Immigration Terms











ADIT stamp – An “ADIT” stamp is a temporary stamp added to an unexpired passport or Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) as temporary proof of residence.

Adjustment of Status – the process by which a non immigrant or parolee obtains lawful permanent resident status (a green card) while inside the United States without having to go abroad to apply for an immigrant visa (Consular Processing).

Admitted/Admission – the lawful entry of the alien into the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer. It is the process by which a person is legally and physically given permission to enter the United States.

Affidavit – An affidavit is a statement that is either sworn to before someone authorized to administer oaths such as a notary public (e.g. an affidavit of birth) or signed under penalty of perjury (e.g. an affidavit of support form I-864.)

Affidavit of Support – a written statement by a sponsor, a U.S. Citizen, lawful permanent resident, or national that he or she will give financial support for an intended immigrant to the United States. The sponsor agrees to support the intended immigrant so that he or she is not likely to become a public charge by relying on federal or state agencies for means-tested support (e.g. food stamps or Medicaid). An intended immigrant who is a public charge may avoid the public charge grounds of in-admissibility with a properly executed and filed affidavit of support from a sponsor. See Sponsor (affidavit of Support) below and Forms I-864, I-864EZ.

The affidavit of support requirement applies to family based immigrants and certain employment based immigrants. However, does not apply to battered spouses of US citizens or LPR, diversity green card applicants, registry applicants, special immigrant juveniles or  those under NACARA , the Cuban Adjustment Act or the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act.

Intended immigrants with (or who receive credit for) 40 qualifying quarters of employment are exempt from the affidavit of support requirement. They must however file form I-864W supported by Social Security earning statements.

Alien – A person who is not a national or citizen of the United States.

Asylum – a discretionary benefit given to persons inside the United States who show that they are unwilling or unable to return to their country on account of either persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based upon one or more of five statutory factors. The five factors are race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.  A person granted asylum is known as an asylee. An asylee may apply for lawful permanent resident status (a green card) after one year from the date she received asylum.

Asylum officer – an immigration officer who has had professional training in country conditions, asylum law, and interview techniques comparable to that provided to full-time adjudicators of applications under INA 208, and is supervised by an asylum officer with substantial experience adjudicating asylum applications.



Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) – the highest administrative body that interprets and applies immigration laws. Most of the cases reaching the BIA involves orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. Decisions of the BIA may be reviewed in federal courts or by the Office of the Attorney General.

Border Removal – An individual removed by ICE who is apprehended while attempting to illicitly enter the United States at or between ports of entry by a CBP officer or agent. These individuals are also referred to as recent border crossers.



Certificate of Translation – All documents filed with the USCIS or Immigration Court must be in English or accompanied by a certified English translation. The translation may be done by certified translation services or by the applicant or beneficiary when he or she is fluent in the foreign and English languages. The translator signs the Certificate of Translation before a notary public.

1.    Certified copy – A photocopy of a document, judgment, or record that is signed and attested to as an accurate and a complete reproduction of the original document by a public official in whose custody the original has been placed for safekeeping.

Coaching – An active conspiracy between the coacher and a visa applicant to hide the truth or misrepresent the facts for the purpose of obtaining a benefit under US immigration law such as a visa.  Coaching is different from preparation. Preparation is  educating the applicant about what to expect and what not to expect, the consular/immigration officer role in the process, the requirements for a visa classification and discussion of her facts as it relates to these requirements. Preparation is part of the proper representation of a client; coaching (telling a client what to say) is not. Coaching hurts the client by diminishing his credibility at the visa interview and reducing the natural flow of information between the interviewer and the visa applicant.

Conditional Permanent Resident Status – The immigration status of an alien spouse and children at the time of obtaining lawful permanent residence (LPR) when the status was granted: (1) on the basis of a marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse which occurred less than two (2) years before obtaining the LPR status, or (2) as an immigrant investor, in which case it applies to the investor and the members of his or her family.

Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) – is the State Department’s tool for vetting foreign nationals applying for visas to the United States. Maintained by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the CLASS visa database provides information on aliens US consulates use to decide whether to issue a visa to a person. This database receives information from TIPOFF, a classified database on people associated with or suspected of terrorism and acts as a watch list during the visa issuance process and other processes involving name-checks at State Department Consular Affairs posts throughout the world.

Consular processing – The alternative to adjustment of status, consular processing is the process of obtaining an immigrant visa outside the United States through a U.S. consulate.

