Immigration Glossary

by Brandon Gillin, Immigration Lawyer at Genesis Law Firm

Genesis Law Firm has immigration lawyers in Seattle and Everett, WA.  The following words, terms, and phrases are commonly used in connection with United States immigration law.  We hope that this glossary helps you understand basic immigration terminology.


  • Adjudicator’s Field Manual (“AFM”). The Adjudicator’s Field Manual (“AFM”) is published by USCIS and details USCIS policies and procedures for adjudicating applications and petitions.  The AFM is updated periodically to incorporate new policies and procedures.  A redacted public version of the AFM may be found on the USCIS web site.
  • Adjustment of Status (“AOS”). The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) permits the change of an individual’s immigration status while in the United States from nonimmigrant or parolee (temporary) to immigrant (permanent) if the individual was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States and is able to meet all required qualifications for a green card (lawful permanent residence) in a particular category.  The common term for a change to permanent status is Adjustment of Status (“AOS”).The INA provides an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status.  Adjustment of status is the process by which an eligible individual already in the United States can get permanent resident status (a green card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.Consular processing is an alternate process for an individual outside the United States (or who is in the United States but is ineligible to adjust status) to obtain a visa abroad and enter the United States as a permanent resident).
  • Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”). The Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) is one of the program offices of USCIS.  The AAO adjudicates appeals under authority delegated to the USCIS by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, it reviews the decisions made by USCIS adjudications officers on petitions and applications for immigration benefits.
  • Admission. Admission, in the immigration context, refers to the act of lawfully entering the United States, whether as an immigrant or nonimmigrant.  Lawful admission can sometimes occur after an inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at a port of entry.
  • Adoption. In the immigration context, adoption is usually referred to as “intercountry adoption” or “international adoption.”Intercountry adoption differs from domestic adoptions; in intercountry adoptions, the governing body is the U.S. federal government (DHS and DOS), whereas domestic adoptions are governed by the state where the adoption occurs.Under U.S. law, there are two distinct intercountry adoption processes: the Hague Convention process and the non-Hague Convention process.  Which process you will follow will depend on whether or not the other country involved is also a party to the Hague Convention.
  • Advance Parole. Advance Parole (“AP”)  is an immigration document issued by USCIS.  It is not a reentry permit; it is only issued to aliens without lawful permanent residency.  AP is permission for certain aliens to reenter the United States after traveling abroad.  Such aliens include those who have applied for Adjustment of Status to that of permanent resident or to change nonimmigrant status.  Advance parole must be approved before the applicant leaves the United States, or any residency application will in general be denied.
  • Advisory Opinion (in the J visa context). In the J-visa classification context, an advisory opinion is a formal determination issued by the U.S. Department of State regarding whether a current or former J-visa holder is subject to a home residency requirement.
  • Affidavit of Support. The affidavit of support is a document promising that the person who completes it (the sponsor) will financially support an applicant (usually the beneficiary) in the United States.Family and certain employment immigration cases require the Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is a legally binding and enforceable contract between the sponsor, the beneficiary, and the U.S. federal government.  All other cases use the I-134 Affidavit of Support.
  • Age Out. A child, according to the INA, is defined as one who is unmarried and under the age of 21.  A child beneficiary of an immigrant petition who will apply for an immigrant visa is considered to have “aged out” when the beneficiary no longer qualifies for an immigrant visa based on having reached age 21.  The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) changed the law to allow many beneficiaries to still qualify as children for immigrant visa purposes even after reaching age 21.
  • Agent. In an immigrant visa processing the applicant selects a person who receives all correspondence regarding the case and pays the immigrant visa application processing fee.  The agent can be the applicant, the petitioner or another person selected by the applicant, such as an attorney.
  • Alien. An “alien” is a foreign national who is not a U.S. citizen.
  • Alien Number. Alien numbers, otherwise known as alien registration numbers, USCIS numbers, or A-numbers are identification numbers issued to noncitizens by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Alien numbers are usually 8 or 9 digits long (not counting the “A” that appears at the beginning).  They are most commonly found on the Lawful Permanent Resident Card, but also appear on USCIS notices and Certificates of Naturalization.
  • American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”). The American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) is the national association of attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law.  AILA Member attorneys represent U.S. families seeking permanent residence for close family members, as well as U.S. businesses seeking talent from the global marketplace.  AILA Members also represent foreign students, entertainers, athletes, and asylum seekers, often on a pro bono basis.  Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that provides continuing legal education, information, professional services, and expertise through its 38 chapters and over 50 national committees.
  • AR-11. Form AR-11 is the form used to change your address with the Department of Homeland Security’s USCIS.
  • Arrival-Departure Record. The Arrival-Departure Card/Record is also called “Form I-94” and documents the entries and exits out of the United States.A new electronic I-94 process at air and sea ports of entry was fully implemented by May 25, 2013.  Under the new CBP process, a CBP officer will provide each admitted nonimmigrant traveler with an admission stamp on their passport.  CBP no longer issues a paper Form I-94 upon entry to the U.S., with some exceptions.  Individuals who are temporarily in the U.S. may retrieve their I-94 number from the CBP web site.
  • Asylum / Asylee. An asylee is a person who cannot return to his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution.  Asylum may be sought through an application to DHS, or in immigration court during removal proceedings.


