Immigration Dictionary

A#  (Alien Number) – The A number is the alien registration number, which the Department of Homeland Security assigns to each alien. It is an “A” followed by eight or nine numbers.   For example:    A123 456 789.

Adjustment of Status – The process of obtaining Lawful Permanent Residence for those who are currently in the United States if they are eligible to receive an immigrant visa and one is immediately available. Speak with an experienced immigration attorney to see if you are eligible to adjust your status. Click here for more information on marriage based adjustment of status.

Advanced Parole – Advance Parole is a document that allows certain foreigners to re-enter the United States after travelling abroad without a visa. Advance Parole must be granted before the alien leaves the United States. Advanced parole may also prevent abandonment of pending adjustment of status cases.

Affidavit of Support – The affidavit of support is a contract between the Petitioner and the U.S. Government in which the Petitioner agrees to pay back the U.S. Government for any means-tested government benefits received by the alien if they become a public charge. The I-864 Affidavit of Support lasts for 10 years, 40 working quarters or until the alien becomes a U.S. Citizen. The Sponsor or Joint Sponsor must fill out the Affidavit of Support and meet 125% of the Federal Poverty Guildeline .

Alien – An alien is anyone who is not a U.S. Citizen or national.

Asylum – Asylum allows for an alien to live and work in the United States because she has suffered past persecution or has a well-founded fear of future persecution in her home country or country of residence based on her race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The persecution must have been committed by the government or individuals the government is unable or unwilling to control. Generally, Asylum must be applied for within one year of entry into the U.S. unless changed conditions can be shown. If you believe that you have a valid claim for asylum, speak to an immigration attorney as soon as possible.  Those granted asylum can apply to adjust their status to that of a Lawful Permanent Resident after one year of asylum status. Frivolous Asylum claims can lead to a permanent ban. Click here for tips on preparing or your asylum interview or researching for your asylum case.

Bona Fide Marriage – A bona fide marriage is a marriage that was not entered into for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws. A bona fide marriage is one made in good faith with the genuine intention of creating a life together. Click here for tips on proving a bona fide marriage.

Cancellation of Removal – Cancellation of Removal is a form of a relief that allows an individual in removal (deportation) proceedings to remain in the U.S. with Lawful Permanent Resident Status. A grant o cancellation of removal depends on how long one has been in the country, whether they have U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident immediate relatives who would suffer extreme and unusual hardship and their criminal record. If you or your relative is currently in removal proceedings speak with an immigration attorney as soon as possible to see if you might be eligible for Cancellation of Removal.

Change of Status – A Change of Status is the process of changing ones status from one non-immigrant visa to another such as from a B-1 Visitors Visa to an F-1 Student Visa. Generally, a Change of Status should be applied for well before the current status expires.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – 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.

Deportation – Deportation is the formal removal of an alien from the United States when the alien has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Deportation is now known as Removal.  Generally, when one is placed in removal proceedings they will have the opportunity to seek relief from removal in front of an Immigration Judge.

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.

Extension of Status – Extension of Status allows an alien in the U.S. with a non-immigrant status to extend their status before it expires.

Green card – A green card is a card that can be used as evidence of Lawful Permanent Resident status. A green card allows one to live and work permanently in the U.S. and to leave and return as long as the status is not abandoned or violated. The green card is just evidence of one’s Lawful Permanent Resident status and losing the card does not automatically affect one’s status. However, the law requires that the card be held at all times by Lawful Permanent Residents and renewed or replaced when necessary.

I-94 – The I-94 is the white or green paper stapled to an individual’s passport by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol upon entry and gives the length of time an alien is allowed to stay in the U.S. in their non-immigrant status. Generally, there is either a specific end date or the phrase “duration of status” for student visas. The I-94 date is controlling over the visa expiration date.

Immediate Relative – For immigration purposes, Immediate Relatives are spouses of U.S. Citizens, children (under 21 years of age and unmarried) of U.S. Citizens, and parents of U.S. Citizens 21 years of age or older. Certain immigration benefits are only available to Immediate Relatives.

Immigrant – An immigrant is a lawful permanent resident, an alien who intends to live in the U.S.  though they may still retain citizenship from their home country and are not U.S. Citizens.

Immigration Lawyer – Immigration lawyers are lawyers who help individuals navigate the U.S. immigration laws so that they may obtain non-immigrant visas, lawful permanent residence or apply for naturalization. Immigration lawyers also help individuals seek relief from deportation.  Immigration Lawyer and Immigration Attorney have the same meaning. Click here to see the profile of Immigration Lawyer, Andre Olivie.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) – A Lawful Permanent Resident is an individual who is not a citizen of the United States but who lives in the U.S. lawfully as an immigrant.  They are also known as a green card holder or resident alien.

Naturalization – Naturalization is the process of obtaining U.S. Citizenship by means other than by birth. Generally, only Lawful Permanent Residents can apply for naturalization. In some cases children of naturalized citizens may have obtained derivative citizenship without having applied for naturalization. A naturalized citizen and U.S. born Citizen enjoy all the same rights and responsibilities. Read a blog post on  U.S. Citizenship.

Non-Immigrant (nonimmigrant) – A nonimmigrant is an alien who seeks only temporary admission to the U.S. and generally does not intend to live in the U.S. permanently. Most visas are nonimmigrant visas such as tourist and student visas.

Overstay – One has overstayed their visa status if they have remained in the U.S. without authorization past the date of their I-94. There are different consequences to overstaying, some of which do not occur until the individual has left the U.S. such as bars due to unlawful presence. Thus it is important to speak with an immigration attorney before leaving the U.S. if you have overstayed your status.

Priority Date – The priority date is the date an immigrant petition was filed. If the alien relative has a priority date on or before the date listed in the visa bulletin, then he or she is currently eligible for a visa. Click here to see the priority dates on the current visa bulletin.

Removal of Conditions – A forienger who receives a green card based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen wil receieve  two year conditional resident status if the marriage is less than 2 years old. Generally, within the 90 day period prior to the expiration of the 2 year green card, the individual must file form I-751 with supporting evidence to remvoe the conditions on their status and obtain a 10 year green card. If the conditions are not removed, their status will expire on the two year mark.  Read a blog post on removing conditions after the deadline.

Unlawful Presence – Under certain circumstances individual might gain unlawful presence if they are in the U.S. without authorization. Individuals who have obtained more than one year of unlawful presence are generally barred from returning for 10 years once they have exited the U.S.  There is a 3 year bar if they have gained more than 6 months but less than one year of unlawful presence.

U.S. Citizen – Generally, a U.S. Citizen is one who was born on U.S. soil or one who has naturalized. In certain circumstances children born abroad to U.S. Citizens or children of naturalized citizens may have also derived U.S. Citizenship.

USCIS – USCIS is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a part of the Department of Homeland Security and the agency responsible for most immigration benefits.  Other government agencies often involved in immigration issues include the Bureau U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP), and the U.S. State Department, to name a few.

Visa – A U.S. visa is a document that allows the holder to apply for entry to the U.S.  A visa does not grant the bearer the right to enter the United States. The 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.

Visa Bulletin – The Visa Bulletin provides information regarding the cut-off dates which govern visa availability in the numerically limited visa categories and other immigrant visa related information. Immigrant visas are not always available for those who apply and there can be long waits sometimes for over a decade. The visa bulletin tells you what priority dates are currently being processed for certain categories of immigrant visas. Click here to see the current visa bulletin.

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. Keep in mind that one may still be subject to other bars to reentry even if they are granted voluntary departure.