DURRANI LAW FIRM - Immigration Lawyers & Attorneys
"A Number": The alien registration number, which the Department of Homeland Security assigns to each alien. It is an "A" followed by eight numbers. For example: A12 345 678. Some recently-issued A numbers consist of an "A" followed by nine digits. For example: A 200 345 678.
Accompanying: A type of visa in which family members travel with the principal applicant, (in immigrant visa cases, within six months of issuance of an immigrant visa to the principal applicant).
Accredited Representative: A person who is approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals (the Board) to represent aliens before the Immigration Courts, the BIA and USCIS. He or she must work for a specific nonprofit, religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization. The organization must be authorized by the Board to represent aliens.
Acquired Citizenship: Citizenship conferred at birth on children born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent(s).
Adjustment to Immigrant Status: Procedure allowing certain aliens already in the United States to apply for immigrant status. Aliens admitted to the United States in a nonimmigrant, refugee, or parolee category may have their status changed to that of lawful permanent resident if they are eligible to receive an immigrant visa and one is immediately available. In such cases, the alien is counted as an immigrant as of the date of adjustment, even though the alien may have been in the United States for an extended period of time. Beginning in October 1994, section 245(i) of the INA allowed illegal residents who were eligible for immigrant status to remain in the United States and adjust to permanent resident status by applying at a USCIS office and paying an additional penalty fee. Section 245(i) is no longer available unless the alien is the beneficiary of a petition under section 204 of the Act or of an application for a labor certification under section 212(a)(5)(A), filed on or before April 30, 2001. And, if filed after January 1, 1998, the alien must have been present in the United States on December 21, 2000. Prior to October 1994, most illegal residents were required to leave the United States and acquire a visa abroad from the Department of State as they are again now.
1) To change from a nonimmigrant visa status or other status
2) To adjust the status of a permanent resident (green card holder). It is a USCIS a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) process.
Administrative processing: Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a Consular Officer. Applicants are advised of this requirement when they apply. To learn more review our Administrative Processing webpage.
Admission: Entry into the U.S. is authorized by a DHS, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. When you come from abroad and first arrive in the U.S., the visa allows you to travel to the port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Admission or entering the U.S., by non-U.S. citizens must be authorized by a CBP officer at the port-of-entry, who determines whether you can enter and how long you can stay here, on any particular visit. If you are allowed to enter, how long you can stay and the immigration classification you are given is shown as a recorded date or Duration of Status (D/S) on Form I-94, Arrival Departure Record, or Form I-94W, if arriving on the Visa Waiver Program. For more information, go to the DHS, CBP website . If you want to stay longer than the date authorized, you must request permission from the DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Adopted Child: An unmarried child under age 21, who was adopted while under the age of sixteen, and who 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 a natural born child. For more adoption information visit DOS's adoption.state.gov.
Adopted Decision: A decision of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) binding on all USCIS adjudication officers, but not yet published as a precedent decision.
Adoption: See "Orphan"
Advance Parole: Permission to return to the U.S. after travel abroad granted by DHS prior to leaving the U.S. The following categories of people may need advance parole: people on a K-1 visa, asylum applicants, parolees, people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and some people trying to adjust status, while in the U.S. If these people do not apply for advance parole before they leave the U.S., they may be unable to return. Go to the DHS, USCIS to learn more.
Advisory Opinion: An opinion regarding a point of law from the Office of Visa Services in the Department of State, Washington, D.C. This opinion would be in answer to a question from an embassy or consulate about interpretation of immigration law or in response to a request of review of the legal correctness of a visa refusal of an applicant or his/her representative.
Advisory Opinion (“J” Visa) Waiver of Foreign Residence Requirement, INA 212(e): A J-1 visa /DS 2019 or IAP 66 form will have a statement in the bottom left hand corner of the form, as follows: “Bearer is or is not subject to section 212(e). Two year rule (does or does not) apply (name of country)” This is a preliminary endorsement of the Consular Officer or Immigration Officer regarding Section 212(e) of the INA. When a J-1 visa holder (or his/her attorney) inquires whether the Foreign Residence Requirement under INA 212(e) applies to a particular J-1 visa holder, then a request for an Advisory Opinion request is mailed to the Waiver Review Division at the Department of State. Learn more - See the “Eligibility and Application Procedures” and “FAQ” sections in the Waiver - Foreign Residence Requirement webpages.
Affidavit: A document in which a person states facts, swearing that the facts are true and accurate. The person (the affiant) must include their full printed name and address, date and place of birth, relationship to the parties, if any, and complete details concerning how the affiant acquired knowledge of the events. The affiant should sign the affidavit under oath and the signature should be witnessed by an official, such as a notary public.
Affidavit of Support: A document promising that the person who completes it will support an applicant financially in the U.S. Family and certain employment immigration cases require the I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is legally binding.All other cases use the I-134 Affidavit of Support. Go to our I-864 information to learn more. All other cases use the I-134 Affidavit of Support.
Affiliated: Associated or controlled by the same owner or authority.
Age Out: A child must be unmarried and under the age of 21, as defined in U.S. immigration law. A child beneficiary of an immigrant petition who will apply for an immigrant visa is considered to have aged out when the beneficiary no longer qualifies for an immigrant visa based on having reached age 21. The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) changed the law, to allow many beneficiaries to still qualify as children for immigrant visa purposes even after reaching age 21.
Learn more about National Visa Center processing for cases where child beneficiaries are close to aging out.
Agent: In 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 and listed on the Form DS-3032, Agent of Choice and Address.
Agricultural Worker: As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States to perform agricultural labor or services, as defined by the Secretary of Labor.
Alien: Any person not a citizen or national of the United States.
Allotment: The allocation of an immigrant number to a consular office or to USCIS. This number may be used for visa issuance or adjustment of status as described in the Operation of the Immigrant Numerical Control System.
Amerasian (Vietnam): Immigrant visas are issued to Amerasians under Public Law 100-202 (Act of 12/22/87), which provides for the admission of aliens born in Vietnam after January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976, if the alien was fathered by a U.S. citizen. Spouses, children, and parents or guardians may accompany the alien.
Amerasian Act: Public Law 97-359 (Act of 10/22/82) provides for the immigration to the United States of certain Amerasian children. In order to qualify for benefits under this law, an alien must have been born in Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and have been fathered by a U.S. citizen.
AOS: Affidavit of Support, Form I-864. A document promising that the person who completes it will support an applicant financially in the U.S. Family and certain employment immigration cases require the I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is legally binding.All other cases use the I-134 Affidavit of Support. Go to our I-864 information to learn more. All other cases use the I-134 Affidavit of Support.
Application Support Centers: USCIS Offices fingerprint applicants for immigration benefits. Some USCIS applications, such as the Application for Naturalization or the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, require the USCIS to conduct a FBI fingerprint background check on the applicant. Most applicants that require a background check will be scheduled to appear at a specific Application Support Center (ASC).
Apprehension: The arrest of a removable alien by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Each apprehension of the same alien in a fiscal year is counted separately.
Applicant (Visa): A foreign citizen who is applying for a nonimmigrant or immigrant U.S. visa. The visa applicant may also be referred as a beneficiary for petition based visas
Appointment Package: The letter and documents that tell an applicant of the date of the immigrant visa interview. It includes forms that the applicant must complete before the interview and instructions for how to get everything ready for the interview.
Approval Notice: A DHS, USCIS immigration form, Notice of Action, Form I-797 that says that USCIS has approved a petition, or request for extension of stay or change of status.
Arrival-Departure Card: Also known as Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. The DHS, CBP official at the port-of-entry gives foreign visitors (all non-U.S. citizens) an Arrival-Departure Record, (a small white card) when they enter the U.S. Recorded on this card is the immigrant classification and the authorized period of stay in the U.S. This is either recorded as a date or the entry of D/S, meaning 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. Go to the DHS, CBP website to learn more.
Asylee: An alien in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. For persons with no nationality, the country of nationality is considered to be the country in which the alien last habitually resided. Asylees are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States. These immigrants are limited to 10,000 adjustments per fiscal year.
Attorney of Record: An attorney who has properly filed a Form G-28 in a particular case and is held responsible as an attorney for the respondent.
BIA: An abbreviation for the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Beneficiaries: Aliens on whose behalf a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or employer have filed a petition for such aliens to receive immigration benefits from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Beneficiaries generally receive a lawful status as a result of their relationship to a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or U.S. employer.
