Statutes & Regulations

Up


  • CFR: Code of Federal Regulations.
  • Treaties: Various bilateral (and multi-lateral) immigration-related agreements exist between the US and other countries.
  • Policy Memoranda: Issued by USCIS to guide as to the processing immigration benefits.
  • BIA Decisions
  • AAO Adopted Decisions: Guidance to USCIS employees.
  • AAO Precedent Decisions: Must be followed by DHS employees. 
  • Federal Court Rulings
  • Federal Register: A daily publication of the United States government containing, among other things, all proposed, interim, and final rules and regulations written by federal departments and agencies to interpret and implement federal statutes. Interim and final regulations that have been published in the Federal Register are codified in the CFR.
  • INA: Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (subsequent to the INA of 1952).
  • CAA (1966): The Cuban Adjustment Act allows Cuban natives or citizens living in the United States who meet certain eligibility requirements to apply to become lawful permanent residents (get a Green Card). This program ended.
  • IRCA (1986): Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
  • IMFA (1986): Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986
  • IMMACT90 (1990): Intended to form the 1965 act, increasing total immigration (1990). Amongst its changes was the creation of family and employment-based preference categories and the Green Card Lottery system.
  • IIRIRA: Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996.
  • Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA 1998) allowed certain nationals of Haiti who had been residing in the United States could become permanent residents.
  • LIFE ACT (2000): Legal Immigration Family Equity Act and Life Act Amendments of 2000, Among other things, established a legalization program for class members in late amnesty litigation and a family unity program for their spouses and minor children; broadened immigrant eligibility for adjustment of status (245i); and created new non-immigrant visa categories.
  • AC-21 (2000): The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act updated employment-based visa provisions.
  • REAL ID Act of 2005: Amended certain aspects of Asylum and Withholding of removal claims.
  • VAWA 2005: Violence Against Women Act, created special visa categories for victims of abuse by LPR or USC spouses.
  • International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005: requires background checks for all marriage visa sponsors and limits serial visa applications.
  • Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006: Prevents US Family Petitioner’s with Child-sexual abuse from approvals unless can get a waiver.

Immigration Departments/Agencies

Up


  • DHS: Department of Homeland Security (Parent organization of most immigration-related agencies).
  • Legacy INS: the Immigration and Naturalization Services no longer in existence, but was until the bureau for all immigration-related matters. In 2003, its functions were divided into several smaller bureaus, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.
  • CIS (Or USCIS): United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (adjudicating Immigration Benefits in the US).
  • HSI: Homeland Security Investigations (for USCIS).
  • Field Office: Local Office inside the US that handle scheduled interviews on non-asylum related applications.  They also provide limited information and applicant services that supplement those we provide through our website and by phone.
  • Lockbox: facilities that allow the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to receive forms quickly and process payments efficiently and securely. These facilities have been set up by the USCIS to receive applications and process payments.
  • Service Center: Five US Facilities that process and adjudicate certain immigration applications and petitions. Service centers do not provide in-person services, conduct interviews, or receive walk-in applications, petitions, or questions. They work only on certain applications or petitions that customers have mailed, filed online, or filed with a USCIS Lockbox. The five service centers are the following (and handle cases depending on the location of the person making the request):
  • California Service Center
  • Nebraska Service Center
  • Potomac Service Center
  • Texas Service Center
  • Vermont Service Center
  • CBP: Customs and Border Protection, is the agency that protects the ports and borders of the United States and processing individuals and goods entering the US
  • ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement, us the agency tasked with enforcing US Immigration Laws.
  • AAO: Administrative Appeals Office.
  • DOJ: Department of Justice
  • EOIR: Executive Office for Immigration Review 
  • BIA: Board of Immigration Appeals
  • DOS: Department of State
  • Embassy v. Consulate
  • NVC: The National Visa Center is an agency within the Department of Status used to collect the initial documents for Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa Application.
  • OFAC: The Office of Foreign Asset Control, an agency of the Department of Treasury
  • DOL: Department of Labor.
  • BALCA: Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals.
  • Federal Courts (District, Appeals and Supreme Court).

Government Manuals

Up


  • AFM: Adjudicator’s Field Manual (for USCIS)
  • FAM: Foreign Affairs Manual (for DOS/Embassy)
  • ICPM: Immigration Court Practice Manual (for EOIR)
  • IFM: Inspector’s Field Manual (for CBP – New Version Not Available)
  • AAO Practice Manual
  • BIA Practice Manual

