US Immigration law is a confusing mix of words, phrases, rules, and procedures. This dictionary presents some of the vocabulary used in immigration discussions and gives definitions and explanations that may help to understand this very confusing subject. Included are names of procedures, official and unofficial names, descriptions, types of visas, and more.

These are not official definitions. Some of the entries are defined in immigration laws and regulations. This dictionary tries to give simpler and more understandable definitions. But be soon as we differ from an official definition, there is a danger of incorrect interpretation. This dictionary can be used as a general guide to should not be relied upon for legal precision.

Some warnings: The presentation, format, and content of this dictionary are Copyright by Richard Madison who retains all rights thereto. The author makes no warranties and assumes no liability resulting from the use of this dictionary or any of its content.

Readers may copy and reproduce an insubstantial part of this publication for personal, non-commercial use.

Use the "BACK" button on your browser to return to the previous page. Use the "Find" searcher on your browser to locate a particular word in the dictionary.

To return to The Immigration Home Pagesm

Words in this type are defined in this dictionary.

Adjustment of Status
The procedure which changes (adjusts) a non-immigrant visa status to permanent resident status while in the US. Example: a woman enters the US as a visitor then later while in the US, marries a US citizen. She can apply for an Adjustment of Status from visitor to permanent resident without leaving the US.
A coming into the US after inspection and authorization by a US immigration official and, the act of being allowed to pass into the US after inspection at a port. (A person who comes into the US illegally without being inspected makes an entry without inspection called an EWI.) Admission is shown by a stamp with the word "Admitted" placed in the passport and on a Form I-94 Entry Card (stapled into the passport) at the port inspection point.
Advance Parole
See Parole
Affidavit of Support
The form used by a Sponsor to allow an immigrant to qualify for the green card. All family immigrants must have a sponsor execute and submit an Affidavit of show that the immigrant is not likely to need welfare or other public payments. The Sponsor signing the Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) is obligated to repay support benefits received by the immigrant for up to 10 years and even a divorce does NOT end the obligation.
See Political Asylum
The person who hopes to benefit from an immigrant petition. In an employment case, the worker is the beneficiary. In a family case, the relative trying to get a green card is the beneficiary. See Petitioner.
Cancellation of Removal
An order of an Immigration Judge which cancels a Removal Proceeding and allows the applicant to become a permanent resident. The applicant must have been in the US at least ten years, must be a person of good moral character, and must prove that being expelled would cause "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" to the applicant's US citizen or Legal Resident spouse, parent, or child (not to the alien himself). It is very difficult to have this type of application approved. Since it can only be requested during a Removal Proceeding, a very strong case should exist before applying since failure could result in the applicant being expelled from the US. (Formerly called Suspension of Deportation.)
An official of the US Department of State. Consuls are located only outside the US and are responsible for issuing visas.
Department of State
A cabinet level ministry of the US government responsible for foreign affairs, consuls, and the issuance of visas. Informally referred to as the "State Department" or DOS.
A proceeding (hearing) to determine if a person should be expelled from the US under the provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act and, the carrying out of an order of expulsion. Under recent law changes, Deportation Proceedings are now called Removal Proceedings.
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (D.O.T.)
A book published by the US Department of Labor describing almost every job, the usual job duties and the amount of training or education needed to perform the job.
Entry Without Inspection
Coming into the US without authorization by a BCIS official. Examples are coming across a US border without being inspected, or using someone else's passport at an inspection point. This type of entry is called "EWI".
A proceeding (hearing) to determine if a person should be barred from entering the US. under the provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act. Under recent law changes, Exclusion proceedings are now called Removal Proceedings.
Green Card
The informal name for the card issued as proof of registry as a legal permanent resident. It is officially BCIS Form I-551. An earlier version of the card was green in color.
A person coming to the US to remain permanently or for an indefinite period of time and to make the US the primary place of residence. A permanent resident of the US is an immigrant. A person who plans to become a permanent resident is an intending immigrant. See Visitor.
Immigrant Visa
The visa given to a person by a US consul after qualifying for permanent residence. After arriving in the US, the person will receive a green card.
Intending Immigrant
A person coming to the US who intends (plans, hopes) to remain permanently or for an indefinite period of time and to make the US the primary place of residence. If a Consul or a border or airport inspector believes a person is an intending immigrant, the person will not be admitted to the US unless they have an immigrant visa, a "K" Visa, a "V" Visa, or a green card. For example, a person who is married to a Permanent Resident will not be given a visitor visa. The spouse of a US citizen (or a person who plans to marry a US citizen) will not be admitted to the US with a non-immigrant visa (such as a visitor or student visa) and will not be admitted with a visa waiver. The Fiance of a US Citizen can be admitted with a "K" Visa.
Labor Certificate
When no qualified US Worker can be found for a sponsored job, the Labor Department issues a Labor Certificate which shows that giving the job to a non-US worker will not harm the labor market. A Labor Certificate allows a sponsored employee to apply for permanent residence when other requirements are met.
Labor Department