Beneficiary: An alien who is sponsored by a relative or a business, or has self-petitioned for an immigration benefit.
Biometrics: Biologically unique information used to identify individuals. This information can be used to verify identity or check against other entries in the database. The best known biometric is the fingerprint, but others include facial recognition and iris scans. Go to our biometrics page to learn more.
Bond: The amount of money set by the Department of Homeland Security or an Immigration Judge as a condition to release a person from detention for an Immigration Court hearing at a later date.
Board of Immigration Appeals: The part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review that is authorized to review most decisions of Immigration Judges and some types of decisions of Department of Homeland Security officers.
Bond Proceedings: An Immigration Court hearing on a request to redetermine a bond set by the Department of Homeland Security. Bond proceedings are separate from other Immigration Court proceedings.
Border Crosser: An alien resident of the United States reentering the country after an absence of less than six months in Canada or Mexico, or a nonresident alien entering the United States across the Canadian border for stays of no more than six months or across the Mexican border for stays of no more than 72 hours.
Business Nonimmigrant: An alien coming temporarily to the United States to engage in commercial transactions which do not involve gainful employment in the United States, i.e., engaged in international commerce on behalf of a foreign firm, not employed in the U.S. labor market, and receives no salary from U.S. sources.
CFR: An abbreviation for the Code of Federal Regulations.
Cancellation of Removal: A discretionary benefit adjusting an alien’s status from that of deportable alien to one lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Application for cancellation of removal is made during the course of a hearing before an immigration judge.
Cancelled Without Prejudice: A stamp an 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 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 INS). The Julian date is 747 plus 500, so this case was created on 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, from the USCIS. A consular section abroad cannot find a case if all you have is the USCIS receipt number.
Certificate of Citizenship: Identity document proving U.S. citizenship. Certificates of citizenship are issued to derivative citizens and to persons who acquired U.S. citizenship (see definitions for Acquired and Derivative Citizenship).
Certificate of Translation: A formal statement in which a translator shows that he or she has accurately translated a foreign-language document into English.
Certified Decision: A decision certified to the AAO for review.
Certificate of Citizenship: A document issued by the DHS as proof that the person is a U.S. citizen 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 U.S.
Change Status: Changing from one nonimmigrant visa status to another nonimmigrant visa status while a person is in the U.S. is permitted for some nonimmigrant visa holders, if approved by USCIS. The visa holder may file a request with USCIS before his or her authorized stay expires, which generally is the date on Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record (except for visa holders admitted to the U.S. for duration of status, stamped D/S). See Change My Nonimmigrant Status to learn more.
Child: Generally, an unmarried person under 21 years of age who is: a child born in wedlock; a stepchild, provided that the child was under 18 years of age at the time that the marriage creating the stepchild relationship occurred; a legitimated child, provided that the child was legitimated while in the legal custody of the legitimating parent; a child born out of wedlock, when a benefit is sought on the basis of its relationship with its mother, or to its father if the father has or had a bona fide relationship with the child; a child adopted while under 16 years of age who has resided since adoption in the legal custody of the adopting parents for at least 2 years; or an orphan, under 16 years of age, who has been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen or has an immediate-relative visa petition submitted in his/her behalf and is coming to the United States for adoption by a U.S. citizen.
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 U.S. 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 in the 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 U.S. citizen or if the U.S. citizen parent has filed an immediate-relative (IR) visa petition for him/her to go to the U.S. for adoption by the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
Civil Surgeon: A medically trained, licensed and experienced doctor practicing in the U.S. who is certified by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service). These medical professionals receive U.S. immigration-focused training in order to provide examinations as required by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and USCIS. For medical examinations given overseas, please see Panel Physician.
IMPORTANT: medical examinations will not be recognized if they are given by a doctor in the U.S. who is not a Civil Surgeon; please make sure that your appointment is with a Civil Surgeon or your results and documents will be invalid.
Code of Federal Regulations: The official interpretations of laws passed by Congress. These interpretations are known as "regulations." Regulations are first published in a government publication called the Federal Register. After publication in the Federal Register, regulations can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Most immigration regulations are in Title 8 CFR, Aliens and Nationality.
Cohabit: To live together without a legal marriage ceremony.
Common-law marriage: An agreement between a man and woman to enter into marriage without a civil or religious ceremony. It may not be recognized as a marriage for immigration purposes.
Conditional Residence (CR) Visa: If you have been married for less than two years when your husband or wife (spouse) gets lawful permanent resident status (gets a green card), then your 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. Learn about how to apply for a CR visa on our Immigrant Visa for a Spouse webpage.
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.
Conditional Resident: Any alien granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis (e.g., a spouse of a U.S. citizen; an immigrant investor), who is required to petition for the removal of the set conditions before the second anniversary of the approval of his or her conditional status.
Country of -
Birth: The country in which a person is born.
Chargeability: The independent country to which an immigrant entering under the preference system is accredited for purposes of numerical limitations.
Citizenship: The country in which a person is born (and has not renounced or lost citizenship) or naturalized and to which that person owes allegiance and by which he or she is entitled to be protected.
Former Allegiance: The previous country of citizenship of a naturalized U.S. citizen or of a person who derived U.S. citizenship.
(Last) Residence: The country in which an alien habitually resided prior to entering the United States.
Nationality: The country of a person’s citizenship or country in which the person is deemed a national.
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 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. For more information visit our webpage on the topic.
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 born 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 a chargeability to Sudan than a chargeability to India.
Crewman: A foreign national serving in a capacity required for normal operations and service on board a vessel or aircraft. Crewmen are admitted for twenty-nine days, with no extensions. Two categories of crewmen are defined in the INA: D1, departing from the United States with the vessel or aircraft on which he arrived or some other vessel or aircraft; and D2, departing from Guam with the vessel on which he arrived.
Cuban/Haitian Entrant: Status accorded 1) Cubans who entered illegally or were paroled into the United States between April 15, 1980, and October 10, 1980, and 2) Haitians who entered illegally or were paroled into the country before January 1, 1981. Cubans and Haitians meeting these criteria who have continuously resided in the United States since before January 1, 1982, and who were known to Immigration before that date, may adjust to permanent residence under a provision of the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986.
Current/non-current: There are numerical limits on the number of immigrant visas that can be granted to aliens from any one foreign country. The limit is based on place of birth, not citizenship. Because of the numerical limits, this means there is a waiting time before the immigrant visa can be granted. The terms current/non-current refer 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 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). To find out whether a preference case is current, see the Visa Bulletin.
Immediate relative immigrant visa cases do not have country numerical limits, with waiting times as a result of the country limits. The terms priority date, cut-off date and current/non-current does not apply for immediate relative cases.
Cut-off Date: The date that determines whether a preference immigrant visa applicant can be scheduled for an immigrant visa interview in any given month. When “C” (meaning Current) is listed instead of a specific date, that means all priority dates are eligible for processing. The cut-off date is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be scheduled for a visa interview for a given month. Applicants with a priority date earlier than the cut-off date can be scheduled. However, if your priority date is on or later than the cut-off date, you will need to wait until your priority date is reached (becomes current). To find out whether a preference case can be scheduled, see the Visa Bulletin
DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several key guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and would then be eligible for work authorization. Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. Deferred action does not provide an individual with lawful status.
Declaration under Penalty of Perjury: A statement by a person, in which the person states that the information is true, to support his or her request or application. For example, a declaration may list the facts and then state: l declare under penalty of perjury (under the laws of the United States of America) that the foregoing is true and correct." This statement should be followed by the date, signature, and printed name of the person signing.
Deferred Inspection: See "Parolee"
Denomination/Sect: A religious group or community.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS): DHS is comprised of three main organizations responsible for immigration policies, procedures, implementation and enforcement of U.S. laws, and more. These DHS organizations include United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Together they provide the basic governmental framework for regulating the flow of visitors, workers and immigrants to the U.S. USCIS is responsible for the approval of all immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions, the authorization of permission to work in the U.S., the issuance of extensions of stay, change or adjustment of an applicant's status while the applicant is in the U.S., and more. CBP is responsible for admission of all travelers seeking entry into the U.S., and determining the length of authorized stay, if the traveler is admitted. Once in the U.S. the traveler falls under the jurisdiction of DHS. Visit the DHS website for more information.