Forms

Up


  • AR-11: Alien (or petitioner with pending application) change of address request form.
  • CBP Form 339: Application for User Fee Decal or Transponder.
  • CBP Form 3299: Declaration of Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles.
  • CBP Form 7501: Entry Summary.
  • CBP I-736: CNMI Visa Wavier Program. 
  • DS-11: Application for a U.S. Passport.
  • DS-64: Reporting US Passport as lost or stolen.
  • DS-82: US Passport renewal by Mail.
  • DS-86: Statement one did not receive their U.S. Passport.
  • DOJ-361: Certificate of Identify (DOJ – Used for FOIA Requests)
  • DS-160: Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application.
  • DS-260: Online Immigrant Visa Application. 
  • DS-3053: Statement of Consent for Issuing a US Passport to a Child
  • DS-5504: Data Corrections, Some Name Changes, and Limited-Validity of US Passports.
  • DS-5525: Statement of Special Family Circumstances.
  • DS-5535: Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants.
  • DSP-150: (BCC) Border Crossing Card.
  • EOIR-28: Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney (or Accredited Representative) before the Immigration Court.
  • EOIR-29: Notice of Appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals from a Decision of a DHS Officer.
  • ETA 750A: Application for Alien Employment Certification. an older version of the form (not ETA 9089) required to get labor certification from the department of labor - which allows a U.S. employer to sponsor and hire foreign workers.
  • ETA 750B: Statement of Qualifications of Alien.
  • ETA 9089: Form used to allow employers to seek “permanent labor certification” for a prospective employee with the DOL.
  • G-28: Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney (or Accredited Representative) before a DHS agency.
  • G-28I: Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney in Matters Outside the Geographic Confines of the United States.
  • G-325a: Biographic information form, now only used for Deferred Action. 
  • G-639: Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Request
  • G-1145: E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.
  • G-1450: Authorization for Credit Card Transactions (only to be used with Lockboxes).
  • I-9: used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States.
  • I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student (F or M) status and lists the information related to the foreign national’s study in the United States.
  • I-90: Application to renew/replace a Permanent Residency Card (Green card).
  • I-94: Arrival/Departure Record issued by CBP for non-immigrants.
  • I-129: Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker.
  • I-129F: Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) (or K-3/K-4).
  • I-130: Petition for Alien Relative.
  • I-130a: Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary
  • I-131: Application for Travel Document (Reentry Permit, Advance Parole or Refugee Travel Document).
  • I-131A: Application for Travel Documentation (Carrier Documentation).
  • I-327: Form  name for a Reentry Permit Travel Document.
  • I-134: Affidavit of Support, used to show financial sponsorship of a foreign national requesting a Non-Immigrant Visa.
  • I-140: Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.
  • I-186: Former Border Crossing Card.
  • I-192: Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant.
  • I-212: Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission.
  • I-290B: Notice of Appeal or Motion.
  • I-360: Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrant (EB-4).
  • I-407: Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residency.
  • I-485: Application for Adjustment of Status.
  • I-485 Supplement A: Included for Adjustment based on 245i adjustment.
  • I-485 Supplement J: Included for Adjustment as Confirmation of Bona Fide Job Offer or Request for Job Portability.
  • I-508: Request for Waiver of Certain Rights, Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities.
  • I-508F: Request for Waiver of Rights, Privileges, Exemptions, and Immunities for French Nationals
  • I-512: Form name for authorized Advance Parole.
  • I-526: Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur (EB-5).
  • I-539: Application to Extend/Change Certain Non-Immigrant Statuses.
  • I-551: Form name for a Green Card or Alien Registration Card.
  • I-571: Form name for a Refugee Travel Document.
  • I-586: Former Border Crossing Card.
  • I-589: Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal.
  • I-601: Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.
  • I-601A: Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers.
  • I-693: Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (USCIS)
  • I-730: Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.
  • I-751: Petition to Removal Conditions on Residence.
  • I-765: Application for Employment Authorization.
  • I-765WS: Worksheet for Form I-765 (Used for DACA).
  • I-797: Notice of Action, Issued when an application or petition is approved.
  • I-797A: Notice of Action, Issued to an applicant as a replacement Form I-94.
  • I-797B: Notice of Action, Issued for approval of an alien worker petition.
  • I-797C: Notice of Action, Issued to communicate receipt of payments, rejection of applications, transfer of files, fingerprint biometric, interview and re-scheduled appointments, and re-open cases.
  • I-797D: Accompanies benefit cards.
  • I-797E: Notice of Action, Issued to request evidence.
  • I-797F: Transportation LetterIssued overseas to allow applicants to travel.
  • I-821: Application for Temporary Protected Status.
  • I-821D: Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
  • I-824: Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition.
  • I-829: Petition for Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status.
  • I-854: Inter-Agency Alien Witness and Informant Record.
  • I-864: Affidavit of Support, used to show financial sponsorship of a foreign national requesting an Immigrant Visa.
  • I-864EZ: shortened Affidavit of Support Form based on certain conditions of a Sponsor.
  • I-864W: Request for Exemption for Intending Immigrant's Affidavit of Support.
  • I-864P: lists the income requirement amounts based on household size for the I-864 Sponsor.
  • I-901: SEVIS Fee
  • I-907: Request for Premium Processing Service.
  • I-912: Request for Fee Waiver.
  • I-914: Application for T Nonimmigrant Status.
  • I-918: Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status.
  • I-924: Application For Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program.
  • I-924A: Annual Certification of Regional Center.
  • I-929: Petition for Qualifying Family Member of a U-1 Nonimmigrant.
  • N-336: Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings. 
  • N-400: Application for Naturalization (Citizenship).
  • N-470: Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes (after extended period abroad).
  • N-565: Application for Replacement of Citizenship Document.
  • N-600: Application for Certificate of Citizenship.
  • N-600K: Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate for Children who regularly reside in a foreign country may use this form to claim U.S. citizenship based on their parentage

