regulates the interaction of employees and employers. It takes responsibility for deciding whether certain foreign workers can work in the United States.

Deportation/Removal

The formal removal of a person from the United States.

Derivative

A status based on or derived from another.

Derivative Status

Getting a status (visa) through another applicant. For example, the spouse and children of an applicant for a family fourth preference immigrant visa (F4) can also get visas in the same category. They have derivative status. Not all visa categories permit derivative status for family members.

Diversity Visa Program

The Department of State has an annual lottery for immigration to the United States. Up to 55,000 immigrants can enter the United States each year.

Documentarily Qualified

Refers to an immigrant visa applicant who has:

  • Returned Form DS 2001 to a visa issuing post (or in some cases, to the National Visa Center) or;
  • Informed the visa issuing post in another way that he/she has all the documents for his/her immigrant visa application, and the post has completed its clearance procedure.

DOL

Department of Labor

Domicile

Place where a person has his or her principal residence. The person must intend to keep that residence for the foreseeable future. The sponsor of an immigrant must have domicile in the United States before the visa can be issued. This generally means that the sponsor must be living in the United States. In certain circumstances, however, one can be considered to have a domicile while living temporarily overseas.

Duration of Status

In certain visa categories such as diplomats, students, and exchange visitors, the alien may be admitted into the U.S. for as long as they are still doing the activity for which the visa was issued, rather than being admitted until a specific departure date. This is called admission for “duration of status”. For students, the time during which a student is in a full course of study plus practical training, and following that, authorized time to depart the country, is duration of status. The length of time depends upon the course of study. For an undergraduate degree this is commonly four years (eight semesters). Normally the immigration officer gives a student permission to stay in the U.S. for “duration of status”.

Duration of Status (or D/S) is recorded on Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. The Department of Homeland Security U.S. immigration inspector at port-of-entry gives foreign visitors (all non-U.S. citizens) an Arrival-Departure, (small white card) when they enter the United States. Recorded on this card are the immigrant classification and the authorized period of stay in the U.S. This is either recorded as a date or the entry or D/S, meaning duration of status. The I-94 is a very important card to keep, because it shows the length of time you are permitted and authorized by the DHS to stay in the U.S.

DV

See 'Diversity Visa Program'

E visas ( E-1 and E-2)

The E-1 treaty trader visa allows an individual to come to the U.S. for the purpose of furthering substantial trade that is international in scope. The trade must be primarily between the United States and the treaty country where the person holds citizenship.

The E-2 treaty investor visa allows an individual to come to the U.S. for the purpose of furthering a substantial investment in a U.S. enterprise made by individuals or businesses that are citizens of a treaty country.

EWI

Entry Without Inspection. This term is used to describe when a foreign national has entered the United States without inspection by an officer of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Examiner

An Immigration Officer assigned to examine the validity or status of an alien.

Exceptional Ability

Exceptional ability comes into play as a criteria for some employment-based visa applications. It is defined as a degree of expertise significantly above that ordinarily encountered in science, arts, or business.

Exchange Visitor

A foreign citizen coming to the United States to participate in a particular program in education, training or research. The Department of State approves the programs. The applicant enters the United States on a J visa.

Facility

A site that is built or established to perform a specific function or serve a particular need. For example, the Department of State built the Kentucky Consular Center to manage the diversity visa program.

Family First Preference

A category of family immigration (F1) for unmarried sons and daughters of American citizens, and their children.

Family Second Preference

A category of family immigration (F2) for spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.

Family Third Preference

A category of family immigration (F3) for married sons and daughters of American citizens and their spouses and children. Before 1992 this was known as the fourth preference (P-4).

Family Fourth Preference

A category of family immigration (F4) for brothers and sisters of American citizens and their spouses and children. The American citizen must be 21 years of age or older before he/she can file the petition. Before 1992 this was known as the fifth preference (P-5).

F - N

Federal Poverty Guidelines

The Department of Health and Human Services publishes a list every year giving the lowest income acceptable for a family of a particular size so that the family does not live in poverty. Consular offices use these figures in immigrant visa cases to determine whether a sponsor’s income is sufficient to support a new immigrant. For sponsors using the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support the income must be above 125 percent of the Guidelines. For sponsors using the Form I-134 Affidavit of Support the income generally should be at or above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Fiancé(e)

A person who plans or is contracted to marry another person. The foreign fiancé(e) of an American citizen may enter the United States on a K-1 visa to marry the American citizen.

