Adjustment of Status (AOS): The process in which an alien who is already in the U.S. applies for and receives LPR status. 

Administrative Appeals Office (AAO): The CIS sub-agency that reviews CIS Service Center and Field office decisions on appeal.

Admission: An alien’s lawful entry into the U.S. following an immigration officer’s inspection and authorization.

Advance parole (AP): Also known as form I-512, CIS permission for an alien to re-enter and remain in the U.S. while an application (such as one for AOS) is pending.  The advance parole terminates when CIS adjudicates the application.

Alien: Someone who is not a U.S. citizen.

Alien registration number (A Number): An eight or nine digit number DHS issues to all aliens applying for AOS or placed in removal proceedings.

Application: A document an alien files directly when seeking an immigration-related benefit.

Application Support Centers (ASCs): Facilities that assist DHS in obtaining aliens’ biometric information.

Asylum: Permission for an alien to lawfully remain in the U.S. based upon a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Bar on readmission: Prohibits an alien from re-entering the U.S. for a prescribed period of time.

Beneficiary: In family-based cases, the qualifying relative for whom a petitioner files an I-130.

Biometrics: An alien’s fingerprints, photograph and signature, provided so that DHS may obtain a background check.

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA): The DOJ sub-agency that reviews Immigration Court decisions, and some CIS decisions, on appeal.

Cancellation of Removal (COR): A discretionary benefit adjusting an alien’s status from that of deportable alien to one lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

Children: Unmarried offspring under age 21.  Includes step-children who were under age 18 when the relationship was created.

Conditional Permanent Residence (CPR): The status CIS gives marriage-based I-130 beneficiaries and derivative children when the marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval.  CPRs and their spouses must jointly petition to remove the conditions from their permanent residence during the 90-day period immediately preceding the second anniversary of receiving CPR status.

Consular processing (CP): The process in which an alien abroad applies for and receives a visa from a U.S. consulate.

Derivative beneficiaries: In family-based cases, the spouses and children of I-130 beneficiaries in categories 1, 2A, 2B, 3 and 4.

DS-230 Application for Immigrant Visa: The form applicants submit to the NVC when applying for  IVs.

Employment and Training Administration (ETA): The DOL sub-agency responsible for issuing Labor Certifications.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD): Also known as form I-766, a CIS-issued card authorizing an alien to work in the U.S.

Entry without inspection (EWI): When an alien enters the U.S. without a CBP inspection.

Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM): Guides DOS officers on how to adjudicate visa applications.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request: A request for a U.S. government agency to provide a copy of all non-classified information in its possession on a given individual, with that individual’s consent, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552).

I-94 Arrival-Departure Record: The information that an inspecting CBP officer enters electronically when an alien seeks admission into the U.S.  The officer notes the alien’s date of entry, authorized period of stay, and status.

I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e): The form USCs file when petitioning to bring their fiancé(e)s to the U.S. so that they may marry.

I-130 Petition for Alien Relative: The form used to petition for relatives in family-based cases.

I-131 Application for Travel Document: The form aliens submit in order to obtain advance parole or a re-entry permit.

I-360 Petition for Widow(er): The form widow(ers) of I-130 petitioners submit when the petitioner dies before AOS occurs.

I-485 Application to Adjust Status: The form AOS applicants submit to CIS.

I-751 Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence: The form CPRs and their spouses jointly file to remove the conditions from permanent residence and acquire full-fledged LPR status.

I-765 Application for Employment Authorization: The form aliens submit when applying for EADs.

I-864 Affidavit of Support: A financial sponsor’s contract with the federal government, in which the sponsor promises to reimburse the government should it pay public benefits to the sponsored beneficiary.

Immigrant: Relating to permanent residence in the U.S.

Immigrant Visa (IV): A visa issued to an alien seeking admission as a Lawful Permanent Resident.

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA): Enacted in 1952, the primary statute regulating immigration in the U.S.