Department of Labor: A cabinet level unit/ministry of U.S. Government that has responsibility for labor issues. It has responsibility for deciding whether certain foreign workers can work in the U.S.
Deportable Alien: An alien in and admitted to the United States subject to any grounds of removal specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act. This includes any alien illegally in the United States, regardless of whether the alien entered the country by fraud or misrepresentation or entered legally but subsequently violated the terms of his or her nonimmigrant classification or status.
Derivative Status: Getting a status (visa) through another applicant, as provided under immigration law for certain visa categories. For example, the spouse and children of an exchange visitor (J Visa holder), would be granted derivative status as a J-2 Visa holder. Derivative status is only possible if the principal applicant is issued a visa.
Deportation: The formal removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Deportation is ordered by an immigration judge without any punishment being imposed or contemplated. Prior to April 1997 deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 consolidated these procedures. After April 1, 1997, aliens in and admitted to the United States may be subject to removal based on deportability. Now called Removal, this function is managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Derivative Citizenship: Citizenship conveyed to children through the naturalization of parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, provided certain conditions are met.
DHS: An abbreviation for the Department of Homeland Security.
Diversity Visa Program: The Department of State has an annual lottery for immigration to the U.S. Up to 55,000 immigrants can enter the U.S. each year from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. See our information on the Diversity Visa Program.
District: Geographic areas into which the United States and its territories are divided for the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s field operations or one of three overseas offices located in Rome, Bangkok, and Mexico City. Each District Office, headed by a District Director, has a specified service area that may include part of a state, an entire state, or many states. District Offices are where most USCIS field staff are located. District Offices are responsible for providing certain immigration services and benefits to people resident in their service area, and for enforcing immigration laws in that jurisdiction. Certain applications are filed directly with District Offices, many kinds of interviews are conducted at these Offices, and USCIS staff is available to answer questions, provide forms, etc.
Diversity: A category of immigrants replacing the earlier categories for nationals of underrepresented countries and countries adversely "affected" by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (P.L. 89-236). The annual limit on diversity immigration was 40,000 during fiscal years 1992-94, under a transitional diversity program, and 55,000 beginning in fiscal year 1995, under a permanent diversity program.
Documentarily Qualified: The applicant has obtained all documents specified by the consular officer as sufficient to meet the formal visa application requirements, and necessary processing procedures of the consular office have been completed.
Docket Control: The DHS mechanism for tracking the case status of potentially removable aliens.
DOJ: An abbreviation for the United States Department of Justice.
DOL: U.S. Department of Labor. Hiring foreign workers for employment in the U.S. normally requires approval from several government agencies. First, employers must seek labor certification through the DOL. Once the application is certified (approved), the employer must petition the USCIS for approval of the petition before applying for a visa.
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 U.S. before the visa can be issued. This generally means that the sponsor must be living in the U.S. In certain circumstances, however one can be considered to have a domicile while living temporarily living 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 the person is still doing the activity for which the visa was issued, rather than being admitted until a specific departure dates. This is called admission for "duration of status". For students, the time during which a student is in a full course of study plus any authorized 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 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 U.S. Recorded on this card is the visa 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 make sure you keep, because it shows the length of time you are permitted and authorized by the DHS to stay in the U.S. For more information visit the USCIS website
DV: See Diversity Visa.
Educational and Cultural Affairs: The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries to promote friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations. ECA administers a variety of exchange programs for non-U.S. secondary, undergraduate, graduate students and professionals, along with other duties. Visit the ECA Website.
EOIR: An abbreviation for the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Employer Sanctions: The employer sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 prohibits employers from hiring, recruiting, or referring for a fee aliens known to be unauthorized to work in the United States. Violators of the law are subject to a series of civil fines for violations or criminal penalties when there is a pattern or practice of violations.
ESTA: Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors (nationals from 35 participating countries) to travel to the U.S. without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). A valid ESTA approval is required for all VWP travel to the U.S. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, though it is recommended travelers apply when they begin preparing travel plans. To learn whether you may be able to travel on VWP, and therefore whether you need an ESTA authorization, see the Visa Waiver Program webpage on this website. For more information about ESTA and/or to apply, see the DHS, Custom and Border Protection’s ESTA webpage.
Exchange Visitor: A foreign citizen coming to the U.S. to participate in a particular program in education, training, research, or other authorized exchange visitor program. See the Educational and Cultural Affairs Internet site and our Exchange Visitor page for more information.
Exchange Visitor: An alien coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program approved by the Secretary of State for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training.
Exchange Visitor Skills List: The Exchange Visitor Skills List (J Visas) is a list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills that are deemed necessary for the development of an exchange visitor's home country. When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program, if your skill is on your country’s Skills List you are subject to the two-year foreign residence (home-country physical presence) requirement, which requires you to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program, under U.S. law. Review the Exchange Visitor webpage to learn more.
Exclusion: Prior to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, exclusion was the formal term for denial of an alien’s entry into the United States. The decision to exclude an alien was made by an immigration judge after an exclusion hearing. Since April 1, 1997, the process of adjudicating inadmissibility may take place in either an expedited removal process or in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.
Executive Office for Immigration Review: The part of the United States Department of Justice that is responsible for the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Extension of Stay: Extending the length of time a visa holder is authorized to stay in the United States, when approved by USCIS. The visa holder may file a request with USCIS before his or her authorized stay expires, which generally is the date on Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record (except for visa holders admitted to the U.S. for duration of status, stamped D/S). See Extend Your Stay on the USCIS website to learn more.
Family First Preference: A category of family immigration (F1) for unmarried sons and daughters of American citizens, and their children. Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
Family Second Preference: A category of family immigration (F2) for spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents. Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
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 fourth preference (P-4). Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
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 fifth preference (P-5). Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
Federal Poverty Guidelines: See 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 officers use these figures in immigrant visa cases to determine whether a sponsor’s income is sufficient to support a new immigrant, in accordance with U.S. immigration laws. Visit USCIS's Poverty Guidelines webpage for more information.
Fiance(e): A person who plans or is contracted to marry another person. The foreign fiance(e) of an American citizen may enter the U.S. on a K-1 visa to marry the American citizen. Visit our Fiance(e) webpage to learn more.
Fiance(e)s of U.S. Citizen: A nonimmigrant alien coming to the United States to conclude a valid marriage with a U.S. citizen within ninety days after entry.
First Preference: A category of family immigration (F1) for unmarried sons and daughters of American citizens and their children. Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
Fiscal Year: The budget year for the U.S. Government. It begins on October 1 and ends on September 30 of the following year.
Field Control Office: An USCIS field office--either a district (including USCIS overseas offices) or a sub- office of that district--where alien case files are maintained and controlled.
Fiscal Year: Currently, the twelve-month period beginning October 1 and ending September 30. Historically, until 1831 and from 1843-49, the twelve-month period ending September 30 of the respective year; from 1832-42 and 1850-67, ending December 31 of the respective year; from 1868-1976, ending June 30 of the respective year. The transition quarter (TQ) for 1976 covers the three-month period, July-September 1976.
Field Offices: Offices found in some Districts that serve a portion of the District’s jurisdiction. A Field Office, headed by an Field Office Director, provides many services and enforcement functions. Their locations are determined, in part, to increase convenience to USCIS’ customers.
FOIA: An abbreviation for the Freedom of Information Act.
Following to Join: A type of derivative visa status when the family member gets a visa after the principal applicant.
Foreign Affairs Manual (9 FAM): Foreign Affairs Manual Chapter 41 relates to nonimmigrant visas. Chapter 42 covers immigrant visas. 9 FAM Chapter 40 relates to visa ineligibilities and waivers. Go to our site to review the FAM relating to visas.
Foreign Government Official: As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States who has been accredited by a foreign government to function as an ambassador, public minister, career diplomatic or consular officer, other accredited official, or an attendant, servant or personal employee of an accredited official, and all above aliens’ spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
Foreign Information Media Representative: As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States as a bona fide representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media and the alien’s spouse and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
Foreign State of Chargeability: The independent country to which an immigrant entering under the preference system is accredited. No more than 7 percent of the family-sponsored and employment-based visas may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year. No one dependency of any independent country may receive more than 2 percent of the family-sponsored and employment-based visas issued. Since these limits are based on visa issuance rather than entries into the United States, and immigrant visas are valid for 6 months, there is not total correspondence between these two occurrences. Chargeability is usually determined by country of birth. Exceptions are made to prevent the separation of family members when the limitation for the country of birth has been met.