  • B visas
    Usually, a foreign national who wishes to enter the U.S. must first obtain a visa.  Visitor visas are nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business, tourism, pleasure or visiting, or a combination of both purposes.
  • Beneficiary
    A beneficiary is applicant for a visa as named in a petition from the DHS, USCIS.  In family-based and employment-based petitions, the beneficiary’s counterpart is called the “petitioner.”
  • Biometrics
    Biometrics is biologically unique information used to identify individuals.  This information can be used to verify identity or check against other entries in the database.  Biometric data includes, for example, fingerprints and iris scans.
  • Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”)
    The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) is the highest administrative body for interpreting immigration laws.The BIA is located at EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. Generally, the BIA does not conduct courtroom proceedings – it decides appeals by conducting a “paper review” of cases. On rare occasions, however, the BIA hears oral arguments of appealed cases.The BIA has jurisdiction to hear appeals from certain decisions rendered by immigration judges and by district directors of DHS. BIA decisions are binding on all DHS officers and immigration judges unless modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a federal court. Most BIA decisions are subject to judicial review in the federal courts. The majority of appeals reaching the BIA involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal.
  • Bona fide marriage
    In marriage-based immigrant petitions, the petitioner and beneficiary must prove that the marriage is bona fide, and not fraudulent.  Common ways to prove the bona fides of a marriage is to show: (1) the marriage certificate; (2) joint bank accounts; (3) joint credit card statements; (4) joint federal and state tax returns; (5) photos of the petitioner and beneficiary together; and (6) copies of letters and/or emails between the petitioner and the beneficiary.
  • Bond
    An immigration bond is an amount of money that an individual may be responsible for paying upon being detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).Not all detained individuals are eligible for release from detention.  Depending on the individual’s immigration status and/or criminal record, the individual may be subject to mandatory detention.  If the individual is not eligible for bond, removal must be challenged from within the confines of immigration detention.


  • Cancellation of removal
    Cancellation of removal is one form of relief an individual may seek if placed in removal proceedings.  Generally, to be eligible for cancellation of removal, the individual must meet the following requirements:


    • Has been an LPR for at least five years;
    • Has resided in the U.S. continuously for seven years after having been admitted in any status;
    • Has not been convicted of an aggravated felony; and
    • Merits a favorable exercise of discretion.
  • Cancelled without prejudice
    “Cancelled without prejudice” refers to a stamp an embassy or consulate puts on a visa when there is a mistake in the visa or the visa is a duplicate.
  • Cap gap
    H-1B applications subject to the cap are able to be filed up to 180 days before the beginning of the government fiscal year that starts on October 1.  Thus, the first day of filing for a cap-subject H-1B is April 1 of each year and the start date of employment is October 1.USCIS has addressed the “cap-gap” of employment authorization between Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) ending on or after April 1 but not lasting until the October 1 start date by extending the authorized period of employment for all F-1 students who have a properly filed H-1B petition and change of status request (filed under the cap for the next fiscal year) pending with USCIS.  If USCIS approves the H-1B petition, the student is given a work extension that enables him or her to remain in the U.S. until the requested start date indicated on the H-1B petition, technically October 1.The Designated School Official (“DSO”) at the student’s school will process the cap gap Extension I-20 on behalf of the student.
  • Certificate of Citizenship
    A Certificate of Citizenship is a document issued by DHS which proves that the holder of the certificate is a U.S. citizen by birth (when born abroad) or derivation (not from naturalization).  The certificate by itself does not allow the U.S. citizen to travel as a U.S. citizen; a U.S. passport must be used for travel instead.The Child Citizenship Act grants U.S. citizenship automatically to certain foreign-born children of U.S. citizens.  These children of U.S. citizens may apply for a Certificate of Citizenship.To obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-600 should be submitted to USCIS along with the proper supporting evidence.
  • Certificate of Naturalization
    A Certificate of Naturalization is a document issued by DHS as proof that an individual has become a U.S. citizen through naturalization after immigration to the U.S.  An application for naturalization is made on Form N-400.
  • Change of Status
    Change of Status refers to the changing from one nonimmigrant visa status to another  while physically present in the U.S. The visa holder may file a request with USCIS before his/her authorized stay expires, which generally is the admitted-until date stamped on the visa holder’s travel document or Arrival/Departure Record (except for visa holders admitted to the U.S. for duration of status, stamped D/S).
  • Child
    The word “child” for purposes of immigration law is defined as one who is unmarried and under the age of 21 years old. A child may be natural born, step or adopted. If the child is a stepchild, the marriage between the parent and the U.S. citizen must have occurred when the child was under the age of 18. If the child is adopted, s/he must have been adopted with a full and final adoption when the child was under the age of 16, and the child must have lived with and been in the legal custody of the parent for at least two years. An orphan may qualify as a child if s/he has been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen or if the U.S. citizen parent has filed an immediate-relative visa petition for him/her to go to the U.S. for adoption by the U.S. citizen.
  • Child Citizenship Act
    The Child Citizenship Act (“CCA”) amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) to permit foreign-born children, including adopted children, to acquire citizenship automatically if they meet certain requirements. The CCA became effective on February 27, 2001.
  • Child Status Protection Act
    The Child Status Protection Act (“CSPA”) amended the Immigration Nationality Act (“INA”) by changing who qualifies as a child for purposes of immigrant.  This permits certain beneficiaries to retain classification as a “child,” even if he or she has reached the age of 21.
  • Citizenship
    Citizenship is the legal status of membership in the United States.  U.S. citizens have the right to live and work without fear of being placed in removal proceedings. One common privilege of being a U.S. citizen is the ability to vote in federal, state, and local elections.
  • Civil Surgeon
    A civil surgeon is a medically trained, licensed and experienced doctor practicing in the U.S. who is certified by USCIS.  These medical professionals receive U.S. immigration-focused training in order to provide examinations as required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USCIS.  Civil surgeons may be located on the USCIS web site.
  • Code of Federal Regulations
    The Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations  published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States.The CFR is published by the Office of the Federal Register, an agency of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation, including Federal immigration law.
  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform
    Comprehensive immigration reform refers to the idea of re-drafting many of the Federal immigration laws of the United States.  As of now, comprehensive immigration reform remains a subject of debate in Congress.  No comprehensive immigration reform will become law until it is passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and signed into law by the President of the United States.
  • Conditional residency
    A conditional resident is any alien granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis (e.g., a spouse of a U.S. citizen; an immigrant investor), who is required to petition for the removal of the set conditions before the second anniversary of the approval of his or her conditional status.
  • Consideration of 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 DACA for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and would then be eligible for work authorization.  DACA is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion.  DACA does not provide an individual with lawful status.
  • Consular officer
    Consular officers are members of the United States Foreign Service.  The United States Foreign Service is a component of the U.S. Department of State; it consists of approximately 15,000 professionals (some of which are consular officers) carrying out the foreign policy of the United States and aiding U.S. citizens abroad.  Consular officers are tasked with, among other things, interviewing aliens for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consulates abroad.
  • Consular Processing
    The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) offers an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status (a green card).  An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident.  This pathway is referred to as “consular processing.”
  • Consulate
    U.S. Consulates are diplomatic missions which are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.  The office of a Consul is termed a Consulate, and is usually subordinate to the state’s main representation in that foreign country, usually an Embassy.  Like the term embassy, the word consulate may refer not only to the office of consul, but also to the building occupied by the consul and his or her staff. In capital cities, the consulate may share the premises with the embassy itself.
  • Convention against Torture
    The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“The Convention”) is an international human rights instrument, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman degrading treatment or punishment around the world.The Convention requires nations to take effective measures to prevent torture within their borders, and forbids nations from transporting people to any country where there is reason to believe they will be tortured.The text of the Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1984 and came into force on June 26, 1987. Under U.S. immigration law, certain individuals in removal proceedings may be granted deferral of removal if he or she will be tortured in the country to which he or she would be removed.  This is commonly referred to as “Protection Under the Convention Against Torture.”
  • Country of Chargeability
    There are numerical limits on the number of immigrant visas that can be granted to aliens from any one foreign country. This limit is the same for all countries. The limit is based on place of birth, not citizenship. Where the immigrant is “charged” means that person is counted toward a given country’s numerical limit. For example, an immigrant born in China is “charged” to China, and therefore counted toward reaching the numerical limit for China. The person would be “charged” to China even if the immigrant born in China was born of Russian parents and has a passport from Russia.Although immigrants are normally “charged” to their country of birth, an immigrant is sometimes able to claim another for the sake of immigration. An individual would do this if it helps the immigrant in reaching the “cut-off date” date more quickly. For example, suppose you were born in India, but your spouse was born in Sudan. The “cut-off date” for a person born in India is earlier in family fourth preference immigration category than the “cut-off date” for a person born in Sudan. The U.S. Department of State would “charge” you to Sudan, rather than India, and you can use the more favorable cut-off date for Sudan.
  • Current/non-current priority date
    There are numerical limits on the number of immigrant visas that can be granted to aliens from any one foreign country. The limit is based on place of birth, not citizenship. Because of the numerical limits, this means there is a waiting time before the immigrant visa can be granted.The terms current/non-current refer to the priority date of a petition in preference immigrant visa cases in relationship to the immigrant cut-off date. If your priority date is before than the cut-off date according to the monthly Visa Bulletin, your case is current. This means your immigrant visa case can now be processed. However, if your priority date is later/comes after the cut-off date, you will need to wait longer, until your priority date is reached (becomes current).Immediate relative immigrant visa cases do not have country numerical limits, with waiting times as a result of the country limits. The terms priority date, cut-off date and current/non-current does not apply for immediate relative cases.
  • Cut-off-date
    The cut-off-date is the date that determines whether a preference immigrant visa applicant can be scheduled for an immigrant visa interview in any given month. When “C” (meaning “Current”) is listed instead of a specific date that means all priority dates are eligible for immediate processing. The cut-off date is the priority date of the first applicant who could not be scheduled for a visa interview for a given month. Applicants with a priority date earlier than the cut-off date can be scheduled. However, if your priority date is on or later than the cut-off date, you will need to wait until your priority date is reached (becomes current).