Fiscal Year

The budget year for the United States Government. It begins on October 1st and ends September 30th of the following year.

Following to Join

A type of derivative visa status when the family member gets a visa after the principal applicant.

Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM)

Foreign Affairs Manual Chapter 41 relates to nonimmigrant visas. Chapter 42 covers immigrant visas.

Fraud Prevention & Detection Fee

A fee collected by the USCIS from a U.S. employer when filing a new petition on behalf of a foreign worker. The fee is $500 but can vary based on the size of the employer. The fee may be paid at the embassy at the time of the interview. This fee applies to employers seeking initial H-1B nonimmigrant status for a foreign worker or to employers seeking approval for a foreign worker already in H-1B status who wants to change employers.

Full and Final Adoption

A legal adoption in which the child receives all the rights of a natural born, legitimate child.

Green Card

A wallet-sized card showing that the person is a lawful permanent resident (immigrant) in the United States. It is referred to as a permanent resident card (PRC), alien registration receipt card, I-151, or I-551. In years past it was originally green in color.

Homeless

Persons from countries that do not have an American Embassy or Consulate where they can apply for immigrant visas are “homeless”. For example, the United States Government does not have an embassy in Iran. Residents or Iran are “homeless” for visa purposes.

Household Income

The income used to determine whether a sponsor meets the minimum income requirements under Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for some immigrant visa cases.

I-551

Permanent residence card or alien registration receipt card or “green card”.

Illegal Alien

A person not authorized to stay in the United States due to lack of or expired authorization.

Illegal Entry

The term used to describe entry into the United States by an alien (foreign citizen) without inspection and authorization by the CBP (Customs and Border Protection). See 'EWI'.

Immediate Relative

Spouse, widow(er) and unmarried children under the age of 21 of an American citizen. A parent is an immediate relative if the American citizen is 21 years of age or older. There are no numerical limits to immigration of immediate relatives.

Immigrant Visa

A visa for a person who plans to live indefinitely and permanently in the United States.

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

American immigration law. The issuance of all visas is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Immigration and Nationality Service

A branch of the Department of Justice that formerly existed and had responsibility for immigration and naturalization. INS has been renamed and became part of the DHS on March 1, 2003.

Inadmissible

An alien seeking admission at a port of entry who does not meet the criteria in the INA for admission. The alien may be placed in removal proceedings or, under certain circumstances, allowed to withdraw his or her application for admission.

In Status

Following the requirements of the visa. For example, you are a foreign student who entered the United States on a student visa. If you are a full time student and pursuing your course of study, and are not engaged on unauthorized employment, you are “in status.” If you work full time in your uncle’s convenience store and do not study, you are “out of status.”

INA

Immigration and Nationality Act. American immigration law. The issuance of all visas is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Intelstat

International Telecommunications Satellite Organization.

IRS

Internal Revenue Service.

Joint Sponsor

A person who accepts legal responsibility for supporting an immigrant with an I-864 Affidavit of Support along with the sponsor. The joint sponsor must be at least 18 years of age, an American citizen or lawful permanent resident and have a domicile in the United States. The joint sponsor and his/her household must have the 125 percent income requirement by itself for the immigrant that he/she sponsors.

Jurisdiction

Authority to apply the law in a given territory or region. As an example, the USCIS district office in the area where a person lives has jurisdiction or authority to decide on a fiancé(e) petition.

K-1 Visa

The K-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a United States citizen. The K-1 visa permits the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) to travel to the United States and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival. The foreign-citizen will then apply for adjustment of status to a permanent resident (LPR) with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Because a fiancé(e) visa permits the holder to immigrate to the U.S. and marry a U.S. citizen shortly after arrival in the United States, the fiancé(e) must meet some of the requirements of an immigrant visa.

K-3 Visa

Nonimmigrant Petition for a U.S. citizen’s spouse which allows 2 year period of "hybrid" status while filing for Adjustment of Status to Permanent Resident.

K-4 Visa

Nonimmigrant Petition for a child of a U.S. citizen’s spouse.