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 a petition. Before 1992 this was known as fifth preference (P-5). Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
Full and Final Adoption: A legal adoption in which the child receives all the rights of a natural born, legitimate child. For more adoptions information visit our Adoptions website.
General Naturalization Provisions: The basic requirements for naturalization that every applicant must meet, unless a member of a special class. General provisions require an applicant to be at least 18 years of age and a lawful permanent resident with five years of continuous residence in the United States, have been physically present in the country for half that period, and establish good moral character for at least that period.
Geographic Area of Chargeability: Any one of five regions--Africa, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and South Asia, and the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe--into which the world is divided for the initial admission of refugees to the United States. Annual consultations between the Executive Branch and the Congress determine the ceiling on the number of refugees who can be admitted to the United States from each area. Beginning in fiscal year 1987, an unallocated reserve was incorporated into the admission ceilings.
Green card: Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as green card), is a wallet-sized card showing that the person is a lawful permanent resident (immigrant) in the U.S. For more information visit the USCIS website.
Hemispheric Ceilings: Statutory limits on immigration to the United States in effect from 1968 to October 1978. Mandated by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965, the ceiling on immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere was set at 170,000, with a per-country limit of 20,000. Immigration from the Western Hemisphere was held to 120,000, without a per-country limit until January 1, 1977. The Western Hemisphere was then made subject to a 20,000 per country limit. Effective October 1978, the separate hemisphere limits were abolished in favor of a worldwide limit.
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 U.S. Government does not have an embassy in Iran. Residents of 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-94(W): The I-94 Arrival/Departure Record fort nonimmigrant travelers or I-94W (Green) for Visa Waiver Program travelers. When you are admitted the CBP officer at the U.S. port of entry will stamp your passport and issue a completed Form I-94 or I-94W to you, which denotes how long you are legally authorized to stay within the U.S. Visit the CBP website to learn more.
I-551 (Green Card): Permanent residence card or alien registration receipt card or "green card." See Lawful Permanent Resident.
ICE: An abbreviation for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
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 U.S. Visit our Immigrant Visa section of this website.
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA): American immigration law. The Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA, was created in 1952, Public Law No. 82-414. The INA has been amended many times over the years, but is still the basic body of immigration law. See INA for additional information.
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS): A branch of the Department of Justice that formerly existed and had responsibility for immigration and naturalization. INS was renamed and became part of DHS on March 1, 2003. To learn more, go to the DHS website.
INA: See Immigration and Nationality Act.
Ineligible/Ineligibility: Immigration law says that certain conditions and actions prevent a person from entering the U.S. These conditions and activities are called ineligibilities, and the applicant is ineligible for (cannot get) a visa. Examples are selling drugs, active tuberculosis, being a terrorist, and using fraud to get a visa. Read our information on the Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas to learn more.
In Status: It’s important to understand the concept of immigration status and the consequences of violating that status. Being aware of the requirements and possible consequences will make it more likely that you can avoid problems with maintaining your status. Every visa is issued for a particular purpose and for a specific class of visitor. Each visa classification has a set of requirements that the visa holder must follow and maintain. Those who follow the requirements maintain their status and ensure their ability to remain in the U.S. Those who do not follow the requirements violate their status and are considered “out of status”. For more information see “Out of Status” below. In Status means you are in compliance with the requirements of your visa type under immigration law. For example, you are a foreign student who entered the U.S. on a student visa. If you are a full time student and pursuing your course of study, and are not engaged in 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". See the DHS, USCIS website Extension of Stay and Change of Status.
IRCA: See "Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)"
Immediate Relatives: Certain immigrants who because of their close relationship to U.S. citizens are exempt from the numerical limitations imposed on immigration to the United States. Immediate relatives are: spouses of citizens, children (under 21 years of age and unmarried) of citizens, and parents of citizens 21 years of age or older.
Immigrant: See "Permanent Resident Alien"
IV: Immigrant Visa
Immigration Act of 1990: Public Law 101-649 (Act of November 29, 1990), which increased the limits on legal immigration to the United States, revised all grounds for exclusion and deportation, authorized temporary protected status to aliens of designated countries, revised and established new nonimmigrant admission categories, revised and extended the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, and revised naturalization authority and requirements.
Immigration Judge: An attorney appointed by the Attorney General to act as an administrative judge within the Executive Office for Immigration Review. They are qualified to conduct specified classes of proceedings, including removal proceedings.
Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986: Public Law 99-639 (Act of 11/10/86), which was passed in order to deter immigration-related marriage fraud. Its major provision stipulates that aliens deriving their immigrant status based on a marriage of less than two years are conditional immigrants. To remove their conditional status the immigrants must apply at an U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office during the 90-day period before their second-year anniversary of receiving conditional status. If the aliens cannot show that the marriage through which the status was obtained was and is a valid one, their conditional immigrant status may be terminated and they may become deportable.
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA): Public Law 99-603 (Act of 11/6/86), which was passed in order to control and deter illegal immigration to the United States. Its major provisions stipulate legalization of undocumented aliens who had been continuously unlawfully present since 1982, legalization of certain agricultural workers, sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, and increased enforcement at U.S. borders.
Immigration and Nationality Act: The Act (INA), which, along with other immigration laws, treaties, and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalization, and removal of aliens.
Inadmissable: 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.
Industrial Trainee: See "Temporary Worker"
International Representative: As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States as a principal or other accredited representative of a foreign government (whether officially recognized or not recognized by the United States) to an international organization, an international organization officer or employee, and all above aliens’ spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
Intracompany Trainee: An alien, employed for at least one continuous year out of the last three by an international firm or corporation, who seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to continue to work for the same employer, or a subsidiary or affiliate, in a capacity that is primarily managerial, executive, or involves specialized knowledge, and the alien’s spouse and minor unmarried children.
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 U.S. The joint sponsor and his/her household must have the 125 percent income requirement by itself for the immigrant that he/she sponsors. Visit our NVC section on Joint Sponsors for more information.
Jurisdiction: Authority to apply the law in a given territory or region. For example, the INS district office in the area where a person lives has jurisdiction or authority to decide on a fiance(e) petition.
Kentucky Consular Center (KCC): 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.
Labor Certification: The initial stage of the process by which certain foreign workers get permission to work in the U.S. 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 U.S.
Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR): A person who has immigrated legally, admitted to the U.S. by DHS as a permanent resident of the U.S. and has a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as green card). Form I-551 is a wallet-sized card showing that the person is a lawful permanent resident (immigrant) in the U.S. Permanent resident status is not the same as being a U.S. citizen. However, you have authority to live and work in the U.S. permanently, as well a other rights and responsibilities. Learn more about Lawful Permanent Residents, including how to replace or renew a Permanent Resident Card, on the USCIS Website. Learn about requirements for entry into the U.S. on the CBP website. This person may also be called a legal permanent resident, a green card holder, a permanent resident alien, a legal permanent resident alien (LPRA) and resident alien permit holder.
Lawful Permanent Resident Alien (LPRA): Lawful permanent resident.
Laws (Immigration and visa related laws): The Code of Federal Regulations useful information on the laws regulating U.S. visa policy.
Lay Worker: A person who works in a religious organization but is not a member of the formal clergy.
LEA: See local educational agency.
Legalized Aliens: Certain illegal aliens who were eligible to apply for temporary resident status under the legalization provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. To be eligible, aliens must have continuously resided in the United States in an unlawful status since January 1, 1982, not be excludable, and have entered the United States either 1) illegally before January 1, 1982, or 2) as temporary visitors before January 1, 1982, with their authorized stay expiring before that date or with the Government’s knowledge of their unlawful status before that date. Legalization consists of two stages--temporary and then permanent residency. In order to adjust to permanent status aliens must have had continuous residence in the United States, be admissible as an immigrant, and demonstrate at least a minimal understanding and knowledge of the English language and U.S. history and government.
Legalization Dependents: A maximum of 55,000 visas were issued to spouses and children of aliens legalized under the provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 in each of fiscal years 1992-94.
Legitimation: The legal process which a natural father can use to acknowledge legally 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 legitimation took place.