  • Deferred Enforced Departure
    Deferred Enforced Departure (“DED”) is in the President’s discretion to authorize as part of his power to conduct foreign relations.  Although DED is not a specific immigration status, individuals covered by DED are not subject to removal from the United States, usually for a designated period of time.  Only individuals from eligible countries may benefit from DED.
  • Derivative
    Derivative status refers to obtaining an immigrant or nonimmigrant status through another applicant, as provided under immigration law for certain visa categories.  For example, the spouse and children of an exchange visitor (J Visa holder), would be granted derivative status as a J-2 Visa holder.
  • Dictionary of Occupational Titles
    The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) refers to the defunct publication produced by the United States Department of Labor which matched job seekers to jobs from 1938 to the late 1990s.  It was then rendered obsolete and replaced by a database which is largely informed by people who have direct experience working in each occupation, the Occupational Information Network (“O*NET”).
  • Diversity Visa Lottery
    The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the Diversity Visa Lottery, makes available up to 55,000 diversity visas (DVs) annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to persons who meet strict eligibility requirements from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.
  • Domicile
    An individual’s domicile is the place where s/he keeps a permanent residence, and intends to do so for the foreseeable future.  The sponsor of an immigrant must have domicile in the U.S. before the visa can be issued.  This generally means that the sponsor must be living in the U.S.  In certain circumstances, however one can be considered to have a domicile while living temporarily living overseas.
  • DS-160
    Form DS-160 as an application for a nonimmigrant visa through the U.S. Department of State.  The form is for temporary travel to the United States, and for K (fiancé(e)) visas.  Form DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State website via the Internet.  Consular Officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, determine an applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.
  • Duration of Status
    In certain visa categories such as diplomats, students and exchange visitors, the alien may be admitted into the U.S. for as long as the person is still doing the activity for which the visa was issued, rather than being admitted until a specific departure dates.  This is called admission for “duration of status,” which is marked on Form I-94 or in an individual’s passport as, “D/S.”


  • E visas
    The E visa category includes treaty traders and investors who come to the United States under a treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and the country of which the treaty trader or investor is a citizen or national. This category also includes Australian specialty occupation workers.