Kentucky Consular Center

A U.S. Department of State facility located in Williamsburg, Kentucky. It gives domestic (U.S.) support to the worldwide operations of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office. It manages the Diversity Visa (DV) Program. In the future the KCC will increasingly support nonimmigrant visa programs at embassies and consulates abroad.

Labor Certification

The initial stage of the process, by which a foreign worker gets permission to work in the United States. The employer is responsible for getting the labor certification from the Department of Labor. In general, the process works to make sure that the work of foreign workers in the U.S. will not adversely affect job opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. workers.

Labor Condition Application (LCA)

A request to the Department of Labor for a foreign worker to work in the United States. This application is required for H-1 (b), specialty occupation nonimmigrant workers.

Lawful Permanent Resident Alien

Lawful permanent resident. Abbreviated LPR. Synonymous with "Green Card Holder".

Lay Worker

A person who works in a religious organization but is not a member of the formal clergy.

Legitimation

The legal process which a natural father can use to legally acknowledge his children who were born out of wedlock (outside of marriage). A legitimated child can be a “child” under immigration law under these conditions:

  • the legitimation took place according to the law of the child’s residence or the father’s residence;
  • the father proved (established) that he is the child’s natural father;
  • the child was under the age of 18; and
  • the child was in the legal custody of the father who legitimated the child when the legal process of legitimization took place.
LIFE Act

Legal Immigration Family Equity (LIFE) Act and amendments. This act of Congress allows foreign spouses of American citizens, the children of those foreign spouses, and spouses and children of certain lawful permanent residents (LPR) to come to the United States to complete the processing for their permanent residence. This Act became effective on December 21, 2000.

Local Education Agency

School or school district. Also called LEA. This term is used for deciding tuition charges for secondary school students in F-1 visa status.

Lose Status

To stay in the United States longer than the period of time which the DHS gave to a person when he/she entered the United States, or to fail to meet the requirements or violate the terms if the visa classification. The person become “out of status.” For example, you entered the U.S. on a student visa to study at a university. You work at your uncle’s convenience store without authorization, and do not study. You have lost status and thus “out of status.”

Lottery

Diversity visa program. A computer randomly draws winners for the right to apply for immigration to the United States.

LPR

Lawful permanent resident. Green Card Holder.

Machine Readable Passport

Has biographic information entered on the data page according to international specifications. The size of the passport and the photograph, and arrangement and data fields, especially the two lines of printed OCR-B machine readable data, meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Doc 9303, Part 1 Machine Readable Passports. OCR-B means the type is Optical Character Reader size B.

Machine Readable Visa

A visa that immigration officers read with special machines when the applicants enter the United States. It gives biographic information about the passport holder and tells the DHS information on the type of visa. It is also called MRV.

Maintain Status

To follow the requirements of the visa status and comply with any limitation on duration of stay.

Mala Fide

False, in bad faith.

Married

A person that is legally married in accordance with the laws of the country where the marriage occurred. This may include civil, common-law and religious-based marriages.

Material Misrepresentation

Giving fraudulent documents or telling a consular officer false information in an interview. The information must be important and make a difference in whether the consular officer issues a visa applicant a visa.

Means Tested Public Benefits

Assistance from a government unit. Benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and State Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Missionary Work

Work performed for a religious organization to spread the faith (religion) and advance the principles and doctrines of the religion. Such work may include religious instruction, help for the elderly, needy, and proselytizing.

NAFTA

North American Free Trade Agreement. A trade treaty amongst the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

National Interest Waiver

This is for physicians and doctors who work in an area without adequate health care workers or who work in Veterans Affairs’ facilities. These physicians and doctors can file immigrant visa petitions for themselves without first applying for a labor certification.

National Visa Center

A Department of State facility located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The NVC supports worldwide operations of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office. The NVC processes immigrant visa petitions from the DHS for people who will apply for their immigrant visas at embassies and consulates abroad. The NVC reviews documents, such as the DS-230 and I-864, for technical correctness completeness. It also collects fees associated with immigrant visa processing.

Native

A person born in a particular country is a native of that country. For example, if you were born in Mexico, you are a native of Mexico.

Naturalization

Giving the citizenship (nationality) of a state upon a person after birth. That is, the person did not become a citizen by birth, but by some legal procedure. Naturalization is the process by which immigrants become citizens.