Visa Categories

Up


Non-Immigrant (Temporary) Visas:


  • A: Visas for Diplomats & Foreign Government Officials.
  • ESTA/VWP (WB)(GB): Electronic System for Travel Authorization/Visa Waiver Program: permits citizens of certain countries to enter the US without obtaining a Visa from a US Consulate.
  • B-1: Temporary Business Visitor.
  • B-2: A Visitor to the US for business, Tourism or Medical Treatment purposes. 
  • C: Transit Visa.
  • D: Crewmember Visas.
  • E-1: Treaty Traders and their Dependents.
  • E-2: Treaty Investors and their Dependents.
  • E-2C: Certain Specialty Occupation Professionals from Australia and their Dependents.
  • E-3: Specialty Occupation Professionals from Australia and their dependents.
  • F-1/F-2: Student Visa for Academic Students and their dependents.
  • G: Visas for International Organization Employees.
  • H: Visas for foreign workers, in particular the H-1B for Specialty Occupation foreign workers and their dependents.
  • H-1B1: for Professionals from Chile and Singapore.
  • I: Representatives of Foreign Media
  • J-1/J-2: Exchange Visitors that are part of approved programs and their dependents.
  • K-1/K-2: Fiancé visa and dependents.
  • K-3/K-4: Petition to potentially expedite a USC Spouse (IR-1/CR-1) Visas.
  • L-1A/L-2: Intracompany Transfers and their dependents. 
  • L-1B/L-2: Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge and their dependents. 
  • M-1/M-2: Visa for Vocational Students and their dependents.
  • NAFTA TN1/2 and TD for Dependents (North American Free Trade Agreement, to become USMCA)
  • NATO: Visas for NATO Employees.
  • O-1A &B/O-2/O-3: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement, Assisting individuals and Dependents.
  • P-1A: Internationally Recognized Athlete
  • P-1B: A Member of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group.
  • P-2: Individual Performer or Part of a Group Entering to Perform Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program.
  • P-3: Artist or Entertainer Coming to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program.
  • Q: Cultural Exchange.
  • R-1: Temporary Religious Worker
  • S: Informant Visa.
  • T: Victims of Human Trafficking.
  • U: Victims of Criminal Activity.
  • V: visa created to allow families to stay together while waiting for the processing of immigrant visas. Not used anymore.
  • DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was an Obama-era program to permit some who had entered the US as children and satisfied other criteria, to be granted prosecutorial discretion from removal and a work permit.
  • TPS: Temporary Protected Status is announced by the US government periodically, permitting some foreign nationals who may have to deal with extreme issues (such as wars, health or natural disaster) from leaving the US until the situation is cleared up/the TPS period has ended.
  • Humanitarian Parole: Humanitarian or Significant Public Benefit Parole for Individuals Outside the United States
  • CAM: Central American Minors (Parole).
  • CFRP: Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.
  • CMPP: Cuban Medical Professional Program.


Up


Immigrant (Permanent) Visas:


  • Immediate Relatives: US Citizen Spouse (IR-1/CR-1), Unmarried Children under 21 (IR-2) and their Parents (IR-5).
  • Family Preference Categories:
  • F1: Unmarried sons/daughters of US Citizens over 21 (and derivatives)
  • F2: LPR Spouses and Minor Children (F2A) and unmarried sons and daughters (F2B)
  • F3: Married Sons and Daughters of US Citizens (and derivatives)
  • F4: Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens (and derivatives)
  • Employment Preference Categories
  • EB-1: Priority workers. Sub-groups:
    • Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.
    • Foreign nationals that are outstanding professors or researchers with at least three years of experience in teaching or research and who are recognized internationally.
    • Foreign nationals that are managers and executives subject to international transfers to the United States. 
  • EB-2: Professionals holding advanced degrees (Ph.D., master’s degree, or at least five years of progressive post-baccalaureate experience) or persons of exceptional ability in sciences, arts, or business. OR National Interest Waivers (NIW  - EB-2c).
  • EB-3: Skilled workers, professionals, and other workers. 
  • EB-4: Certain special immigrants – ministers, religious workers, current or former U.S. government workers, etc.
  • EB-5: An investor who invests between $500,000 and $1,000,000, depending on the employment rate in the geographical area, in a commercial enterprise in the United States which creates at least 10 new full-time jobs for U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, or other lawful immigrants, not including the investor and his or her family. 

Up


Other:


  • SB-1: Returning Resident Visa (permission to reenter as an LPR after 1 year or more absence abroad (or beyond the validity period of a Reentry Permit).
  • Asylum v. Refugee: If within the US, a foreign national can apply for Asylum through USCIS. Refugee status is for those outside the US that apply through the UN program that maintains this process for Refugees.
  • VAWA: Special visa categories for victims of abuse by LPR or USC spouses.
  • Diversity Visa: Green Card Lottery. am Annual lottery for foreign nationals from low-migration countries to be able to obtain Lawful Permanent Residency.