Immigration Court (IC): The DOJ-governed court presiding over removal proceedings.

Immigration Judges (IJs): Try removal cases in the ICs.  The Attorney General appoints them.

Inadmissible: Disqualified from receiving a visa or being admitted in an immigrant or non-immigrant status.

Individual Hearing (IH): An evidentiary hearing on a respondent’s challenge(s) to removability and /or application(s) for relief.

Inspection: The process in which a CBP officer at a port of entry determines whether an alien qualifies for admission into the U.S.

Intending immigrant: An alien who intends to remain in the U.S. permanently upon admission, notwithstanding entry on a non-immigrant visa.

Labor Certification (LC): DOL certification that there are not sufficient U.S. workers to fill a position, and that hiring a foreign worker for such a position will not negatively affect U.S. workers’ wages.  This is a prerequisite for many employment-based petitions to permanently hire foreign workers.

Labor Condition Application (LCA): ETA’s certification that employers hiring certain types of temporary workers: (1) will not depress similarly-situated U.S. workers’ wages and (2) will not exploit the foreign workers.

Lawful permanent resident (LPR): An alien authorized to reside permanently in the U.S.          

Master Hearing (MH): The respondent’s first appearance before an IJ in removal proceedings.  Its primary purposes are to obtain the respondent’s response to the NTA’s charges and schedule future hearings.

National Visa Center (NVC): The DOS sub-agency that reviews IV applications and supporting documents before forwarding them to the consulates.  It also liaises between CIS and the consulates in NIV matters.

Naturalization (Natz): A process by which someone born outside the U.S. acquires U.S. citizenship

Non-immigrant: Relating to temporary residence in the U.S.

Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV): A visa issued to an alien seeking temporary admission.

Notice to Appear (NTA): A document DHS serves upon an alien and files with the IC to commence removal proceedings.  It specifies the reason(s) why the alien is removable.

Out of status (OOS): When an alien has violated the terms of status. Not to be confused with unlawful presence (ULP).

Permanent Resident Card: Also knows as form I-551 or “green card,” the card CIS issues to LPRs.  They are generally valid for ten years, although Conditional Permanent Resident cards are only valid for two years.

Petition: A document a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or U.S.-based employer (the petitioner) files to sponsor an alien relative or prospective employee (the beneficiary) for an immigration-related benefit. 

Petitioner: In family-based cases, the USC or LPR who files an I-130 petition for a qualifying relative.  In employment-based cases, the petitioner is usually the employer.

Priority date: The date used to determine visa availability for sponsored beneficiaries.

Re-Entry Permit: Enables LPRs to remain outside the U.S. for one to two years before re-entering without being deemed to have abandoned LPR status.

Relief from removal: A means by which the IC terminates or suspends removal proceedings.

Removal: The process by which an alien is ordered and forced to leave the U.S.

Request for Evidence (RFE): A CIS request for additional documents or information required in order to continue processing a petition or application.  The RFE specifies what is still needed, and the deadline for the petitioner or applicant to provide it.

Retrogression: When a priority moves backward instead of forward.

Sons and daughters: Offspring over age 21.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS): SEVP’s database, which contains update information on non-immigrant students and their dependents.

Unlawful presence (ULP): Begins accruing when an alien overstays the authorized period of stay specified on the I-94 card or enters the U.S. without inspection.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS): Adjudicates petitions and applications for immigration and citizenship-related benefits.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): Oversees the admission of aliens into the U.S. and patrols the borders.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Investigates unlawful alien activities and removes unlawfully present aliens from the U.S.

Visa: A document confirming the U.S. Department of State’s conclusion that an alien qualifies for entry into the U.S. in a particular immigrant or non-immigrant status.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP): A program enabling aliens from participating countries to enter the U.S. as visitors for up to 90 days without a visa.

Voluntary departure (VD): Enables a respondent in removal proceedings to leave the U.S. at his own expense.

Additional Resources

The Hollis Law Firm

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