Legitimated: Most countries have legal procedures for natural fathers of children born out of wedlock to acknowledge their children. A legitimated child from any country has two legal parents and cannot qualify as an orphan unless:
1. only one of the parents is living, or
2. both of the parents have abandoned the child
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 U.S. to complete the processing for their permanent residence. This Act became effective on December 21, 2000.
Local Educational 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 U.S. longer than the period of time which DHS gave to a person when he/she entered the U.S., or to fail to meet the requirements or violate the terms of the visa classification. The person becomes “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. You are out of status.
Lottery: See diversity visa program.
LPR or LPRA: See lawful permanent resident (LPR).
Machine Readable Passport (MRP): A passport which has biographic information entered on the data page according to international specifications. A machine readable passport is required to travel with a visa on the Visa Waiver Program. See the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to learn more about the requirements.
Machine Readable Visa (MRV): A visa that contains biometric information about the passport holder. A visa that immigration officers read with special machines when the applicants enter the U.S. 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 limitations on duration of stay.
Means-tested Public Benefits: Assistance from a government unit. Benefits include food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and State Child Health Insurance Program.
Medical and Legal Parolee: See "Parolee"
Medical Waiver: A medical waiver permits an immigration applicant to be allowed into, or remain in the United States despite having a health condition identified as grounds of inadmissibility. Terms and conditions can be applied to a medical waiver on a case by case basis.
Migrant: A person who leaves his/her country of origin to seek residence in another country.
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 and needy and proselytizing.
MRV: See Machine Readable Visa.
NACARA: Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act
NAFTA: North American Free-Trade Agreement.
National: A person owing permanent allegiance to a state.
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 (NVC): A Department of State facility located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It supports the 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. It also collects fees associated with immigrant visa processing. Go to the NVC webpage for more information.
Native: A person born in a particular country is a native of that country.
NATO Official: As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States as a member of the armed forces or as a civilian employed by the armed forces on assignment with a foreign government signatory to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and the alien’s spouse and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
Naturalization: A citizen who acquires nationality of a country after birth. That is, the person did not become a citizen by birth, but by a legal procedure. See the USCIS website for more information.
Naturalization Application: The form used by a lawful permanent resident to apply for U.S. citizenship. The application is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Service Center with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence.
Nonimmigrant: An alien who seeks temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose. The alien must have a permanent residence abroad (for most classes of admission) and qualify for the nonimmigrant classification sought. The nonimmigrant classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiance(e)s of U.S. citizens, intracompany transferees, NATO officials, religious workers, and some others. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV): A U.S. visa allows the bearer, a foreign citizen, to apply to enter the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose. Nonimmigrant visas are primarily classified according to the principal purpose of travel. With few exceptions, while in the U.S., nonimmigrants are restricted to the activity or reason for which their visa was issued. Examples of persons who may receive nonimmigrant visas are tourists, student, diplomats and temporary workers. For more information, see Temporary Visitors to the U.S.
Nonpreference Category: Nonpreference visas were available to qualified applicants not entitled to a visa under the preferences until the category was eliminated by the Immigration Act of 1990. Nonpreference visas for persons not entitled to the other preferences had not been available since September 1978 because of high demand in the preference categories. An additional 5,000 nonpreference visas were available in each of fiscal years 1987 and 1988 under a provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. This program was extended into 1989, 1990, and 1991 with 15,000 visas issued each year. Aliens born in countries from which immigration was adversely affected by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (Public Law 89-236) were eligible for the special nonpreference visas.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): Public Law 103-182 (Act of 12/8/93), superseded the United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement as of 1/1/94. It continues the special, reciprocal trading relationship between the United States and Canada (see United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement), and establishes a similar relationship with Mexico.
Notice of Action: A DHS, USCIS immigration form, Notice of Action, Form I-797 that says that USCIS has received a petition you submitted, taken action, approved a petition or denied a petition.
NSEERS: Effective April 28, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) no longer requires registration of foreign citizens entering and exiting the United States under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), also known as Special Registration. More information is available in the Federal Register notice from DHS dated April 28, 2011.
Numerical Limit, Exempt from: Those aliens accorded lawful permanent residence who are exempt from the provisions of the flexible numerical limit of 675,000 set by the Immigration Act of 1990. Exempt categories include immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, refugees, asylees (limited to 10,000 per year by section 209(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), Amerasians, aliens adjusted under the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and certain parolees from the former Soviet Union and Indochina.
Nursing Relief Act of 1989: Public Law 101-238 (Act of 12/18/89), provides for the adjustment to permanent resident status of certain nonimmigrants who as of September 1, 1989, had H-1 nonimmigrant status as registered nurses; who had been employed in that capacity for at least 3 years; and whose continued nursing employment meets certain labor certification requirements.
NVC: See National Visa Center.
Occupation: For an alien entering the United States or adjusting without a labor certification, occupation refers to the employment held in the country of last legal residence or in the United States. For an alien with a labor certification, occupation is the employment for which certification has been issued.
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. For more information visit our Adoptions website.
Orphan Petition: Form I-600
Out of status: A U.S. visa allows the bearer to apply for entry to the U.S. in a certain classification, for a specific purpose. For example, student (F), visitor (B), temporary worker (H). Every visa is issued for a particular purpose and for a specific class of visitor. Each visa classification has a set of requirements that the visa holder must follow and maintain. When you arrive in the U.S., a DHS CBP inspector determines whether you will be admitted, length of stay and conditions of stay in, the U.S. When admitted you are given a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record), which tells you when you must leave the U.S. The date granted on the I-94 card at the airport governs how long you may stay in the U.S. If you do not follow the requirements, you stay longer than that date, or you engage in activities not permitted for your particular type of visa, you violate your status and are considered be "out of status". It is important to understand the concept of immigration status and the consequences of violating that status. Failure to maintain status can result in arrest, and violators may be required to leave the U.S. Violation of status also can affect the prospect of readmission to the U.S. for a period of time, by making you ineligible for a visa. Most people who violate the terms of their status are barred from lawfully returning to the U.S. for years. See our Visa Expiration Date page for more information.
Out of Wedlock: A child born of parents who were not legally married to each other at that time.
Note: Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents of a child who was born out of wedlock in any country should find out whether or not the child has been legitimated.
Overstay: An “Overstay” occurs when a visitor stays longer than permitted as shown on his/her Arrival/Departure (I-94) card. A violation of the CBP defined length of admission may make you ineligible for a visa in the future. See Out of status.
Panama Canal Act Immigrants: Three categories of special immigrants established by Public Law 96-70 (Act of 9/27/79): 1) certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government, their spouses and accompanying children; 2) certain former employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone who are Panamanian nationals, their spouses and children; and 3) certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1, 1979, their spouses and children. The Act provides for admission of a maximum of 15,000 immigrants, at a rate of no more than 5,000 each year.
Parolee: A parolee is an alien, appearing to be inadmissible to the inspecting officer, allowed into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or when that alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit. Parole does not constitute a formal admission to the United States and confers temporary status only, requiring parolees to leave when the conditions supporting their parole cease to exist. Types of parolees include:
1. Deferred inspection: authorized at the port upon alien’s arrival; may be conferred by an immigration inspector when aliens appear at a port of entry with documentation, but after preliminary examination, some question remains about their admissibility which can best be answered at their point of destination.
2. Advance parole: authorized at an USCIS District office in advance of alien’s arrival; may be issued to aliens residing in the United States in other than lawful permanent resident status who have an unexpected need to travel and return, and whose conditions of stay do not otherwise allow for readmission to the United States if they depart.
3. Port-of-entry parole: authorized at the port upon alien’s arrival; applies to a wide variety of situations and is used at the discretion of the supervisory immigration inspector, usually to allow short periods of entry. Examples include allowing aliens who could not be issued the necessary documentation within the required time period, or who were otherwise inadmissible, to attend a funeral and permitting the entry of emergency workers, such as fire fighters, to assist with an emergency.
4. Humanitarian parole: authorized at USCIS headquarters or overseas District Offices for "urgent humanitarian reasons" specified in the law. It is used in cases of medical emergency and comparable situations.
5. Significant Public Benefit Parole: authorized at USCIS headquarters Office of International Affairs for "significant public benefit" specified in the law. It is generally used for aliens who enter to take part in legal proceedings when there is a benefit to the government. These requests must be submitted by a law enforcement agency.
6. Overseas parole: authorized at an USCIS District or suboffice while the alien is still overseas; designed to constitute long-term admission to the United States. In recent years, most of the aliens USCIS has processed through overseas parole have arrived under special legislation or international migration agreements.