Immigration Terms

Up


  • 3 and 10-year bar: inadmissibility bars due to extended periods of unlawful presence in the US.


  • Sanctuary City/State: a jurisdiction within the US that announces it would not comply with all Federal Immigration regulations.


  • 90-Day Rule: DOS internal regulation that presumes a US visitor had misrepresented their intent obtaining permission to or entering the US based on their activities in the first 90 days of entry into the US.


  • 245i (INA): Section 245(i) allows certain persons, who have an immigrant visa immediately available but entered without inspection or otherwise violated their status and thus are ineligible to apply for adjustment of status in the United States, to apply if they pay a $1,000 penalty.


  • 245k (INA): Exception to the Adjustment of Status Rules for Certain EB-1 through 4 Applicants.


  • Abandonment of Status: losing lawful permanent residency due to extended periods of absences from the US.


  • ABC Litigation: a settlement agreement against the Legacy INS, permitting benefits (such as Stay of Deportation/Removal, employment authorization and De Novo Asylum review) for eligible candidates from Guatemala and El Salvador.


  • AC-21: The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act updated employment-based visa provisions.


  • Accompanying and Follow to Join: programs for dependent/derivative applicants that are to enter with the primary immigration beneficiary or within the first 6 months of their entry (Accompany) or afterward (Follow-to-Join).


  • Adam Walsh Act: is a Federal Law intended to protect against child sex offenders that creates hurdles for certain convicted US Citizens and LPR petitioners.


  • Adjudication: the process and decision of an Immigration Adjudicator of an immigration.


  • Adjudicator: the government officer reviewing and deciding an immigration case.


  • Administrative Closure: a tool used by immigration judges to manage their caseload to temporarily take a case off the court docket, usually to allow for completion of related proceedings that can impact the removal procedure. This process has been severely limited by President Trump’s administration.


  • Admission v. Entry: The pre-IIRIRA term of “entry” was defined as any unrestrained crossing of the United States border. While IIRIRA substitution language defines “admission” and admitted to mean the lawful entry of the alien to the United States after inspection and authorization by an Immigration Officer.


  • Administrative Processing: Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer. Upon completion of this process, the applicant is supposed to be notified.


  • Advanced Degrees: To meet the basic legal requirements for an EB-2(A) visa, the foreign national must have earned an advanced academic degree, such as a Master’s, Ph.D., Juris Doctor (J.D. or law degree), or an M.D. (medicine). In one situation, however, the foreign national does not need a degree beyond baccalaureate. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)’s definition of “advanced degree” includes a B.A. or B.S. “followed by at least five years of progressive experience in the specialty,” which it considers to be the equivalent to a master’s degree. The “progressive” aspect of the experience means that the level of responsibility the worker exerted, the complexity of the tasks taken on, and the knowledge gained in that position must have increased progressively over the course of the five years.


  • Advisory Opinions: given by DHS/DOS supervisors in support of frontline decision making officers for specific cases and issues.


  • Aggravated Felon: is a term of art used to describe a category of offenses carrying particularly harsh immigration consequences for noncitizens convicted of such crimes. Regardless of their immigration status, noncitizens who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony” are prohibited from receiving most forms of relief that would spare them from deportation, including asylum, and from being readmitted to the United States at any time in the future. Despite what the ominous-sounding name may suggest, an “aggravated felony” does not require the crime to be “aggravated” or a “felony” to qualify. Instead, an “aggravated felony” is simply an offense that Congress sees fit to label as such, and today includes many nonviolent and seemingly minor offenses.


  • Alien: A person that is not a citizen or national of the United States.


  • Alien Number: An A-Number, also known as an Alien Registration Number or Alien Number, is a unique eight- or nine-digit number assigned to a noncitizen at the time their A-File is created. An A-Number is the letter “A” followed by eight or nine numbers (such as A012345678). 


  • Amnesty: a blanket forgiveness of immigration status, commonly referred to as the General Amnesty provision of IRCA 1986 that legalized immigrants who had resided unlawfully in the United States since before January 1, 1982, to legalize their immigration status, also referred to as section 245A immigrants.


  • AOS: Adjustment of Status is the process of Applying for Lawful Permanent Residency (Green Card) while in the US (Using Form I-485).


  • AP: or Advance Parole is a permit and type of travel document for a non-U.S. national, who does not have a valid immigrant visa, to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad. Such persons include those who have applied to adjust their status to that of permanent resident or to change their non-immigrant status (Obtained through Form I-131).


  • APA: The Administrative Procedures Act in the Immigration context effective means of challenging unlawful agency decisions or action in immigration cases (such as delays in adjudications) outside of the removal context. 


  • Applicant: the foreign national requesting benefits under an immigration program.


  • Arriving Alien: someone who attempted an entry at a port of entry but was not admitted or someone who is interdicted at sea. Parolees fall within this definition because, at a port of entry, they are permitted to enter but are not admitted. Additionally, lawful permanent residents (LPR) are classified as “arriving aliens” if DHS determines that they are “seeking admission” under the definition for the term “admission.”


  • ASC: Application Support Center is a designated location with equipment to obtain a foreign national’s biometric information.