Consular Report of Birth Abroad, (CRBA) – proof that a child born overseas to at least one United States citizen parent acquired United States citizenship at birth. A U.S. citizen born outside the United States can use a CRBA to apply for a U.S. passport. Schools, the Social Security Administration, and other institutions throughout the United States accept the CRBA and give it the same weight as they give to birth certificates issued by state authorities in the United States.

Conviction – a conviction for immigration purposes occurs when a court finds a person guilty or enters a formal judgement of guilt against the person. Even if the court has withheld a formal judgment of guilt, a conviction exists for immigration purposes if the person is found guilty, enters a plea of guilt or nolo contender and a judge orders some punishment or restrain on a person’s liberty.

Credible fear of persecution – a significant possibility, taking into account the credibility of the statements made by the alien in support of the alien’s claim and such other facts as are known to the [asylum] officer, that the alien could establish eligibility for asylum under INA section 208.



Deferred action – a discretionary decision by DHS not to pursue enforcement against a person for a specific period.

Deposition – The written testimony of a witness given under oath in the course of a judicial proceeding, either at law or in equity, in advance of the trial or hearing, upon oral examination or in response to written interrogatories and where an opportunity is given for cross-examination. Ballentine’s Law Dictionary.

Detentive questioning – When a government officer stops a person for questioning and the person is not free to go. A detentive stop requires reasonable suspicion of past or present criminal activity.

Diversity Lottery – An immigration visa or green card lottery program that makes up to 55,000 immigrant visas available every fiscal year for persons from low-admission states and regions. No U.S. employer or family sponsor is required.

Document abuse – occurs when an employer either demands that a worker produce more or different documents than those identified in the Form I-9 process, or refuses to honor documents tendered that seem reasonably genuine on their face, based on national origin or citizenship status of a worker.


Employment Authorization Document (EAD) – is a document that authorizes certain aliens who are in the United States temporarily, to work legally during the time the EAD is valid.

E-1 treaty traders – are foreign nationals coming to the United States to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, chiefly between the United States and the treaty country.

E-2 treaty investors – are foreign nationals coming to the United States to direct and develop the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested, or are actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.

Expedited removal – if ICE or Customs and Border Patrol, CBP charges that an arriving alien is inadmissible for;

1. fraud

2. misrepresentation of a material fact, or

3. lack of valid documents

the person is subject to a quick removal process known as expedited removal. Expedited removal applies not just to arriving aliens at a port of entry but aliens interdicted at sea and brought to the United States and any alien found within 100 miles of the US/Mexico border who cannot prove continuous presence in the United States for 14 days or longer. Expedited removal does not apply to aliens who wish to apply for asylum or who express a fear of persecution in their home country.


Form AR-11 Notification of Change of Address – This form is filed with USCIS to notify of a new or changed address. Aliens must notify USCIS within 10 days of a change of address. A change of address can be done by mail  or online.

Form I-90 Application for Green Card Replacement/Renewal – This application is filed with USCIS to apply for a new Green Card. This is necessary in cases where the original card either was lost, stolen, destroyed, mutilated, or has simply expired. However a conditional permanent resident must file form I-751.



Green Card– No longer green, the “green card” or permanent resident card is the document that U.S. Permanent Residents (adults) must carry to show their lawful status. Form I-551 or a Resident Alien Card is the official name for a green card. The card has the bearer’s alien registration number, name, date of birth, and other biographic information. It also has the date and the classification under which the alien received lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.



Habeas Corpus – A written command in the name of a court (a writ) to immediately release someone who is illegally confined or confined without sufficient cause.

H-1B visa – U.S. employers use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or practical expertise in specialized fields such as science, medicine, biotechnology, engineering or computer programming. Congress limits the number of foreign nationals who can be granted H-1B status in any fiscal year. The numerical limitation on H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2012 is 65,000. But the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for foreign nationals who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the fiscal year cap.



Immediate Relatives

– means the following relatives of a United States citizen

1.  minor unmarried children (under 21 years of age),

2.  spouse,

3.  parents of United States citizen provided the United States citizen petitioner is at least 21 years old

4.  Spouse of a deceased United States citizen who married to a United States citizen for at least two years and was not legally separated from the citizen when he or she died but only if the spouse files an immediate relative petition under section 204(a)(1)(A)(ii) within 2 years after the date of death of the United States citizen and did not remarry.  Minor children (under 21 years) of the deceased United States citizen are immediate relatives  subject to the same restrictions as for spouses.

5. children born to a foreign national with an immigrant visa but before foreign national used the visa to apply for admission to the United States

6. children born to an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence during a temporary visit abroad.

Immigrant – Any person who is residing in the United States as a legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent resident.  Immigration officials presume by law that every non-immigrant seeking entry to the United States  intends to immigrate to the United States.