Panel Physician: U.S. Embassies and Consulates which issue immigrant visas have selected certain doctors to do the medical examinations for immigrant visa applicants. To view their medical documents please visit our Medical Examination webpage to find your local Panel Physician.
Per Country Limit: The maximum number of family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas that can be issued to citizens of any country in a fiscal year. The limits are calculated each fiscal year depending on the total number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas available. No more than 7 percent of the visas may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year; no more than 2 percent may issued to any one dependency of any independent country. The per-country limit does not indicate, however, that a country is entitled to the maximum number of visas each year, just that it cannot receive more than that number. Because of the combined workings of the preference system and per-country limits, most countries do not reach this level of visa issuance.
Permanent Resident (correctly called Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)): See Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).
Permanent Resident Alien: An alien admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Permanent residents are also commonly referred to as immigrants; however, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) broadly defines an immigrant as any alien in the United States, except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrant categories (INA section 101(a)(15)). An illegal alien who entered the United States without inspection, for example, would be strictly defined as an immigrant under the INA but is not a permanent resident alien. Lawful permanent residents are legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States. They may be issued immigrant visas by the Department of State overseas or adjusted to permanent resident status by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the United States.
Petitioner: A person who files an immigration petition or application.
Physical Presence: The place where a person is actually, physically located.
Polygamy: Having more than one husband or wife at the same time. Polygamy is illegal under American law.
Port of Entry: Place (often an airport) where a person requests admission to the U.S. by the DHS, CBP officer. Learn more on the CBP website.
Post: U.S. Embassy, Consulate or other diplomatic mission abroad. Not all U.S. Embassies, Consulates and missions are visa-issuing posts. Visit a lost of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Missions
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 officers use these figures in immigrant visa cases to determine whether a sponsor’s income is sufficient to support a new immigrant, in accordance with U.S. immigration laws. Go to the Federal Poverty Guidelines to learn more.
Practitioner: A person who is authorized to file immigration petitions or applications with USCIS on behalf of aliens.
Preference Immigration: A system for determining which and when people can immigrate to the U.S. 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. Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info. In employment immigration it is based on the qualifications of the applicant and labor needs in the U.S. Visit our Employment Based Immigration webpage for more info.
Precedent Decision: A published decision of the BIA or the AAO that is binding on all USCIS officers in the administration of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Preference System (Immigration Act of 1990): The nine categories since fiscal year 1992 among which the family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant preference visas are distributed. The family-sponsored preferences are: 1) unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 2) spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent resident aliens; 3) married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 4) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The employment-based preferences are: 1) priority workers (persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers); 2) professionals with advanced degrees or aliens with exceptional ability; 3) skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers; 4) special immigrants; and 5) employment creation immigrants (investors).
Preference System (prior to fiscal year 1992): The six categories among which 270,000 immigrant visa numbers were distributed each year during the period 1981-91. This preference system was amended by the Immigration Act of 1990, effective fiscal year 1992. (see Preference System - Immigration Act of 1990). The six categories were: 1) unmarried sons and daughters (over 21 years of age) of U.S. citizens (20 percent); 2) spouses and unmarried sons and daughters of aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence (26 percent); 3) members of the professions or persons of exceptional ability in the sciences and arts (10 percent); 4) married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens (10 percent); 5) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens over 21 years of age (24 percent); and 6) needed skilled or unskilled workers (10 percent). A nonpreference category, historically open to immigrants not entitled to a visa number under one of the six preferences just listed, had no numbers available beginning in September 1978.
Pre-inspection: Complete immigration inspection of airport passengers before departure from a foreign country. No further immigration inspection is required upon arrival in the United States other than submission of Form I-94 for nonimmigrant aliens.
Principal Alien: The alien who applies for immigrant status and from whom another alien may derive lawful status under immigration law or regulations (usually spouses and minor unmarried children).
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 U.S. His daughter will be the principal applicant, and her family members will get visas from her position. They will get derivative status. Or a company may file a petition for a worker. The worker is the principal applicant. Family members get derivative status.
Priority Date: The priority date determines a person's turn to apply for an immigrant visa. In family immigration the priority date is the date when the petition was filed at a DHS, office or submitted to an Embassy or Consulate abroad. In employment immigration the priority date may be the date the labor certification application was received by the Department of Labor (DOL).
Public Charge: Refers to becoming dependent upon the government for the expenses of living (food, shelter, clothing, etc.). Following U.S. immigration law, an applicant is ineligible for a visa if he/she will be a public charge. For more information about Public Charge see the USCIS website.
Qualifying date: The date which the Visa Office of the Department of State uses the qualifying date to determine when to send the Instruction Package to an immigrant visa applicant. The Instruction Package tells the applicant what documents need to be prepared for the immigrant visa application.
Rank Order Number: The number that Kentucky Consular Center gives to the entries of DV Program (lottery) 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. Visit our DV Program webpage for more information on the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.
Receipt Notice: A DHS, USCIS form Notice of Action, I-797, which says that the DHS has received a petition.
Re-entry Permit: A travel document that the DHS issues to lawful permanent residents (LPR's) who want to stay outside of the U.S. for more than one year and less than two years. LPR's 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.
Refugee: A person who has a well-founded fear of persecution 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 U.S. as a refugee. See the DHS, USCIS website Refugee information to learn more.
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 U.S. after staying abroad more than one year or beyond the expiration of their re-entry permits. For more information, visit our Returning Resident Visas webpage.
Revalidation or Renewal of a Visa: Nonimmigrant visa applicants who currently have a visa, and are seeking renewal or revalidation of their visa for future travel to the U.S. must apply abroad, generally in their country of residence. The exception is renewal or revalidation of A, G, and NATO diplomatic and official visas (except A-3, G-5 and NATO-7), which continue to be processed in Washington and at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York. See Visa Renewal to learn more.
Revocation of a Visa: Cancellation of a visa. The visa is no longer good (valid) for travel to the U.S.
Record of Proceedings: The official file containing documents relating to an alien's case.
Refugee: Any person who is outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. People with no nationality must generally be outside their country of last habitual residence to qualify as a refugee. Refugees are subject to ceilings by geographic area set annually by the President in consultation with Congress and are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States.
Refugee Approvals: The number of refugees approved for admission to the United States during a fiscal year.
Refugee Arrivals: The number of refugees admitted to the United States through ports of entry during a fiscal year.
Refugee Authorized Admissions: The maximum number of refugees allowed to enter the United States in a given fiscal year. As set forth in the Refugee Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-212) the President determines the annual figure after consultations with Congress.
Refugee-Parolee: A qualified applicant for conditional entry, between February 1970 and April 1980, whose application for admission to the United States could not be approved because of inadequate numbers of seventh preference visas. As a result, the applicant was paroled into the United States under the parole authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
Registry Date: Aliens who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 1972, are of good moral character, and are not inadmissible, are eligible to adjust to legal permanent resident status under the registry provision. Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 amended the date, aliens had to have been in the country continuously since June 30, 1948, to qualify.
Removal: The expulsion of an alien from the United States. This expulsion may be based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability.
Required Departure: See "Voluntary Departure"
Resettlement: Permanent relocation of refugees in a place outside their country of origin to allow them to establish residence and become productive members of society there. Refugee resettlement is accomplished with the direct assistance of private voluntary agencies working with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Resident Alien: Applies to non-U.S. citizens currently residing in the United States. The term is applied in three different manners; please see Permanent Resident, Conditional Resident, and Returning Resident
Returning Resident: Any Lawful Permanent Resident who has been outside the United States and is returning to the U.S. Also defined as a "special immigrant." If outside of the U.S. for more than 180 days, must apply for readmission to the U.S. If outside of the U.S. for more than one year and is returning to his or her permanent residence in the United States, usually must have a re-entry documentation from USCIS or an immigrant visa from the Department of State.
ROP: An abbreviation for Record of Proceedings.
Safe Haven: Temporary refuge given to migrants who have fled their countries of origin to seek protection or relief from persecution or other hardships, until they can return to their countries safely or, if necessary until they can obtain permanent relief from the conditions they fled.
SAW: See Special Agricultural Worker.
Schedule "A" Occupations: The Department of Labor (DOL) has given the DHS, authority to approve labor certifications for these occupations. These occupations are physical therapists, professional nurses and people of exceptional ability in the sciences or arts.