  • Asylum: the ability to remain in the US due to fear of specific persecution against the applicant’s membership in a particular class or group.


  • Attorney General and the INA: with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, many of the responsibilities of the Attorney General were transferred to this new department and its agencies. However, the Attorney General continues to retain much of its decision making power in this area. 


  • Automatic Extensions: various stay and work authorization extensions permitted upon the filing of a renewal case. 


  • Automatic Revalidation: permits certain holders of expired non-immigrant visas who be admitted back into the US at the port of entry for travel of less than 30 days from the US to Canada, Mexico or some adjacent locations.


  • BALCA: Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals is responsible for issuing final administrative decisions on PERM applications. The board includes Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) within the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.


  • BCC: Border Crossing Card is an identity document that acts as a B1/B2 visa permitting entry into the United States by Mexican citizens. 


  • Beneficiary: the foreign national obtaining benefits under an immigration program.


  • Biometrics: After filing an application, petition or request, USCIS schedules a biometric services appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC) to provide a foreign national’s fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature. 


  • Boarding Foil: A travel document issued by an Embassy/Consulate for US residents that have lost their Green Card, but need to board a transportation carried to the US.


  • Bond Hearing: Ability for some in immigration detention to request permission to post a bond and await the removal process outside of detention.


  • CAL DOJ Live Scan: in the California Department of Justice, the program for obtaining a background check through fingerprints from the state’s department of justice.


  • Cancellation of Removal: a form of discretionary relief (for LPRs and non-LPRS) from deportation or removal proceedings based on several factors including ten year of continuous presence in the US, good moral character, clear criminal history and exception and extremely unusual hardship. 


  • Carrier Liability: Liability of Transportation Carriers into a US Port of Entry for carrying a person that is not permitted to request admission into the US.


  • CARP: Controlled Application Review & Resolution Program, which allows for an individual to be flagged as a national security concern, and additional delays for review of a benefits case.


  • CAT: Convention Against Torture relief, commonly called CAT, is an extremely rare grant of protection from deportation that an immigration judge grants for individuals who fear torture in their home country. To qualify for CAT, an applicant must demonstrate a clear probability (more than a 50% chance) that they will be tortured either directly by or with the acquiescence of the government of their country of origin. This is an extremely difficult legal showing to make, and consequently, only about 2-3% of all applications for CAT are granted across the country.


  • Chargeability and Cross-Chargeability: Chargeability refers to the country of Birth of an Immigrant Visa Applicant, against which the issued visa is counted. Cross-Chargeability refers to the use of the primary immigrant visa applicant’s country for dependent(s) of the primary applicant. This is important due to the limited number of preference category visas per country.


  • Child: For immigration purposes, an unmarried child under the age of 21.


  • Central American Minors (CAM) program: The CAM program was established in 2014 to provide certain minors in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras the opportunity to be considered, while still in their home country, for refugee resettlement in the United States. Individuals who were determined to be ineligible for refugee status were then considered by USCIS for the possibility of entering the United States under parole. The parole portion of the CAM program was terminated in August 2017. 


  • Chevron Deference: is a principle of administrative law requiring courts to defer to interpretations of statutes made by those government agencies charged with enforcing them, unless such interpretations are unreasonable.


  • CIMT: Crime of Moral Turpitude, a nebulous concept used in immigration for judging a person’s criminal background for granting of certain immigration benefits.


  • Civil Surgeon: Is a doctor, selected by the USCIS to conduct medical examinations of aliens in the United States who are applying for adjustment of status to permanent residence, or who are required by the USCIS to have a medical examination. 


  • CMA: Metropolitan areas made up of more than one PMSA and with one million or more residents may be recognized as Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The county-based alternative for the New England states is known as New England County Metropolitan Areas (NECMAs).


  • CNMI: Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.


  • Conditional Permanent Residence: an LPR with a 2-year Green Card which requires applying to remove the conditions on the Green Card (Form I-751 for marriage case, and Form I-829 for EB-5 cases).



  • Consular Processing: is the procedure of applying for an immigrant visa (green card) through a U.S. Embassy or consulate in a foreign country.


  • COS: Change of Status is requesting USCIS change a current Non-Immigrant status (using Forms I-539 or I-129).


  • Country Conditions Report: Various reports from the US Department of State and Human Rights groups that describe the conditions within certain countries, which can be used to provide evidentiary support for Asylum applications.


  • Crewman: means a person serving in any capacity on board a vessel or aircraft (not considered “admitted”).


  • CSPA: Child Status Protection Act is a special rule used to permit children of certain immigrant beneficiaries to maintain their position on their parent’s immigration applications.


  • DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program for Prosecutorial Discretion and Work Authorization for certain foreign nationals that entered the US as a child.


  • DAPA: Deferred Action Parents of Americans, a program that was never implemented during the Obama Administration due to Federal Court Injunctions. The program would have permitted parents of Americans in unlawful immigration status to get Prosecutorial Discretion and work authorization.


  • Deferred Inspection: These CBP sites provide assistance to those individuals who at the time of entry into the United States were scheduled for a deferred inspection or believe that the documentation and corresponding endorsements issued at the port of entry require review and possible correction.