A cabinet level ministry of the US government responsible for employment matters. Approves and issues Labor Certificates. Its more official name is the US Department of Labor.
Multiple Entry Visa
A visa which allows the holder to apply to be admitted to the US several times or for an unlimited number of times without having to go back to a consul for a new visa. A Single Entry Visa allows only one admission to the US. A new visa would be needed for the next admission.
The act of making a person a citizen who was not born with that status. An application for citizenship is an application for Naturalization.
A person coming to the US for a limited period of time who intends to return to another country after the stay in the US ends. Also, a class or type of visa issued for a non-immigrant purpose such as visitor, student, diplomat, and others.
Permission given to allow a person (parolee) to be admitted to the US when not ordinarily authorized as when lacking a visa or entry documents. When permission to re-enter is given before leaving the US, it is called Advance Parole.
Permanent Resident
A status held by a person after qualifying and being registered by the Immigration Service. This status allows the person to live permanently in the US, to travel in and out without a visa, to work at any job, to accumulate time toward US citizenship. The status is shown by possession of an identification card commonly called a green card.
The company or other employer who signs a petition in an employment case . In a family case, the Petitioner is the US citizen or permanent resident who signs the relative petition. Sometimes called the Sponsor. See Beneficiary.
Political Asylum
A status given by the US government to a person who applies and shows that it is likely that he/she would be persecuted or harmed in the home country usually because of membership in a political or religious group. It must be a threat of harm to the applicant. General conditions is a country is not usually a good enough reason to have politcal asylum granted.
One of the categories or classes that the beneficiary of an immigrant petition is placed into. The preference assigned depends on the type of petition and other factors. The petition approval notice shows the preference. Example, a petition for the spouse of a permanent resident will be in the Family 2A preference. A petition for a skilled worker (at least 2 years experience required) will be in the Employment 3rd preference.
Priority Date
The date assigned to an approved immigrant petition. The Priority Date determines the beneficiary's place in the waiting list for the immigrant preference category. The Priority Date is the date that a family petition is received by the BCIS or, in an employment case, it is the date the Labor Certificate application is received by the state local employment service.
For "H" visas: refers to occupations that require at least a US bachelor degree as the minimum education to carry out the duties. Example: teacher, engineer, computer systems analyst.
A numerical limitation on the number of applicants, or the number of visas available to be issued to a class or group such as people from a country, area of the world, or job classification. Example: there is a yearly Quota of 20,000 immigrant visas that can be issued to applicants born in any one country. When the immigrant visa quota is reached, a backlog or queue develops and a cut-off date is set to limit the number of applicants. Only applicants with a priority date earlier than the cut-off can apply. The cut-off dates are shown in the Visa Bulletin.
Removal Proceedings
A proceeding to determine if a person who is in the US should be expelled or if a person seeking to be admitted should be allowed to come into the US. Formerly called Exclusion or Deportation proceedings.
Seven Year Rule
See Suspension of Deportation
A person or organization who files a visa petition on behalf of an applicant for a visa or who files an application for a Labor Certificate is sometimes called a Sponsor. The correct name for a person who files a petition is Petitioner. A person who executes and submits an Affidavit of Support for an Immigrant is a Sponsor.
State Department
A cabinet level ministry of the US government responsible for foreign affairs, consuls, and the issuance of visas. Its formal name is the US Department of State.
Suspension of Deportation
In the past an Immigration Judge could cancel a deportation proceeding and allow the applicant to become a permanent resident. The applicant must have been in the US at least seven years. Suspension of Deportation has been replaced by Cancellation of Removal.
Unskilled worker, Unskilled job
May refer to jobs that require less than two years of training to learn. Examples are baby-sitters, domestic workers, store clerks.
US Worker
When no qualified US Worker is found, a Labor Certificate can be issued. "US Worker" includes US Citizens and Permanent Residents.
An authorization issued by a US consul permitting a person to come to a US port or inspection point to apply to be admitted to the US for the purpose of the particular visa. A visa does NOT give the bearer the right to enter the US but only the right to apply to be admitted at an inspection point. Visa also refers to the stamp or seal placed in a passport indicating the issuance of a visa. See multiple entry visa, non-immigrant, immigrant visa.
Visa Bulletin
A monthly publication of the US Department of State which lists the immigrant visa preference quotas and gives other information about visas and immigrant preferences.
Visa Waiver
A type of admission to the US by citizens of certain countries that the US has decided can be admitted without a visa. A visa waiver admission is for a maximum of 90 days and cannot be extended. No change to another type of visa or status is permitted. (Exception, if a person with a visa waiver marries US citizen while in the US, they may be allowed to stay and apply for a green card.) A person with a visa waiver admission receives a small green colored card (I-94W) in the passport. (Do not confuse this with a Permanent Residence green card which is actually not green.)
A person coming to the US for a temporary stay of limited duration. See Non-Immigrant.
Special permission that allows a person to do something or to receive a benefit to which they are not entitled without the waiver. Example: visitors from designated countries can enter the US without a visa because the US has agreed to waive the requirement for a visa for nationals of these countries.

Send general questions by e-mail to
Return to The Immigration Home Pagesm

© Richard Madison, 2000    

Law office of Richard Madison