Immigration Judges – immigration judges are employees of an agency of the Department of Justice known as The Executive Office for Immigration Review or EOIR. The judges conduct administrative court proceedings in immigration courts located throughout the nation. They decide whether foreign-born individuals—whom the Department of Homeland Security charges with violating immigration law —should be ordered removed from the United States or should be granted relief from removal and be permitted to stay in this country.

Immigration Fugitives – An individual who has failed to leave the United States based upon a final order of removal, deportation or exclusion, or who has failed to report to ICE after receiving notice to do so.

Immigrant Visa – means an immigrant visa required by the Immigration and Nationality Act and properly issued by a consular officer at his office outside of the United States to an eligible immigrant.

In absentia order of removal – when a person who has been formally charged with immigration violations is absent or delays his appearance at either a Master Calendar or Merits Hearing at an immigration court, a judge may make an order of removal in his absence. An in absentia order cannot be appealed. However, a motion to reopen may be filed to rescind an in absentia removal order.

In-admissibility – There any number of grounds under which persons can be denied lawful admission into the United States even if they are otherwise eligible for admission. Grounds of in-admissibility include previous unlawful presence (over-staying or lack of lawful entry), criminal grounds, public charge grounds,  immigration fraud, misrepresentation, the two-year residency requirement for an exchange visitor, health-related grounds or any other grounds listed in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Most grounds of in-admissibility are waivable under certain circumstances.

INS the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is now known as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Inspection – Customs and Border Patrol agents screen all persons including United States citizens arriving at U.S. ports of entry. They ask for proof of travelers’ right to enter the United States or intention in coming to the United States. If after a Primary Inspection a Border Patrol agent is not satisfied, he or she will refer the person for Secondary Inspection involving more in-depth checks. After inspection, a person may either be admitted, removal or paroled.



Joseph Hearing – ICE detains some removable aliens under mandatory detention (no release) following section 236 (c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Though an Immigration Judge cannot release a person who is subject to mandatory detention, the judge may decide whether the detainee is properly subject to mandatory detention. If the detainee is not subject to mandatory detention he is eligible for release.

The hearing in which an Immigration Judge determines whether a detainee is properly subject to mandatory detention is known as a Joseph Hearing.



K-1 Visa – The visa group for the fiancé (e) of a U.S. citizen

K-2 Visa – The visa group for the minor children of a K-1 visa holder

K-3 Visa – The visa group for the spouse of a U.S. citizen

K-4 Visa – The visa group for the minor children of a K-3 visa holder



Lawfully admitted for permanent residence – the unchanged status of having been given the privilege of residing permanently in the United States, under the immigration laws. A person must not only have the status of permanent resident but they must have been lawfully entitled to the status when it was originally conferred. Such status terminates upon a final administrative order of exclusion, removal or deportation.



Marriage and spouse  (immigration purposes) – the word ‘marriage’ is not exactly defined in immigration law. However for a legal union to be valid for immigration purposes it must be valid at the place where the marriage occurred. Some marriages such as sham marriages and polygamous marriages are not valid for immigration purposes even though they may be legal in the country where they occurred. A spouse means a person of any gender who is legally married to another.

Marriage (Sham Marriage) – A marriage without any intent, or “good faith,” to live together as husband and wife but was merely a scheme to get around the immigration laws is a sham marriage. A sham marriage is not valid for immigration purposes.

Master Calendar Hearing – Removal proceedings begin with a “master calendar” hearing, where the immigration judge ensures the person understands the alleged immigration law violations. The judge also provides information on available free legal representation resources in the area. Then, generally, the immigration judge will schedule an “individual” hearing, where both parties present the merits of the case to the immigration judge. At the master calendar hearing the foreign national pleads to the allegation and informs the court of the grounds on which he seeks relief from removal (e.g. asylum or adjustment of status).

Mere questioning – When a government officer poses a question without demanding an answer and the person is free to go. See detentive questioning.

Motion – An application, normally incidental to an action, made to a court or judge for the purpose of obtaining an order or rule directing something to be done in favor of the applicant. Ballentine’s Law Dictionary.



Naturalization –  conferring of nationality of a state upon a person after birth.

Nolle prosequi – a formal entry on the record in which the prosecuting attorney declares that he or she is unwilling or has no intention to prosecute.

Non-immigrant – A person coming to the United States temporarily for a specific purpose.