  • Derivative (similar to Dependent): a secondary beneficiary of an Immigration benefit such as a spouse or child.


  • DHS TRIP: Traveler Redress Inquiry Program is a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs - like airports - or crossing U.S. borders.


  • D/S: Duration of Status is the opened ended length of stay given to beneficiaries of visa categories such as student F-1 Visas.


  • DSO: Designated School Official (for F-1/M-1 students).


  • Dual Intent: the intent of a foreign national trying to enter the US on a non-immigrant visa, but also having the intent to permanently stay. Normally this is not permitted, but exceptions are permitted for some non-immigrant visas category.


  • Dual National: a person that has multiple citizenships.


  • EAD: An Employment Authorization Document is a permit issued by USCIS that allows a foreign national to lawfully work in the US during the time given on the document (or “work permit”, obtained through Form I-765).


  • EMP Electronic Monitoring Program a form of detention that ensures close and frequent contact by ICE with someone granted supervised release.  


  • EOS: Extension of Status is requesting USCIS extend a current Non-Immigrant status (using Forms I-539 or I-129).


  • E-Verify: is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.


  • EWI: Entry Without Inspection: Persons who enter the U.S. by avoiding inspection.


  • Exclusion: Denial of an alien's entry into the United States, based on inadmissibility. Prior to April 1997, the decision to exclude an alien was made by an immigration judge after a hearing. Since April 1997, deciding whether or not to exclude an alien may take place in either an expedited removal process or in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.


  • Expedited Removal: is the process where a non-US Citizen can be denied entry and removed from the US at the Port of Entry without going through the regular process of removal proceedings in court.


  • Expedite Request: special request to USCIS for faster processing if the requestor can document their needs within the criteria listed by USCIS.


  • “False Claim” to US Citizenship: Foreign national falsely claiming to be a US Citizen, which is an issue of inadmissibility and removability.


  • FEIN: Federal Employment Identification Number (issued by IRS for businesses).


  • FOIA: Freedom Of Information Act, a method for requesting information and documents from the government. 


  • GMC: Good Moral Character means character which measures up to the standards of average citizens of the community in which the applicant resides, and use for Naturalization determination (Form N-400).


  • Hague v. Non-Hague Adoption: Different International Adoption Standards and processes for the adoption and immigration of the adoptee.


  • Hardship (exceptional/extreme): a standard criterion for showing difficulties to a qualifying relative for obtaining certain types of immigration waivers for a foreign national.


  • Humanitarian Parole: A form of parole granted to a non-citizen when DHS determines as a matter of discretion that he or she should be allowed into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or because allowing the person into the country will significantly benefit the public.


  • Humanitarian reinstatement: a discretionary form of relief available to the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, that was approved prior to the death of the petitioner.


  • ICE Hold: or Immigration Hold or Detainer is when a foreign national is held in custody of immigration authorities pending removal or removal proceedings.


  • IJ: Immigration [Court] Judge, an employee of the Department of Justice


  • Inadmissibility: In order to be able to enter the US, a foreign national must meet and be able to demonstrate all statutory requirements. There are various grounds that can make a person inadmissible under INA section 212(a) that must be cleared to prevent inadmissibility into the US.


  • In Absentia Order: Failure to appear for a scheduled removal hearing means that the Immigration Judge (IJ) will most likely have ordered you to be removed in absentia (without your presence in court). If the government can show that you were given written notice of the hearing, the IJ must issue a removal order.


  • Infopass: a service the lets a person to schedule an appointment with a USCIS Field Office.


  • Inspection: An examination by a DHS Officer of a person seeking to enter the United States, whether at the border or a port of entry, such as an international airport.


  • Intending Immigrant 214(b): Denial of non-immigrant visa due to a Consular official's belief that the applicant is going to remain in the US permanently.


  • Intent: the assumed or real goal of a foreign national trying to enter the US.


  • INS (Legacy): Predecessor to the USCIS (under DHS) with more wide-ranging immigration authority. 


  • Intracompany Transferee: An alien who has been employed by an international firm or corporation for a year (or six months in some cases) in the last three years, and who seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to continue working for the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate of the original employer. He or she must be employed in a capacity that is primarily managerial or executive or involves specialized knowledge. The term also refers to the alien's spouse and minor unmarried children.


  • ISAP: The Intensive Supervision of Appearance Program is a monitoring system for Immigrants in Deportation proceedings who have been released from detention.


  • ITIN: Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (issued by IRS for individuals).


  • J-1 2 Year Requirement: requirement that some J-1 Visa holders return to the last country of residence for 2 years before being able to get further US immigration benefits.


  • Joint Sponsor: A third party that can also act as a financial sponsor for an immigrant visa application that requires an I-864 Sponsor.


  • Kazarian Decision: a 9th Cir. Opinion that required a two-tiered analysis of EB-1a Extraordinary cases beyond the minimum requirement to satisfy the EB-1a criteria, requiring a review of the totality of the foreign national’s accomplishments in addition to criteria satisfaction.