    • Treaty traders carry on substantial trade in goods, including but not limited to services and technology, principally between the United States and the foreign country of which they are citizens or nationals.
    • Treaty investors direct the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested, or are actively investing, a substantial amount of money.
    • Australian specialty occupation workers perform services in a specialty occupation.
  • EB-5 Investment immigration
    The EB-5 visa category enables certain foreign investors to obtain lawful permanent residence based on an investment in the United States of either $500,000 or $1 million.Congress created the EB-5 program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.  Under a pilot immigration program first enacted in 1992 and regularly reauthorized since, certain EB-5 visas also are set aside for investors in Regional Centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth.
  • Electronic System for Travel Authorization
    Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) is a free, automated system administered by the U.S. Department of State that determines the eligibility of visitors (nationals from 35 participating countries) to travel to the U.S. without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”).  A valid ESTA approval is required for all VWP travel to the U.S.  ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, though it is recommended travelers apply when they begin preparing travel plans.
  • Employment Authorization Document
    The Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) is issued to those aliens who have applied to USCIS and have been granted permission to be lawfully employed in the United States.  Application for the EAD is made on Form I-765.
  • Employment-based immigration
    U.S. immigration law allows U.S. employers to sponsor foreign nationals for lawful permanent residency based upon the foreign national’s employment with the petitioning employer.  There are four distinct categories of employment-based immigration: EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, and EB-4.
  • E-Verify
    E-Verify is a free web-based service that lets participating U.S. employers quickly verify the eligibility of their alien employees to work in the United States.
  • Extension of stay
    Certain nonimmigrants may apply to extend their stay in the United States in order to continue to engage in those activities permitted under the visa category in which he or she was admitted.  An application for an extension of stay is made on Form I-539.


  • F-1 visa
    The F-1 Visa allows foreign nationals to enter the United States as full-time students at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program.  The F-1 visa holder must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and his or her school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.
  • Family-based immigration
    Certain foreign nationals may immigrate to the United States based on an immediate family relationship to a U.S. citizen.  There are four basic categories of family-based immigration:


    • Family First Preference: for unmarried sons and daughters of American citizens, and their children.
    • Family Second Preference: for spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
    • Family Third Preference: for married sons and daughters of American citizens and their spouses and children. Before 1992 this was known as fourth preference (P-4).
    • Family Fourth Preference: for brothers and sisters of American citizens and their spouses and children. The American citizen must be 21 years of age or older before he/she can file the petition.  Before 1992 this was known as fifth preference (P-5).
  • Federal law
    Federal law is the body of law created by the United States federal government.The United States Constitution provides for a federal government that is superior to state governments with regard to its enumerated powers.  These powers include the authority to govern international affairs, the currency and national defense.  After the American Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment applied the Constitution’s Bill of Rights to state governments.  Issues that arise under any legislation passed by Congress, an Executive Order of the President, or a decision of federal courts pursuant to the Constitution are governed by federal law.The Supreme Court makes final decisions regarding all federal laws.  United States federal laws are codified in the United States Code. All immigration laws and regulations are made by the federal government, not state governments.
  • Federal Poverty Guidelines / Federal Poverty Level
    The Federal Poverty Guidelines set the minimum amount of gross income that a family needs for food, clothing, transportation, shelter and other necessities.  In the United States, this level is determined by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Federal Poverty Level (“FPL”) varies according to family size.  The number is adjusted for inflation and reported annually in the form of poverty guidelines.  Public assistance programs, such as Medicaid in the U.S., define eligibility income limits as some percentage of FPL.In family-based immigration, the sponsor must prove that he or she can support the immigrant beneficiary at either 100-125% of the FPL.  The Federal Poverty Guidelines may be found on Form I-864P.
  • Fiancé(e)
    A person who plans to marry another person.  The foreign fiance(e) of an American citizen may enter the U.S. on a K-1 visa to marry the American citizen.
  • Follow to join
    “Follow to join” refers to a type of derivative visa status in which a family member obtains a visa subsequent to the principal applicant.
  • Foreign Affairs Manual
    The Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) is published by the U.S. Department of State.  It contains the functional statements, organizational responsibilities, and authorities of each of the major components of the Department, including the U.S. Consulates.Chapter 41 of the FAM relates to nonimmigrant visas.  Chapter 42 covers immigrant visas.  9 FAM Chapter 40 relates to visa ineligibilities and waivers.
  • Freedom of Information Act
    The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government.  It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.


  • G-28
    Form G-28 is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security form that allows attorneys and accredited representatives to enter their appearance on behalf of another for purposes of legal representation.
  • Good Moral Character
    Good Moral Character (“GMC”) is a standard by which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security measures individuals who apply for certain immigration benefits such as Naturalization or protection under the Violence Against Women Act.If an applicant for an immigration benefit is deemed not to have GMC, that individual’s application may be denied.  Certain criminal convictions may form the basis for a denial of an immigration benefit due to lack of GMC.
  • Grounds of Inadmissibility
    Some individuals are inadmissible to the United States due to various reasons or grounds.  These reasons are known as the “grounds of inadmissibility.”  These grounds may be health-related, criminal-related, or security-related.  Individuals who have entered without inspection, who have falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, or who have practiced polygamy are also inadmissible.To overcome a ground of inadmissibility, one must apply for a waiver of the ground of inadmissibility.