Nondiversity Country

A country that has high rates of immigration of the United States. A high rate of immigration is more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the past five years. Natives of non-diversity countries cannot participate in a Visa Diversity Program. Non-diversity countries are sometimes called non-qualifying or excluded countries.

Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV)

A permit for a foreign citizen to apply to enter the United States temporarily for a specific purpose. Examples of persons who may receive nonimmigrant visas are tourists, students, diplomats and temporary workers.

Notice of Action

A DHS, USCIS immigration form (Form I-797) that says the USCIS has received a petition you submitted, taken action, approved a petition or denied a petition.

NVC

National Visa Center

O - Z

Oath of Allegiance

The oath you take to become a citizen. You must be able to take and understand the oath of allegiance in order to become a naturalized citizen.

Orphan

A child who has no parents because of death, disappearance, desertion or abandonment of the parents. A child may also be considered an orphan if the child has an unwed mother, or a single living parent who cannot care for the child and has released him/her irrevocably (permanently) for adoption and emigration. Adoptive parents must make sure that a child meets the legal definition of an “orphan” before adopting a child from another country.

Out of Status

Not following the terms of the visas with which the foreign citizen entered the United States. See 'in status' glossary definition.

Overstay

When visitors enter the United States on a visa, the DHS U.S. immigration inspector gives them a white card called an Arrival-Departure Record, Form or I-94. On this card the DHS, the U.S. immigration inspector records the length of time that visitors are permitted to stay in the United States. If the visitor stays longer than what the DHS permitted him/her to stay, he/she is considered an overstay. The visitor may not be able to get another visa, depending on how long he/she overstays the visa.

Panel Physician

Embassies and consulates, which issue immigrant visas, have selected certain doctors to do the medical examinations for immigrant visa applicants. These doctors are called panel physicians.

Permanent Resident

A Permanent Resident is a person who has been granted lawful permanent resident status in the United States and has (or is waiting for) a Permanent Resident or "Green" Card.

Petitioner

Entity or person who is sponsoring a person for purposes of immigration. Usually used in conjunction with the beneficiary who is the subject of sponsorship.

Physical Presence

The dwelling in which a person is actually, physically located. For example, an applicant applies for a visa by mail in London, but lives in Paris. They are physically present in Paris.

Polygamy

Having more than one husband or wife at the same time. Polygamy is illegal under American law.

Port of Entry

Place where a person enters the country. When a person adjusts status (gets a green card) in the United States, the port of entry can be a DHS office in the United States.

Post

American Embassy, consulate or other diplomatic mission abroad. Not all American embassies, consulates and missions are visa-issuing posts.

Preference Immigration

A system for determining when, as well as how many people can immigrate to the United States within the limits of immigration set by Congress. In family immigration, preference is based on the status of the petitioner (American citizen or lawful permanent resident) and his/her relationship to the applicant. Employment immigration is based on the qualifications of the applicant and labor needs in the United States.

Principal Applicant

The person named in the petition. For example, an American citizen may file a petition for his married daughter to immigrate to the United States. His daughter will be the principal applicant, and her family will get visas from her position. They will get derivative status. Alternatively, a company may file a petition for a worker. The worker is the principal applicant. Family members will get derivative status.

Priority Date

The priority date decides a person’s rank when applying for an immigrant visa. In family immigration, the priority date is when the petition was filed at a DHS office or submitted to an Embassy or Consulate abroad. In employment immigration, the priority date is the date the labor certification application was received by the Department of Labor (DOL). In the Diversity Program, the turn for immigration is decided by the applicant’s position in a random draw.

Proselytizing

Attempting to convert (change) a person from one religious faith to another.

Public Charge

Refers to becoming dependent upon the government for the expenses of living (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) An applicant is ineligible for a visa if he/she will be a public charge.

Rank Order Number

The number that the Kentucky Consular Center gives to the entries of Diversity Visa Program as the computer selects them. The first entries chosen have the lowest numbers. The Visa Office of the Department of State gives winning entries a chance to apply for immigration according to their rank order number for their region.

Re-entry Permit

A travel document issued by the DHS to lawful permanent residents (LPR) who want to stay outside the U.S. for more than one year and less than two years. Lawful permanent residents who cannot get a passport from their country of nationality can also apply for a re-entry permit. You can put visas for foreign countries in a re-entry permit.

