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Immigration Law Glossary

Town Law Publishing Jan. 1, 2024

1. Alien: In legal terms, this refers to a person who is not a citizen of the country in which they live.

2. Asylum: A form of protection given by a country to someone who is fleeing persecution in their own country.

3. Beneficiary: In immigration law, a beneficiary refers to the foreign person for whom a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident has filed a petition for immigration benefits.

4. Border Patrol: U.S. agency responsible for preventing the illegal entry of persons and goods into the country.

5. Citizen: A person who is a legally recognized member of a country, either by birth or naturalization.

6. Deportation: The removal of an alien from the country due to the violation of certain immigration or criminal laws.

7. Dual Nationality: The legal status whereby a person is a citizen of two countries.

8. Employment Authorization Document (EAD): A document issued by USCIS that provides its holder a legal right to work in the U.S.

9. Family Preference: Categories of relatives who may immigrate to the United States, but are subject to annual quotas.

10. Green Card: Informal term for an ID card attesting the permanent resident status of an alien in the U.S.

11. H-1B Visa: A visa that allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.

12. ICE: Acronym for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for enforcing immigration and customs laws.

13. Illegal Alien: A foreigner who has entered or resides in a country unlawfully or without the country's authorization.

14. Immigrant Visa (IV): A document issued by a U.S. consul abroad that allows an alien to apply for admission as a lawful permanent resident (LPR).

15. J-1 Exchange Visitor: Non-immigrants admitted to the U.S. to participate in approved programs for the purpose of teaching, studying, conducting research, etc.

16. K Visa: A non-immigrant visa benefit that allows a foreign-citizen fiancé(e) to travel to the U.S. and marry his or her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival.

17. Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR): A foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the U.S.

18. Migrant: A person who moves from one place to another within a country or from one country to another.

19. Naturalization: The process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred upon a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress.

20. Non-Immigrant: A foreigner with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wishes to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis for certain reasons.

21. Optional Practical Training (OPT): Temporary employment directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.

22. Parole: The act of granting a person who may be inadmissible into the United States permission to enter the country.

23. Permanent Resident Status: The status of having been lawfully accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the U.S. as an immigrant.

24. Refugee: A person who is outside his or her home country and is unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

25. Sponsor: A U.S. citizen or permanent resident who signs an affidavit of support for an immigrant visa applicant.

26. Temporary Protected Status (TPS): A status granted to eligible nationals of designated countries who are present in the U.S. due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely.

27. USCIS: Acronym for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the U.S.

28. Visa: A permit placed in a passport that allows the bearer to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period in a country.

29. Visa Bulletin: A monthly publication by the Bureau of Consular Affairs that shows the availability of immigrant visa numbers.

30. Work Permit: Authorization given by a country to a foreigner allowing them to take a job within that country.

31. Adjustment of Status (AOS): The process that allows foreign nationals already in the U.S. to get a Green Card without having to return to their home country.

32. Consular Processing: The method used by immigrants to get a Green Card when outside the U.S. or ineligible to adjust status.

33. DREAM Act: The acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, a bill in Congress that would have granted legal status to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and went to school here.

34. Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV): Also known as the Green Card Lottery, it is a U.S. government program that makes 50,000 immigrant visas available annually to natives of countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

35. Priority Date: The date when the immigrant visa petition is filed, which establishes the immigrant's place in line waiting for an immigrant visa.

36. I-130 Form: An immigration form submitted by a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident to establish the relationship to certain alien relatives who wish to immigrate to the U.S.

37. I-140 Form: An immigration form submitted by a U.S. employer to petition for an alien to work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

38. I-485 Form: An immigration form used by a person in the United States to apply for lawful permanent residence.

39. Visa Overstay: A term used when a person remains in the United States beyond the period of time authorized by a visa.

40. Expedited Removal: A process by which non-U.S. citizens are denied entry to the U.S. or removed from the U.S. without going through the normal removal proceedings.

41. Conditional Resident: An alien who obtains permanent resident status through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, but who is subject to termination of this status if it is found that the marriage was a sham or ended in divorce within two years of granting this status.

42. Asylee: A person who is already in the United States or is seeking admission at a port of entry and meets the definition of a refugee but is already in the U.S.

43. Consular Officer: A person in a foreign country who is appointed by the Department of State to act on behalf of the United States.

44. Visa Waiver Program (VWP): A program established to eliminate unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas.

45. Deportable Alien: An alien in and admitted to the United States subject to any grounds of removal specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

46. Excludable Alien: An alien seeking admission who does not meet the criteria outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act for admission into the United States. The term applies to aliens who apply for admission at a port of entry, or foreign nationals who seek to transit through or land temporarily in the U.S.

47. I-9 Form: This form is used by an employer to verify an employee's identity and to establish that the worker is eligible to accept employment in the United States.

48. National Interest Waiver (NIW): A waiver of the job offer requirement for certain foreign nationals who wish to immigrate to the U.S. on an employment-based visa if it is in the national interest.

49. Removal Proceedings: The legal process by which an alien is formally removed from the United States for violations of immigration law.

50. Withholding of Removal: A form of relief that prohibits the U.S. government from removing an individual to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Unlike asylum, withholding of removal does not provide a direct path to lawful permanent resident status or citizenship.