  • H-1B visa
    The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa for temporary “specialty occupation” employment in the U.S. Usually, a “specialty occupation” means the occupation requires at least a Bachelor’s Degree  If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status, find another employer, or leave the U.S.
  • Household income
    The income used to determine whether a sponsor meets the minimum income requirements under Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for some immigrant visa cases.
  • Humanitarian Parole
    Humanitarian parole is used sparingly to bring someone who is otherwise inadmissible into the United States for a temporary period of time due to a compelling emergency.USCIS may grant parole temporarily:


    • To anyone applying for admission into the United States based on urgent humanitarian reasons or if there is a significant public benefit
    • For a period of time that corresponds with the length of the emergency or humanitarian situation

    Parolees must depart the United States before the expiration of their parole.  You may submit a request for reparole, which must be approved by USCIS. Parole does not grant any immigration benefits.


  • Immigrant visa
    An immigrant visa is a visa for an individual who plans to live indefinitely and permanently in the United States. An individual may obtain an immigrant visa several ways including family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, or investment-based immigration.
  • Immigration and Nationality Act
    The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) is the Act that comprises U.S. Federal immigration law.  It was created in 1952.  The INA has been amended many times over the years, but is still the basic body of immigration law.
  • Immigration and Naturalization Service
    The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”), also known as former INS and legacy INS,ceased to exist under that name on March 1, 2003, when most of its functions were transferred from the Department of Justice to three new entities – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – within the newly created Department of Homeland Security, as part of a major government reorganization following the attacks which occurred on September 11, 2001.
  • Immigration Court
    Immigration Court is the primary venue for the review of individuals who have been placed in removal proceedings.The Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) is an office of the United States Department of Justice and is responsible for adjudicating immigration cases in the United States.EOIR oversees immigration courts in the United States through the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge.  Additionally, the Board of Immigration Appeals, which hears appeals from immigration courts, is part of EOIR.
  • Immigration detainer
    An immigration detainer is a tool used by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and other Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) officials to identify potentially deportable individuals who are housed in jails or prisons nationwide.  An immigration detainer is an official request from ICE to another law enforcement agency (“LEA”)—such as a state or local jail —that the LEA notify ICE prior to releasing an individual from local custody so that ICE can arrange to take over custody.
  • Immigration to the United States
    Immigration to the United States refers to individuals from countries around the world who enter the U.S. states for purposes of living permanently.  Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of the United States. The leading countries of origin of immigrants to the United States are Mexico, India, the Philippines, and China. Nearly 14 million immigrants entered the United States from 2000 to 2010.


  • Joint sponsor
    A joint sponsor is a person who accepts legal responsibility for supporting an immigrant with an I-864 Affidavit of Support along with the sponsor.  The joint sponsor must be at least 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and have a domicile in the U.S.  The joint sponsor and his/her household must meet the Federal Poverty Guidelines for the immigrant that s/he sponsors.


  • K-1 / K-2 visas
    The K-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen. The K-1 visa permits the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) to travel to the United States and marry his/her U.S. citizen sponsor within 90 days of arrival. Eligible children of K-1 visa applicants receive K-2 visas.
  • K-3 / K-4 visas
    The K-3 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen spouse of a U.S. citizen. This visa category is intended to shorten the physical separation between the foreign-citizen and U.S. citizen spouses by having the option to obtain a nonimmigrant K-3 visa overseas and enter the United States to await approval of the immigrant visa petition. Under U.S. immigration law, a foreign citizen who marries a U.S. citizen outside the U.S. must apply for the K-3 visa in the country where the marriage took place.Eligible children of K-3 visa applicants receive K-4 visas.
  • Kentucky Consular Center
    The Kentucky Consular Center is a U.S. Department of State facility located in Williamsburg, Kentucky.  It gives domestic support to the worldwide operations of the Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Office, and it manages the Diversity Visa (“DV”) Program.


  • L visas
    The L nonimmigrant visa categories allows certain foreign nationals to temporarily work in the U.S. if they are intracompany transferee executives or managers, or if they are an individual with specialized knowledge.
  • Labor Certification
    The Labor Certification process is the initial stage of the process by which certain foreign workers get permission to work in the U.S.  The employer is responsible for getting the labor certification from the Department of Labor.  In general the process works to make sure that the work of foreign workers in the U.S. will not adversely affect job opportunities, wages and working conditions of U.S. workers.
  • Labor Condition Application
    The Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) is a request to the Department of Labor for a foreign worker to work in the U.S.
  • Lawful permanent residency
    A lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) is a person who has immigrated legally, admitted to the U.S. by DHS as a permanent resident of the U.S. and has a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551 (formerly called Alien Registration Card, also known as green card).