Notice of Action – USCIS issues a ‘Notice of Action’  officially known as Form I-797

  • to show that it has received a petition at the Chicago LockBox/Missouri Service Center or one of four service centers,
  • to show that it has adjudicated a petition either from the service center and/or through interview,
  • to show approval for an alien to acquire a visa, to stay in the US or to change status within the US.

Notice to Appear (NTA) – a document by which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advises a foreign national (the respondent) about;

1. the nature of the proceedings against him or her,

2. the legal authority for the proceedings,

3. the acts or conduct that are an alleged violation of the immigration laws,

4. the charges against the foreign national and citing the statutory provisions for them

5. the opportunity to secure free or low-cost immigration representation at no cost to the government

6. the need for the foreign national to immediately give the Attorney General a written record of any change of the foreign national’s address or telephone number.

7. the time and place at which the proceedings will be held, and

8. the consequences of failure to appear.

The DHS has a duty to properly serve the NTA upon the foreign national. Removal proceedings against a foreign national does not officially begin until DHS files an NTA with the immigration court having jurisdiction over the foreign national.

Notice of Rights – when immigration officers arrest a person because they believe he is illegally in the United States, one of the documents that must be issued to the person is a Notice of Rights and Request for Disposition form. The notice is read aloud to the detainee. If the person needs a translator one must be provided. The notice sets out the rights of the person to ask for a hearing before the Immigration Court, ask for asylum (if eligible) or waive a hearing and return to his home country – Voluntary Departure. A person who does not waive a hearing before an immigration judge may stay in immigration detention until such a hearing.  If the a person did not read, understand or sign the Request for Disposition part of the form, this must be brought to the attention of the Immigration Judge.





Passport -A formal document issued by a competent officer of a sovereign state or nation to a citizen or subject of the state or nation, certifying his citizenship or allegiance, addressed to foreign powers, and requesting that the bearer of it pass freely and safely. Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, 3rd Edition.

Police certificate means a certification by the police or other proper authorities reporting information entered in their records on the alien. In the case of the country of an alien’s nationality and the country of an alien’s current residence (as of the time of visa application) the term “appropriate police authorities” means those of a country, area or locality in which the alien has resided for at least six months. In the case of all other countries, areas, or localities, the term ” appropriate police authorities” means the authorities of any country, area, or locality in which the alien has resided for at least one year. A consular officer may ask for a police certificate regardless of length of residence in any country if he or she has reason to believe that a police record exists in the country, area, or locality concerned.


Preference Immigrants – after immediate relatives the order of consideration for family based immigration are

1.Unmarried sons and daughters of United States citizens who are 21 years or age or older. (First preference),

2. Spouses or children of LPRs (Second Preference 2A), and

Unmarried sons and daughters of LPRs (Second Preference 2B)

3. Married sons and daughters of United States citizens (Third Preference)

4. Brothers and Sisters of United States citizens (Fourth Preference)

A spouse or child, if not otherwise entitled to an immigrant status and the immediate issuance of a visa, receives the same status, and the same preference, if accompanying or following to join, the spouse or parent.

Presumption of immigrant intent – US immigration and consular officers presume that non-immigrants are immigrants until they prove to the consular officer, at the time of application for a visa, and the immigration officers, at the time of application for admission, that they are entitled to non-immigrant status. In order to prove genuine non-immigrant status, an alien must satisfy immigration authorities that he has a foreign residence that he has no intention of abandoning and that he will leave voluntarily at end of his authorized stay. Some categories of non-immigrants such as L visa applicants are exempt.

Priority Date – The date on which a person submitted documentation to USCIS establishing eligibility for an immigrant visa or non-immigrant status (e.g. H1B) . In the case of immigrant petitions, it is the date on which the I-130, I-140, I-360 or I-526) is properly filed.

Prosecutorial discretion – authority of an agency charged with enforcing a law to decide whether to enforce the law against the person, e.g. deciding whether to detain an alien placed in removal proceedings.





Reinstatement of Final Removal Order – The removal of an alien based on the reinstatement of a prior removal order, where the alien departed the United States under an order of removal and illegally reentered the United States [INA § 241(a)(5)]. The alien may be removed without a hearing before an immigration court.

Removal -The compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable foreign national out of the United States based on an order of removal. An individual who is removed may have administrative or criminal consequences placed on subsequent reentry owing to the fact of the removal.

Removal Proceedings – the legal process by which the United States government seeks to remove a foreign national from the United States by proving that the foreign national has no right to stay in the United States, through hearings before an immigration judge (IJ).

Residence – a person’s place of general abode OR the principal, actual dwelling place in fact regardless of the person’s intent.