Receipt Notice

A DHS notice of action, I-797, stating the DHS has received a petition.

Refugee

A person who has a well-founded fear of prosecution if he/she should return to his/her home country. He/she applies to come to the United States in another country and enters the United States as a refugee.

Removal

The formal removal of a person from the United States. Formerly known as Deportation.

Retrogression

Sometimes a case that is current one month will not be current the next month. This occurs when the annual numerical limit has been reached. This usually happens near the end of a fiscal year (October 1 to September 30 of the next year). When the new fiscal year begins, the Visa Office gets a new supply of visa numbers and usually brings back the cut-off dates to where they were before retrogression.

Returning Residents

Lawful permanent residents who want to return to the United States after staying abroad more than one year or beyond expiration of their re-entry permits.

Schedule A Occupations

The Department of Labor (DOL) has given the DHS authority to approve labor certifications of the occupations. These occupations are physical therapists, professional nurses and people of exceptional ability in the sciences or arts.

Section 213a

A section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which establishes that sponsors have the legal duty to support immigrants they want to bring (sponsor) to the United States. They must complete Form I-864 Affidavit of Support. If a sponsor (petitioner) does not have income at 125 percent of the Federal poverty guidelines, he/she must get a joint sponsor.

Siblings

Brother or sister.

Son / Daughter

In immigration law, a child becomes a son or a daughter when he/she turns 21 or marries. A son or daughter must have once met the definition of a child in immigration law.

Special Agricultural Worker

Farm workers in perishable products who have worked for a specified period of time and were able to adjust status to lawful permanent resident according to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

Special Immigrant

A special category of immigrant visas for persons who have lost their citizenship by marriage; persons who lost citizenship by serving in foreign armed forces; certain foreign medical school graduates; Panama Canal immigrants; and certain others.

Sponsor

1) A person who fills out and submits an immigration visa petition. Another name for sponsor is petitioner, or
2) A person who completes an affidavit of support (I-864) for an immigrant visa applicant.

Sponsored Immigrant

An immigrant who has had an affidavit of support filed for him/her.

Spouse

Legally married husband or wife. A cohabiting partner does not qualify as a spouse for immigration purposes. A common-law husband or wife may or may not qualify as a spouse for immigration purposes, depending on the laws of the country where the relationship occurs.

State

One of the 50 States of the United States, for example, the State of California.

State Workforce Agency

The agency, or bureau in each State that deals with employment and labor issues.

Status

Immigration standings at a point in time. Status is a condition under the visa law. Example:
Q: What is your visa status?
A: I have an F-1 student visa.

Stepchild

A spouse’s child from a previous marriage or other relationship. In order for a stepchild to be able to immigrate as a “child”, the marriage creating the stepchild/stepparent relationship must have happened before the stepchild was 18 years of age.

Surviving Parent

A child’s living parent when the child’s other parent is dead, and the living parent has not remarried.

Tax Exempt

A condition of the law, in which an organization or people in some kind of work do not have to pay taxes that regular citizens or businesses must pay. Religious organizations are often tax-exempt.

Temporary Worker

A foreign worker who will work in the United States for a limited period of time. Some visa classes for temporary workers are H, L, O, P, Q and R.

Termination of A Case

Suppose an immigrant visa applicant does not answer an embassy or consulate’s correspondence with him/her or attempt to process his/her immigrant visa case required documents. The embassy, or consulate (post) will begin to close (terminate) the case. The post will first send a Follow-up Letter to the applicant. If the applicant does not answer within one year, a termination letter is sent. At that point the applicant has one more year to activate the immigrant visa case. If there is no answer in one year, the case is terminated. You can stop terminations of a case by notifying the post before the prescribed time period has lapsed, that the applicant does not want the case to be closed (terminated).

Third Country National

Someone who is not an American and not a citizen of the country where he/she currently is. Suppose you are a Kenyan visiting Mexico. If you apply for a visa to visit the United States while you are in Mexico, the U.S. will consider you a third country national.

Troubled Business

A business that has been in existence for at least two years and has lost 20 percent of its net worth over the past 12 to 24 months.