Second Preference: A category of family immigration (F2) for spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents. Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
Section 213A: A section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which establishes that sponsors have a legal duty to support immigrants they want to bring (sponsor) to the U.S. They must complete Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.
Service Centers: Four offices established to handle the filing, data entry, and adjudication of certain applications for immigration services and benefits. The applications are mailed to USCIS Service Centers -- Service Centers are not staffed to receive walk-in applications or questions.
Sibling: Brother or sister.
Skills List: The Exchange Visitor Skills List (J Visas) is a list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills that are deemed necessary for the development of an exchange visitor's home country. When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program, if your skill is on your country’s Skills List you are subject to the two-year foreign residence (home-country physical presence) requirement, which requires you to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program, under U.S. law. Review the Exchange Visitor webpage to learn more.
Son/daughter: In immigration law a child becomes a son or 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 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. Aliens who performed labor in perishable agricultural commodities for a specified period of time and were admitted for temporary and then permanent residence under a provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Up to 350,000 aliens who worked at least 90 days in each of the 3 years preceding May 1, 1986 were eligible for Group I temporary resident status. Eligible aliens who qualified under this requirement but applied after the 350,000 limit was met and aliens who performed labor in perishable agricultural commodities for at least 90 days during the year ending May 1, 1986 were eligible for Group II temporary resident status. Adjustment to permanent resident status is essentially automatic for both groups; however, aliens in Group I were eligible on December 1, 1989 and those in Group II were eligible one year later on December 1, 1990.
Special Immigrant: A special category of immigrant visas (E-4) for persons who 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. Visit our Employment-based Visas webpage for more information. Certain categories of immigrants who were exempt from numerical limitation before fiscal year 1992 and subject to limitation under the employment-based fourth preference beginning in 1992; persons who lost citizenship by marriage; persons who lost citizenship by serving in foreign armed forces; ministers of religion and other religious workers, their spouses and children; certain employees and former employees of the U.S. Government abroad, their spouses and children; Panama Canal Act immigrants; certain foreign medical school graduates, their spouses and children; certain retired employees of international organizations, their spouses and children; juvenile court dependents; and certain aliens serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, their spouses and children.
Special Naturalization Provisions: Provisions covering special classes of persons whom may be naturalized even though they do not meet all the general requirements for naturalization. Such special provisions allow: 1) wives or husbands of U.S. citizens to file for naturalization after three years of lawful permanent residence instead of the prescribed five years; 2) a surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces to file his or her naturalization application in any district instead of where he/she resides; and 3) children of U.S. citizen parents to be naturalized without meeting certain requirements or taking the oath, if too young to understand the meaning. Other classes of persons who may qualify for special consideration are former U.S. citizens, servicemen, seamen, and employees of organizations promoting U.S. interests abroad.
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.
There are many ways to sponsor an alien. The term "sponsor" in the immigration sense, often means to bring to the United States or "petition for". If you would like to sponsor, or petition for, a relative, please read the information entitled "Immigration Through a Family Member" If you would like to sponsor, or petition for, an employee, please see the instructions entitled "How Do I Get Immigrant Status Based on Employment?" If you would like to sponsor, or petition for, an overseas orphan, please refer to the information entitled "How do I bring an orphan to the United States to live?"
If you are a refugee or an asylee and wish to sponsor, or petition for a relative, please refer to the document entitled "How Do I Get my Children or Spouse Derivative Asylum (or Refugee) Status?"
Another meaning of the term "sponsor" is a person who completes Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act. This type of sponsorship is not, however, the first step in any immigration process.
In order to be a sponsor and file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, the following conditions must already be met:
1. You have already petitioned for your relative;
2. You have been notified that USCIS has approved the petition;
3. The visa for that relative is currently available;
4. The relative has been scheduled to appear to submit his or her application for an immigrant visa overseas to a Consular Officer (DOS Form OF-230) or is preparing to file for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident (on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) in the United States. In the case of the overseas relative, you, the petitioner will be informed as to where and when to submit Form I-864. In the case where the relative is in the United States, you, the petitioner will complete Form I-864 and give it to your relative to file along with his or her application for permanent residency.
If you are a U.S. citizen and are sponsoring, or petitioning for, your spouse, parents or minor children who are currently in the United States, the above conditions do not need to be met in that exact order. Your relative may file his or her application for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident at the same time you file the relative petition. If this is your situation, you, the petitioner, must complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and the petition for your relative and give them to your relative to submit with the application for adjustment of status.
Sponsored Immigrant: An immigrant who has had an affidavit of support filed for him/her.
Spouse: Legally married husband or wife. A co-habiting 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.
Stateless: Having no nationality.
State Workforce Agency: The agency or bureau in each State that deals with employment and labor issues. For the address of workforce agency in each State go to the U.S. Department of Labor, Foreign Labor Certification site.
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.
Stowaway: An alien coming to the United States surreptitiously on an airplane or vessel without legal status of admission. Such an alien is subject to denial of formal admission and return to the point of embarkation by the transportation carrier.
Student: As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States to pursue a full course of study in an approved program in either an academic (college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, other institution, or language training program) or a vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution.
Surviving Parent: A child’s living parent when the child’s other parent is dead, and the living parent has not remarried.
SWA: See State Workforce Agency.
Subject to the Numerical Limit: Categories of legal immigrants subject to annual limits under the provisions of the flexible numerical limit of 675,000 set by the Immigration Act of 1990. The largest categories are: family-sponsored preferences; employment-based preferences; and diversity immigrants.
Tax-exempt: A condition of the law in which an organization or people in some kinds of work do not have to pay taxes which regular citizens or businesses must pay. Religious organizations are often tax-exempt.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS): Establishes a legislative basis for allowing a group of persons temporary refuge in the United States. Under a provision of the Immigration Act of 1990, the Secretary of Homeland Security may designate nationals of a foreign state to be eligible for TPS with a finding that conditions in that country pose a danger to personal safety due to ongoing armed conflict or an environmental disaster. Grants of TPS are initially made for periods of 6 to 18 months and may be extended depending on the situation. Removal proceedings are suspended against aliens while they are in Temporary Protected Status.
Temporary Resident: See "Nonimmigrant"
Temporary Worker: A foreign worker who will work in the U.S. for a limited period of time. Some visas classes for temporary workers are H, L, O, P, Q and R. If you are seeking to come to the U.S. for employment as a temporary worker in the U.S. (H, L, O, P, and Q visas), your prospective employer must file a petition with the DHS, USCIS. This petition must be approved by USCIS before you can apply for a visa. Select temporary workers to visit the USCIS website and learn more. Select temporary worker visas to go to the Department of State website to learn more, and review information about NAFTA workers (TN visa) and treaty traders/investors (E visas).
An alien coming to the United States to work for a temporary period of time. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and the Immigration Act of 1990, as well as other legislation, revised existing classes and created new classes of nonimmigrant admission. Nonimmigrant temporary worker classes of admission are as follows:
1. H-1A - registered nurses (valid from 10/1/1990 through 9/30/1995);
2. H-1B - workers with "specialty occupations" admitted on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience;
3. H-1C - registered nurses to work in areas with a shortage of health professionals under the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999;
4. H-2A - temporary agricultural workers coming to the United States to perform agricultural services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature when authorized workers are unavailable in the United States;
5. H-2B - temporary non-agricultural workers coming to the United States to perform temporary services or labor if unemployed persons capable of performing the service or labor cannot be found in the United States;
6. H-3 - aliens coming temporarily to the United States as trainees, other than to receive graduate medical education or training;
7. O-1, O-2, O-3 - temporary workers with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; those entering solely for the purpose of accompanying and assisting such workers; and their spouses and children;
8. P-1, P-2, P-3, P-4 - athletes and entertainers at an internationally recognized level of performance; artists and entertainers under a reciprocal exchange program; artists and entertainers under a program that is "culturally unique"; and their spouses and children;
9. Q-1, Q-2, Q-3 - participants in international cultural exchange programs; participants in the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program; and spouses and children of Irish Peace Process participants;
10. R-1, R-2 - temporary workers to perform work in religious occupations and their spouses and children.
See other sections of this Glossary for definitions of Exchange Visitor, Intracompany Transferee, and U.S.-Canada or North American Free-Trade Agreement classes of nonimmigrant admission.