  • Labor Certification: is the requirement for U.S. employers seeking to employ certain persons whose immigration to the United States is based on job skills or nonimmigrant temporary workers coming to perform services for which qualified authorized workers are unavailable in the United States (for EB-2/3 Green Cards that require this certification). Labor certification is issued by the Secretary of Labor and contains attestations by U.S. employers as to the numbers of U.S. workers available to undertake the employment sought by an applicant, and the effect of the alien’s employment on the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed. Determination of labor availability in the United States is made at the time of a visa application and at the location where the applicant wishes to work.


  • LCA: Labor Condition Application is a form that employers must file with the United States Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (ETA) on behalf of employees applying for a nonimmigrant H-1B, H-1B1 (Singapore and Chile) or E-3 (Australia) work visa. 


  • LPR: A Lawful Permanent Residency (“Immigrant”) is a foreign national that has the ability to live and work in the US lawful as a resident (and the documents showing proof of this ability (Green Card/Form I-551/Immigrant Visa).


  • Lozada, Matter of: Court case that set the standard for seeking an immigration remedy due to ineffective assistance of counsel.


  • Matter of Dhanasr: New NIW standard that retired the previous NYSDOT standard.


  • MCH: Master Calendar Hearing, is a short preliminary hearing, normally to begin the removal process in immigration court.


  • Merits Hearing: An Immigration Court hearing used to present and defend the arguments for and against the removal of an immigrant.


  • Metropolitan Area: Commonly, an area with more than 100,000 residents is referred to as a metropolitan area. Typically, the area consists of an important city (50,000 or more residents) and bordering communities that are socially and economically integrated with the city.


  • Motion to Reopen or Reconsider: an appeal of a USCIS decision to the Administrative Appeals Office for review.


  • MSA: Metropolitan Statistical Area is defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget defines an MSA as a core area with at least 50,000 residents and bordering communities which are socially and economically integrated with the central city. 


  • NACARA: The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act or NACARA is a U.S. law passed in 1997 that provides various forms of immigration benefits and relief from deportation to certain Nicaraguans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, nationals of former Soviet bloc countries and their dependents who had arrived as asylees.


  • NAFTA: North American Free Trade Agreement (to become USMCA).


  • Naturalization: the process required to obtained US Citizenship (through Form N-400).


  • NIW (National Interest Waiver): I-140 EB-2a category permitted successful beneficiaries to waiver the employer requirement for applying for an employment-based Green Card.


  • NOID: Notice of Intent to Deny is a USCIS communication about their intent to deny a pending case.


  • NOIR: Notice Of Intent to Revoke is a USCIS communication about their intent to revoke a previously approved petition.


  • NSEERS: National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (program removed in 2016).


  • NTA: A Notice To Appear is the charging document that signals the initiation of removal proceedings against you. If you receive an NTA, it means that you must appear in Immigration Court on the date specified or at a date to be determined in the future.


  • Nunc Pro Tunc: (“Now For Then”) is a discretionary relief to retroactively correct an earlier mistake.


  • O*Net: Online source of occupational information used for Work-Based Immigration programs.


  • Ombudsman: an independent agency to provide case assistance for applicants and immigration issues with DHS.

Up


  • Padilla v. Kentucky: Court case that set the standard for the requirement for criminal attorneys to provide immigration guidance when advising immigrant clients in criminal court.


  • Panel Physician: Doctors approved by the US Embassy abroad for medical processing of applicants abroad.


  • Parole: The discretionary decision that allows inadmissible foreign nationals to leave an inspection facility freely so that, although they are not admitted to the United States, they are permitted to be physically present in the United States. Parole is granted on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Parole is not an “admission” or “entry.” The paroled foreign national is treated as an applicant for admission. 


  • Parolee:  A non-citizen to whom the Attorney General has granted a temporary stay for humanitarian or public interest purposes and who can be detained at any time.  Parolee status expires after one year (renewable at the U.S. government’s discretion), and most parolees are prohibited from applying for lawful permanent residency (LPR) “green card” or citizenship.


  • PERM: Program Electronic Review Management is the system used to process labor certifications, which is the first step certain foreign nationals must take in order to obtain an EB-2 or EB-3 visa immigrant visa.


  • Petitioner: The requestor (person or company) of immigration program for a foreign national.


  • Petty Offense: in the Immigration Context, some smaller level crimes that will not prevent obtaining Immigration Benefits.


  • PIP: Parole-in-Place allows certain undocumented family members of U.S. military personnel (active or veterans) to obtain a green card. Specifically, it enables those foreign national family members who are in the U.S. unlawfully to adjust status to lawful permanent resident without leaving the United States.


  • PMA: a larger metropolitan areas are termed Primary MSAs, or PMSAs. 


  • POE: The Port of Entry is the land, air or sea port where a person or goods can lawfully enter the United States.


  • Post-Conviction Relief: Means of changing the immigration consequences of a conviction by challenging and e potentially eliminating the conviction which is the basis of removability. 


  • Premium Processing: The ability of a Petitioner or Applicant to submit Form I-907 and additional fee for faster processing.


  • Preponderance of the Evidence: is the Standard of Proof required for most immigration-related applications. 