  • M-1 visa
    The M-1 visa category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training.
  • Marriage fraud
    Marriage fraud occurs when two people enter into a marriage for the sole purpose of evading immigration laws.
  • Misrepresentation
    Misrepresentation is a fraudulent representation of a material fact with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to deceive a consular or immigration officer, who believed and acted upon this false representation.
  • Motions to Reopen and Reconsider
    A motion to reopen is a request to the original decision maker to review a decision. A motion to reconsider is a request to the original decision maker to review a decision based on new or additional legal arguments.


  • National Interest Waiver
    Aliens seeking a national interest waiver (“NIW”) in the context of employment-based immigration are requesting that the Labor Certification be waived because it is in the interest of the United States.  Though the jobs that qualify for a NIW are not defined by statute, NIWs are usually granted to those who have exceptional ability and whose employment in the United States would greatly benefit the national interest.
  • National Visa Center
    After the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) approves an immigrant visa petition, the USCIS forwards the petition to the National Visa Center (“NVC”) in Portsmouth, NH for immigrant visa pre-processing at the correct time.  The NVC then forwards the approved petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the foreign national will appear for his or her immigrant or nonimmigrant visa interview.
  • Naturalization
    Naturalization is the process whereby an individual acquires citizenship by legal procedures as opposed to at birth.
  • Nonimmigrant visa
    A nonimmigrant visa (“NIV”) is a U.S. visa which allows the bearer, a foreign citizen, to apply to enter the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose. NIVs are primarily classified according to the principal purpose of travel such as visitor, student, etc. With few exceptions, while in the U.S., nonimmigrants are restricted to the activity or reason for which their visa was issued.
  • Northwest Detention Center
    The Northwest Detention Center is an immigration prison located in Tacoma, Washington.  The prison is operated by a private company under the supervision of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).
  • Notice to Appear
    A Notice to Appear (“NTA”) is a document issued to an individual who has been placed in removal proceedings.


  • O visas
    The O visa or O status is a nonimmigrant employment-based visa/status.  Three basic types of O visas are the O-1, O-2, and O-3.Within the O-1 category, there are two subclasses: O-1A and O-1B.  O-1A visas are for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry).  O-1B visas are for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.O-2 visas are for individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance.  For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity.  For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production.  The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1.O-3 visas are for spouses and children of O-1’s and O-2’s.
  • Oath of allegiance
    The Oath of Allegiance is a declaration made under oath that newly naturalized U.S. citizens will uphold the laws of the United States of America.  The oath reads as follows:“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
  • Occupational Information Network
    The Occupational Information Network (“O*NET”) is a free online database that contains hundreds of occupational definitions to help students, job seekers, businesses and workforce development professionals to understand today’s world of work in the United States.  It is frequently used by immigration attorneys in the preparation and analysis of employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions.
  • Optional Practical Training
    Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to work for at most one year on a student visa towards getting practical training to complement their field of studies.
  • Out of status
    A U.S. visa allows the bearer to apply for entry to the U.S. in a certain classification, for a specific purpose.  Every visa is issued for a particular purpose and for a specific class of visitor.  Each visa classification has a set of requirements that the visa holder must follow and maintain.  When you arrive in the U.S., a CBP inspector determines whether you will be admitted, length of stay and conditions of stay in, the U.S.  When admitted you are given an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, which tells you when you must leave the U.S.  The date granted on the admission stamp or paper Form I-94 card at the airport governs how long you may stay in the U.S.  If you do not follow the requirements, you stay longer than that date, or you engage in activities not permitted for your particular type of visa, you violate your status and are considered be “out of status.”
  • Overstay
    A visa “overstay” occurs when a nonimmigrant stays longer than permitted as shown on his/her admission stamp or paper Form I-94.  An individual who overstays may be ineligible for future visas to the U.S., or may be forced to apply for a waiver in order to return to the U.S.


  • P visas
    The P visa or P status is a nonimmigrant employment-based visa/status.  Four basic types of P visas are the P-1, P-2, P-3, and P-4.Within the P-1 category, there are two subclasses: P-1A and P-1B.  The P-1 classification is for those who will perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.  The P-1B classification is for individuals who will perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.The P-2 classification is for those who will perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country.The P-3 classification is for those who will perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique.


    The P-4 classification is for spouses and children of P-1, P-2, and P-3 status holders.

