Glossary of Immigration Terms

Advanced Parole Advanced Parole also referred to as the Travel Document allows a person who has pending changes in non-immigrant status and who has been travelling abroad to re-enter the United states. An application for Advanced Parole must be filed prior to leaving the United States.
AILA American Immigration Lawyers Associations. Please see Professional Organization section in the website for further details.
Alien A person who is not a citizen of the United States of America.


Adjustment of Status is a process that allows an eligible candidate to become permanent resident of the United states without needing to go abroad and applying for a visa. Consular Processing is an alternative to AOS.


Safe haven provided to person who cannot to return to their own country because of well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, political opinion or membership of particular social group. If Asylum is granted, the person will be allowed to live and work in the United States and after one year can apply for permanent residency.
Beneficiary A beneficiary is the person on whose behalf a petition is filed.
Change of Status A petition, filed with USCIS, to change of status of a person from one non-immigrant status to another non-immigrant status.

See Naturalization.

Consular Processing

Consular Processing is process by which a foreigner can become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The applicant must apply for an immigrant visa at a nearest United States Embassy/Consulate.

CPT Curricular Practical Training (like OPT) is authorized student temporary employment. CPT must be authorized by the school but unlike OPT, the applicant does not require and EAD from USCIS.


United States Department of Homeland Security. The DHS overseas all immigration matters through its various departments including USCIS.



United States Department of Labor. The DOL overseas the Labor Certification process (as part of a green cards application) as well as the processing of the LCA (part of H1B application).


United States Department of State. The Department of State overseas all the US embassies and Consulates around the world.

E1/E2 Treaty Trader/ Investor

United States has signed treaties of Friendship, commerce and navigation with various nations around the world. Citizens of these nations can obtain visas to work in the United states.

E1 visa is reserved for those involved in significant amount of trade between United States and their country of citizenship.

E2 visa is for individuals who have made significant investments in an operating business in the United States.

E3 Visa


This is nonimmigrant work visa available to citizens of Australia for employment in specialty occupations. E3 spouses and dependents are permitted to work in the United States.


Employment Authorization Document (EAD) provides proof that the EAD card holder is authorized to work in the United States. This is only applicable to persons residing in the United States on certain temporary visas.

Employment Based (EB) immigration This is a process of obtaining permanent residency (green card) through employment.


E-Verify is a web-based system operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) which enables an employer to verify employment eligibility of job applicants and their Social Security numbers.

Family Based Immigration

This is the process of acquiring a green card as a result of a relationship with a relative who is a US Citizen.


A card issued by USCIS that identifies then holder as a lawful permanent resident. The name “green card” is a historical artifact since the days when the cards issued were green in color. There are 5 categories of employment based permanent visa – EB1, EB2, EB3, EB4 and EB5 – See section on Green card on this website.


The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration & Nationality Act. It allows U.S. employers to employ foreign guest workers in specialty occupations. See Visa section on this website for further information on H-1B visa.


The I-94 (arrival/departure) form issued by USCIS shows the arrival date, “Admitted Until” date and the date your period of stay expires. The I-94 is issued at the port of entry and should be surrendered when leaving the United states.



US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a branch of the US Department of Homeland Security. ICE replaces the law enforcement sections of the US Customs Service and INS.

INS Immigration and Naturalization Service. This government body no longer exists and its functions have been taken over the US Department of Homeland Security.
J-1 Exchange visitor visa. See visa section on this website for further details.


Fiancé Visa. The non-immigrant visa that enables the applicant to enter the United States to marry a US citizen. K-2 is for dependents.
Labor Certification


Part of the immigration process required to obtain an employment based green card. Labor Certification is a process of proving that there are no US citizens qualified for the position being offered. This process is also referred to as PERM.


Prior to filing an H-1B1 petition, a Labor Condition Application (LCA) must be filed with DOL by the employer. The LCA essentially commits the employer to paying the applicant the same or higher wages as that paid to others for the same type of job. The wages paid to the applicant must also be the same or higher than the prevailing wages for the same job in the same geographical area where the applicant is going to work.


Lawful Permanent Resident is a non-US citizen, residing legally in the United States – also known as Green card holder, or Permanent Resident Alien.


For the purposes of immigration, specifically for the purposes of attaining an non-immigrant R-1 visa USCIS defines the term minister as someone who is authorized by their denomination to carry out religious worship and other duties normally associated with the clergy.

Motion to Reconsider

This is a formal request to reconsider a decision that is believed to have been made in error during the processing of a petition. The burden is on the petitioner to demonstrate why the decision was legally incorrect.


A process by which a qualified foreign national can become a citizen of the United States. Citizenship may be acquired via family or employment based immigration processes.


National Interest Waiver. A green card category where an individual may seek a waiver of the labor certification requirements based on their expertise a field of importance to the United States. The NIW is part of the employment based, second preference category (EB2). The individual must hold advanced degrees or have exceptional ability. See Green card section on this website for further details.

Non Immigrant A person who has entered the United States legally on a temporary visa.
Non Immigrant Visa A passport visa stamp that authorizes a foreign national to travel to US on a temporary basis.

Notice to Appear. A document, issued by USCIS, that places a person in removal proceedings.

O-1 Non-immigrant visa for persons with extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, sciences, education and business.


Optional Practical Training is USCIS authorized temporary employment available to F-1 Students after one year of academic year. Students must apply for EAD prior to starting employment.

Out of Status


A term used to describe various situations where a non-US citizen has filed to maintain legal non-immigrant status. Some examples of being out-of-status include staying past the I-94 expiry date, working for a different employer than the one that sponsored the individual or end of your H1 or L1 employment.


Program Electronic Review Management is electronic labor certification system designed to reduce labor certification times to less than 60 days. All labor certification filed as of March 2005 are filed under PERM.


An application for immigrant or non-immigrant visa filed on behalf of the beneficiary.

Priority Date

The date that an applicant’s labor certification is filed with the DOL is the applicant’s priority date. The USCIS regularly publishes cutoff dates for immigration categories and countries of birth. Only those applicants whose priority dates falls before the cutoff date can apply for Adjustment of Status.


Request For Information (RFE). This s an official request by the USCIS to solicit further information on a pending case.



Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. A web based system used by the DHS to record educational history of foreign students studying in the United States.


Student and Exchange Visitor Program



In March 2003 what used to be known as US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security as United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.


The Visa Waiver Program enables the citizens of certain countries to travel to United States for periods of up to 90 days without having to get a visa.

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