  • Prosecutorial Discretion: the authority of an agency to decide what charges to bring and pursue.


  • Qualifying Relative: a relative of a foreign national that can be used in a waiver determination.


  • RAP Sheet: Identity History Summary—often referred to as a criminal history record or a “rap sheet”—listing certain information taken from fingerprint submissions kept by the FBI and related to arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service.


  • Reasonable Fear Determination: interview by US officers to judge whether a foreign national has the reasonable fear needed to continue an Asylum case in the US.


  • Reentry Permit: a document requested by a lawful permanent resident and used to show the lack of intent to abandon of status despite extended absence(s) from the US.


  • Refugee: the ability to request to request and enter the US due to fear of specific persecution against the applicant’s membership in a particular class or group.


  • Refugee Travel Document: also called a 1951 Convention Travel Document or Geneva Passport, is a Travel Document used by Refugees that can no longer use the passport of their home country, for international travel (obtained through Form I-131).


  • Regional Center (EB-5): is an economic unit, public or private, in the United States that is involved with promoting economic growth.


  • Registry: Registry is a section of immigration law that enables certain individuals who have been present in the United States since January 1, 1972 the ability to apply for a green card (permanent residence), even if they are currently in the United States unlawfully.


  • Removal v. Deportation: Formerly, the process of expulsion of an individual from the US was called “Deportation”, but under the new regulars is referred to as “Removal”.


  • Rescission: the cancellation and rescission of Lawful Permanent Residency within 5 years if it appeared that the Applicant was ineligible. 


  • Retrogression: when the demand for visas exceeds current supply, backwards fluctuations in numbers will occur which causing the visa bulletin date for the month to move back instead of forwards.


  • RFE: Request for Evidence (provided by USCIS when it feels an evidentiary deficiency exists).


  • SAVE: Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements is a system utilized by some agencies, in conjunction with the DHS, to verify an applicant’s immigration.


  • SAW: Special Agricultural Worker: An immigrant who was granted lawful temporary resident (LTR) or lawful permanent resident (LPR) status under the farm worker amnesty program of the IRCA of 1986.


  • Secondary Inspection: allows CBP inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers in the primary inspection line at entry into the US Port.


  • Self-Petition: an Immigrant Visa filed by an individual who is also the Beneficiary of the petition. 


  • SEVIS: the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is a web based system the DHS uses to communicate with schools that have foreign national students.


  • SIJS: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Special Immigrant Juvenile status is available for an unmarried alien under the age of 21 for whom a juvenile court has made the following findings: (1) the child has been declared dependent on a juvenile court; (2) the child’s reunification with one or both parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis under state law; and (3) it is not in the best interest of the juvenile to be returned to the juvenile’s or parent’s previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence.


  • Special Immigrant: A special immigrant is a person who qualifies for a green card (permanent residence) under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) special immigrant program. 


  • Specialty Occupation: requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. For example, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts are specialty occupations (normally used in the H-1B context).


  • Sponsor (I-134/I-864 Affidavit of Support): A US Person taking the financial responsibility for foreign national’s visa sponsorship.


  • Sponsor (J-1 Visa): Third party agency in charge of supervising the J-1 Applicant and their activity in the US.


  • Spouse: In immigration law, the marriage must be lawful according to the jurisdiction it occurred in (in most cases) and the couple must have met and consummated the relationship before immigration benefits could be bestowed.)


  • STEM: Those with degrees in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.


  • Stowaway: An alien coming to the United States surreptitiously on an airplane or vessel without legal status of admission.


  • Trusted Travelers Program: DHS approved programs that permit travelers to pass through TSA and other security measures, such as TSA-Pre, Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI.


  • Undocumented Alien/Undocumented Immigrant/Unauthorized Immigrant: These are terms for an alien who is in the United States without legal permission through an officially issued visa or as otherwise provided in Federal immigration law.


  • Unlawful Presence: is the period of time when you are in the United States without being admitted or paroled or when you are not in a “period of stay authorized by the Secretary.” Accumulation of Unlawful Presence can potentially lead to inadmissibility.


  • USMCA: United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (successor to NAFTA).


  • VIBE: The Web-based Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) is a tool designed to enhance USCIS’ adjudications of certain employment-based immigration petitions and applications. VIBE uses commercially available data from an independent information provider (IIP) to validate basic information about companies or organizations petitioning to employ certain foreign nationals and to validate the basic information about the companies or organizations.


  • Visa: Allows a person granted this document by the Embassy/Consulate can apply to enter the US (but permission to enter and the length/conditions of stay are granted by CBP.


  • Visa Bulletin: A monthly bulletin that states the timetables for processing Preference Category Petitions and the Diversity Visa Lottery.


  • Visa Reciprocity: Fees for the issuance of Visas for nationals of certain countries that are reciprocated between the two countries.


  • 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.


  • Withholding of Removal: Withholding of removal is a special type of order issued by an immigration judge to a person who demonstrates more than a 50% chance that they will be persecuted in their home country on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Like asylum, withholding of removal protects a person from being deported to a country where they fear persecution. However, withholding of removal is a very limited benefit in many ways.