Termination of a Case: If the applicant fails to reply to the inquiry correspondence sent by their embassy or consulate, termination of their visa application will begin. The embassy or consulate will first send a Follow-up Letter and Instruction Package to the applicant. If the applicant does not answer within one year, a termination letter is sent. At this 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 termination of a case by notifying the embassy or consulate 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 in which you are applying for a visa. Suppose you are a Kenyan visiting Mexico. If you apply for a visa to visit the U.S. while you are in Mexico, we will consider you a third country national.
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 fourth preference (P-4). Visit our Family Based Immigration webpage for more info.
Transit Alien: An alien in immediate and continuous transit through the United States, with or without a visa, including, 1) aliens who qualify as persons entitled to pass in transit to and from the United Nations Headquarters District and foreign countries and 2) foreign government officials and their spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children in transit.
Transit Without Visa (TWOV): A transit alien traveling without a nonimmigrant visa under section 233 of the INA. An alien admitted under agreements with a transportation line, which guarantees his immediate and continuous passage to a foreign destination. See also "Transit Alien"
Treaty Trader or Investor: As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming to the United States, under the provisions of a treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and the foreign state of such alien, to carry on substantial trade or to direct the operations of an enterprise in which he/she has invested a substantial amount of capital, and the alien’s spouse and unmarried minor children.
Two Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement: This refers to (J) exchange visitors who are required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program, under U.S. immigration law. To learn more review the Exchange Visitor webpage.
Underrepresented Countries, Natives of: The Immigration Amendments of 1988, Public Law 101-658 (Act of 11/5/88) allowed for 10,000 visas to be issued to natives of underrepresented countries in each of fiscal years 1990 and 1991. Under-represented countries are defined as countries that received less than 25 percent of the maximum allowed under the country limitations (20,000 for independent countries and 5,000 for dependencies) in fiscal year 1988. See also "Diversity"
Upgrade a Petition : If you naturalize (become an American citizen) you may ask the 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 without numerical limits. The applicant no longer has to wait for her/his 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 of your children.
United States - Canada Free-Trade Agreement: Public Law 100-449 (Act of 9/28/88) established a special, reciprocal trading relationship between the United States and Canada. It provided two new classes of nonimmigrant admission for temporary visitors to the United States-Canadian citizen business persons and their spouses and unmarried minor children. Entry is facilitated for visitors seeking classification as visitors for business, treaty traders or investors, intracompany transferees, or other business people engaging in activities at a professional level. Such visitors are not required to obtain nonimmigrant visas, prior petitions, labor certifications, or prior approval but must satisfy the inspecting officer they are seeking entry to engage in activities at a professional level and that they are so qualified. The United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement was superseded by the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as of 1/1/94.
USCIS: An abbreviation for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Visa: A citizen of a foreign country, wishing to enter the U.S., generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Visa applicants will need to apply overseas, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, generally in their country of permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of entry, and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S. Issuance of a visa does not guarantee entry to the U.S. The CBP Officer at the port-of-entry determines whether you can be admitted and decides how long you can stay for any particular visit. A U.S. visa allows the bearer to apply for entry to the U.S. in a certain classification (e.g. student (F), visitor (B), temporary worker (H)). A visa does not grant the bearer the right to enter the United States. The Department of State (DOS) is responsible for visa adjudication at U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside of the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) immigration inspectors determine admission into, length of stay and conditions of stay in, the U.S. at a port of entry. The information on a nonimmigrant visa only relates to when an individual may apply for entry into the U.S. DHS immigration inspectors will record the terms of your admission on your Arrival/Departure Record (I-94 white or I-94W green) and in your passport.
Visa Expiration Date: The visa expiration date is shown on the visa. This 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 entries. This time period from the visa issuance date to visa expiration date as shown on the visa, is called visa validity. If you travel frequently as a tourist for example, with a multiple entry visa, you do not have to apply for a new visa each time you want to travel to the U.S. As an example of travel for the same purpose, if you have a visitor visa, it cannot be used to enter at a later time to study in the U.S. The visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the U.S. 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., given to you by the U.S. immigration inspector at port-of-entry, on the Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94, or I-94W for the Visa Waiver Program. The visa expiration date has nothing to do with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S. for any given visit.
There are circumstances which can serve to void or cancel the period of time your visa is valid. If you overstay the end date of your authorized stay, as provided by the DHS's U.S. immigration officer at port of entry, or USCIS, then this action on your part generally will automatically void or cancel your visa. However, if you have filed an application in a timely manner for extension of stay or a change of status, and that application is pending and not frivolous, and if you did not engage in unauthorized employment, then this normally 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 USCIS regarding obtaining Advance Parole before leaving the U.S.
Visa Numbers: Congress establishes the amount of immigration each year. Immigration for immediate relatives is unlimited; however, 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. To learn more on how the numbers are created each month review our Operation of the Immigrant Numerical Control System webpage.
Visa Validity: 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 for visas, when the visa is issued for multiple entries. The 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. If you travel frequently as a tourist for example, with a multiple entry visa, you do not have to apply for a new visa each time you want to travel to the U.S. As an example of travel for the same purpose, if you have a visitor visa, it cannot be used to enter at a later time to study in the U.S. The visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the U.S. 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., given to you by the U.S. immigration inspector at port-of-entry, on the Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94, or I-94W for the Visa Waiver Program. The visa expiration date has nothing to do with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S. for any given visit.
There are circumstances which can serve to void or cancel the period of time your visa is valid. If you overstay the end date of your authorized stay, as provided by the DHS's U.S. immigration officer at port of entry, or USCIS, then this action on your part generally will automatically void or cancel your visa. However, if you have filed an application in a timely manner for extension of stay or a change of status, and that application is pending and not frivolous, and if you did not engage in unauthorized employment, then this normally 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 USCIS regarding obtaining Advance Parole before leaving the U.S. See Visa Expiration Date.
Visa Waiver Program (VWP): Citizens of participating countries meeting the Visa Waiver Program requirements to may be allowed to enter the U.S. as visitors for pleasure or business without first getting a visa. Visitors can stay only 90 days and can not extend their stay. Go to our information on the Visa Waiver Program to learn more. Allows citizens of certain selected countries, traveling temporarily to the United States under the nonimmigrant admission classes of visitors for pleasure and visitors for business, to enter the United States without obtaining nonimmigrant visas. Admission is for no more than 90 days. The program was instituted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (entries began 7/1/88). Under the Guam Visa Waiver Program, certain visitors from designated countries may visit Guam only for up to 15 days without first having to obtain nonimmigrant visitor visas.
Voluntary Departure: The departure of an alien from the United States without an order of removal. The departure may or may not have been preceded by a hearing before an immigration judge. An alien allowed to voluntarily depart concedes removability but does not have a bar to seeking admission at a port-of-entry at any time. Failure to depart within the time granted results in a fine and a ten-year bar to several forms of relief from deportation.
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 Ineligibility: In immigration law certain foreign nationals are ineligible for visas to enter the U.S. for medical, criminal, security or other conditions and activities. Some applicants for visas are able to apply for permission to enter the U.S. despite the ineligibility. The applicant must apply for permission to enter the U.S. (waiver). See Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas for more information.
Withdrawal: An arriving alien’s voluntary retraction of an application for admission to the United States in lieu of a removal hearing before an immigration judge or an expedited removal.
Work Authorization: If you are not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document to prove you may work in the U.S. To learn more visit USCIS’s webpage.
Milwaukee, WI Office
1338 S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr (Corner Of Greenfield Ave & Cesar Chavez Dr)
Milwaukee, WI 53204
608-338-3474 Se Habla Español
Hours: Mon 9AM - 7PM Tue-Fri 9AM - 5:30PM Sat-9AM-3:00PM
Chicago, IL, Schaumburg, IL
434 Springsouth Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60193
Mr. Masood Akram, Manager
Office Visit by Appointment ONLY Se Habla Español
Madison, WI Office
By Appointment only
Madison, WI 53713
414-255-9842 - Se Habla Español
Tampa, Plant City, FL Office
3309 Jap Tucker Road
Plant City, FL 33566
Mr. Ajmal Khan, Manager
Office Visit by Appointment ONLY Se Habla Español
Houston, TX Office
11111 Katy Freeway
Houston, TX 77079
Phone: (713) 965-7636
Se Habla Español