Upgrade a petition

If you naturalize (become an American citizen) you may ask the USCIS to change the petitions you filed for family members when you were a lawful permanent resident (LPR) from one category to another. This is called upgrading. For example, a petition for a spouse will be changed/upgraded from F2 to IR1. That is, the petition changes from a preference category with numerical limits to an immediate relative category with numerical limits. The applicant no longer has to wait for his/her priority date to be reached.

Upgrading a petition sometimes has consequences. A preference petition for a spouse permits derivative status for children. An immediate relative petition does not. You, the petitioner, would need to file separate petitions for each or your children.

USCIS

Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly known as the INS (immigration and Naturalization Service) or the BCIS (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services).

Visa

A permit for a person to apply to enter the United States. A person applies for a visa in the consular section of an American embassy or consulate abroad. Most citizens of foreign countries need visas to enter the United States. Under U.S. law, the Department of State has responsibility for issuing visas, and most visas are issued at one of the Department of State embassies and consulates abroad. A consular office decides whether you are qualified for a visa. A visa does not authorize entry to the U.S. A visa simply indicates that a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate has reviewed your application, and that the officer determined you are eligible to travel to the port-of-entry for a specific purpose. At the port-of-entry and admission to the U.S., an immigration officer decides whether to allow you to enter. The immigration officer tells you how long you can stay for any particular visit and records this date on the Arrival-Departure Record, I-94 (white card), as a date or D/S (duration of status). Only the DHS, U.S. immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States.

Visa Expiration Date

This visa expiration date is shown on the visa. Depending on the alien’s nationality, visas can be issued for any number of entries, from as little as one entry to as many as multiple (unlimited) entries, for the same purpose of travel. This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel for the same purpose, when the visa is issued for multiple entry. This time period from the visa issuance date to the visa expiration date as shown on the visa, is called visa validity. Visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the United States to request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to permit you to enter the U.S.. The visa does not guarantee entry to the U.S. The expiration date for the visa should not be confused with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S.. This visa expiration date has nothing to due with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S. for any given visit. If you overstay the end date of your authorized stay, as provided by the DHS U.S. immigration officer at port-of-entry, or USCIS, then this action on your part generally will automatically void or cancel your visa.

Visa Numbers

Congress establishes the amount of immigration each year. Immigration in certain categories, such as immediate relatives, is unlimited, but preference categories are limited. To distribute the visas fairly among all categories of immigration the Visa Office in the Department of State distributes the visas by providing visa numbers according to preference and priority date.

Visa Quota

Number of visas allowed.

Visa Validity

Visa validity generally means the visa is valid, or can be used from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel and for the same purpose for visas, when the visa is issued for multiple entry. This visa expiration date is shown in the visa. Depending on the alien’s nationality, visas can be issued for any number of entries, from as little as one entry to as many as multiple (unlimited) entries, for the same purpose of travel. This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel for the same purpose, when the visa is issued for multiple entry. This time period from the visa issuance date to the visa expiration date as shown on the visa, is called visa validity. The visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the United States to request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to permit you to enter the U.S. The visa does not guarantee entry to the U.S.. The expiration date for the visa should not be confused with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S.. There are circumstances that can serve to void or cancel the period of time your visa is valid. If you overstay the end date of your authorized stay, your your visa will typically be automatically voided or cancelled. However, if you have filed an application in a timely manner for extension of stay or change of status, and that application is pending and not frivolous, and if you did not engage in unauthorized employment, then this does not automatically cancel your visa. If you have applied for adjustment of status to become a permanent resident alien (green card holder), you should contact the USCIS regarding obtaining Advance Parole before leaving the U.S.

Visa Waiver

Nationals from certain countries may come to the U.S. without a visa as a tourist for 90 days.

Visa Waiver Program

Allows citizens of certain participating countries, meeting the Visa Waiver Program requirements to enter the United States as visitors for pleasure or business without first getting a visa. Visitors can stay 90 days and are not eligible to extend their stay.

Voluntary Service Program

An organized project that a religious or nonprofit charitable organization does to provide help to the poor or needy or to further a religious or charitable cause. Participants may be eligible for B visas.

Waiver of Inadmissibility

An Application for a Waiver of Inadmissibility is an application for legal entry to the United States made by an individual who is otherwise inadmissible on one or more grounds. The application is submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Persons may be inadmissible to the United States for any one of the grounds for excludability listed below.

Seattle Office
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  • Address:
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