Search – A search under the Fourth Amendment takes place any time there is an intrusion into an area where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Sponsor (affidavit of support) – A sponsor on an affidavit of support must satisfy all the following three requirements;

  1.  A U.S. Citizen, national or LPR;
  2. At least 18 years old; and
  3. Domiciled within the United States or in any U.S. territory or possession.

The sponsor produces evidence to prove that he or she meets the minimum income requirements under the poverty level guidelines in Form I-864P. If the petitioner does not meet the minimum income requirements, he or she may offer proof of household assets or secure a co-sponsor who meets the above three requirements and the minimum income requirements.

Status – that which sets the terms and conditions of a foreign national’s admission and stay in the United States.

Stokes Interview – in a marriage based adjustment of status application a stokes interview or ‘marriage fraud interview’ is a second interview where an immigration officer questions the husband and wife separately, and compare their answers to decide whether the marriage is a good faith marriage or a sham marriage.

Subpoena – The ordinary process by which the attendance of a witness in court is compelled, being issued by the clerk of court. Ballentine’s Law Dictionary

Subpoena duces tecum – a subpoena which, in addition to the usual clauses requiring the attendance of the witness in court to testify, contains clauses directing him to produce at the same time for use as evidence in the litigation certain described books, papers, records, and documents. Ballentine’s Law Dictionary.





Unobtainable documents – supporting documents that cannot be obtained without causing actual hardship to the immigrant visa applicant or other family member as opposed to normal delay and inconvenience. If a document is unobtainable a consular officer may let the immigrant to give other satisfactory evidence in lieu of such document or record.

Unlawful presence – Presence in the United States after the end of an authorized period of stay, or presence in the United States without being admitted or paroled.

U.S. Citizen

  1. A person born in the United States.
  2. A person whose parent is a U.S. citizen.*
  3. A former alien who is a naturalized U.S. citizen
  4. An individual born in Puerto Rico.
  5. An individual born in Guam.
  6. An individual born in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

*The Child Citizenship Act, provide for the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship under certain conditions.  Specifically, these conditions are:

  1. One parent is a U.S. citizen by birth or through naturalization;
  2. The child is under the age of 18;
  3. The child is residing in the United States as a lawful permanent resident alien and is in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent; and
  4. The finalized adoption of the child.

USCIS – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)



VAWA – a provision in the law that allows a battered spouse (female or male) and children of a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident to petition  for themselves instead of relying on a petition filed by an abusive U.S. citizen/LPR spouse or parent. A battered spouse is one who has suffered physical or psychological abuse (extreme cruelty or threat of violence).

Visa- travel permission to seek entry into the United States. A visa does not  guarantee admission into the United States. An unexpired visa is valid for application for admission even if the passport in which the visa is has expired, provided the alien is also possesses a valid passport issued by the authorities of the country of which the alien is a national. The period of visa validity has no relation to the time the immigration authorities at a port of entry may authorize the alien to stay in the United States. There are 3 types of visas – refugee, immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Visa Bulletin The monthly Visa Bulletin, issued by the U.S. State Department, has details of immigrant visa availability. Beneficiaries of immigrant petitions, with some exceptions, cannot file an application for permanent residence unless their priority date is current. Furthermore applications cannot be granted until an immigrant visa number is available for the application.

Visa retrogression – when visa preference category is that is current one month is not current the next month or the cutoff date on the Visa Bulletin rolls back instead of advancing because of an increase in demand for visas in a visa category.


Waivers of In-admissibility – Some persons face legal obstacles that hinder them from obtaining a U.S. visa or status. These obstacles include previous unlawful presence (over-staying or lack of lawful entry), criminal grounds,  immigration fraud, misrepresentation, the two-year residency requirement for an exchange visitor, and health-related grounds. Waivers remove these obstacles to obtaining a visa or status.

Warrant for Arrest of Alien – before DHS detains a person in immigration detention it must complete a Warrant for Arrest of Alien Form I-200 which identifies the detained person and his or her port and date of entry. The warrant is accompanied by a Certificate of Service signed by an officer executing it. A copy of the warrant is given to the person detained.

Well founded fear of persecution – an applicant for asylum must show the he or she has a suffered past persecution or has a well-founded fear of persecution in the future. A person has a well-founded fear of persecution if a reasonable person in the person’s position would fear persecution.

Withholding of Removal – A relief available to persons who prove  that their lives or freedoms would be threatened if deported to their home country on account of;

1. race,

2. religion,

3. nationality,

4. membership of a particular social group, or

5. political opinion.

Withholding does not confer status. A person granted withholding may still be removed but to a safe third country (e.g. Canada) where his/her life and freedom is not threatened.







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