  • Panel Physician
    U.S. Embassies and Consulates which issue immigrant visas have selected certain doctors to do the medical examinations for immigrant visa applicants.  These doctors are called “panel physicians.”
  • Passport
    A passport is a government-issued document that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel.  The elements of identity contained in all standardized passports include information about the holder, including name, date of birth, gender and place of birth.
  • Person of Extraordinary Ability
    Two employment-based statuses use as a baseline the “person of extraordinary ability” standard.  These statuses are O-1 and EB-1.
  • Petitioner
    A petitioner is one who files an immigration petition or application, usually on behalf of another person (a beneficiary).  A petitioner may be an individual or an employer.  Sometimes, the principal applicant may petition for him or herself (“self-petitioning”), such as in protection under the Violence against Women Act (“VAWA”) or in EB-2 National Interest Waivers (“NIW”).
  • Physical presence
    Physical presence refers to the place where a person is physically located. In certain immigration-related petitions, physical presence in the United States is required for a certain amount of time.  Naturalization is one such example.  Most naturalization applicants must spend a specified amount of time in the United States in order to meet the physical presence requirement for naturalization.
  • Polygamy
    Polygamy is having more than one husband or wife at the same time.  Polygamy is illegal in all jurisdictions in the U.S., and is one of the grounds of inadmissibility.
  • Port of entry
    The Port of Entry (“POE”) is the place (airport, border crossing, etc.) where a person requests admission to the United States.
  • Preference category
    The preference category system determines which and on what date people can immigrate to the U.S. within the limits of immigration set by Congress. In family-based immigration preference is based on the status of the petitioner (U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident) and his/her relationship to the applicant. In employment-based immigration it is based on the qualifications of the applicant and labor needs in the U.S.
  • Prevailing wage
    The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) requires that the hiring of a foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers comparably employed.  To comply with the statute, the Department of Labor’s regulations require that the wages offered to a foreign worker must be the prevailing wage rate for the occupational classification in the area of employment.The prevailing wage rate is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment.  Employers can obtain this wage rate by submitting a request to the National Prevailing Wage Center (“NPWC”), or by accessing other legitimate sources of information such as the Online Wage Library, available for use in some programs.The requirement to pay prevailing wages as a minimum is true of most employment based visa programs involving the Department of Labor.  In addition, the H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 programs require the employer to pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid by the employer to workers with similar skills and qualifications, whichever is higher.
  • Principal applicant
    The principal applicant is the person named in the petition.  For example, U.S. citizen may file a petition for his married daughter, a Japanese citizen, to immigrate to the U.S.  In this case, his daughter is the principal applicant and he is the petitioner.  Moreover, his daughter’s immediate relatives are also eligible for visas based on their derivative status.
  • Priority date
    The priority date determines a person’s turn to apply for an immigrant visa.  In family-based immigration the priority date is the date when the petition was filed at a DHS, office or submitted to an Embassy or Consulate abroad.  In employment-based immigration the priority date may be the date the labor certification application was received by the Department of Labor.
  • Privacy Act
    The Privacy Act (“PA”) establishes a Code of Fair Information Practice that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.  A system of records is a group of records under the control of an agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual.  The PA requires that agencies give the public notice of their systems of records by publication in the Federal Register.  The PA prohibits the disclosure of information from a system of records absent the written consent of the subject individual, unless the disclosure is pursuant to one of twelve statutory exceptions. The PA also provides individuals with a means by which to seek access to an amendment of their records, and sets forth various agency record-keeping requirements.
  • Program Electronic Review Management
    Program Electronic Review Management (“PERM”) is the current process for employers who wish to petition for permanent residency for certain foreign nationals to obtain a Labor Certification.
  • Prosecutorial discretion
    “Prosecutorial discretion” is the authority of an agency or officer to decide what charges to bring and how to pursue each case.   The authority to exercise discretion in deciding when to prosecute and when not to prosecute based on a priority system has long been recognized as an aspect of U.S. law.  Prosecutorial discretion applies in civil, administrative, and criminal law.  The Supreme Court has stated that “an agency’s decision not to prosecute or enforce, whether through civil or criminal process, is a decision generally committed to an agency’s absolute discretion.” Heckler v. Chaney 470 U.S. 821, 831 (1985).
  • Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver
    Effective March 4, 2013, certain immigrant visa applicants who are spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens (immediate relatives) can apply for provisional unlawful presence waivers (“Provisional Waivers”) before they leave the United States.  The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows individuals, who only need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence, to apply for a waiver in the United States and before they depart for their immigrant visa interviews at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.The new process is expected to shorten the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives while those family members are obtaining immigrant visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States.Under current law, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States must travel abroad and obtain an immigrant visa.  Individuals who have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver of inadmissibility to overcome the unlawful presence bars under section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before they can return to the United States.  Under the existing waiver process, which remains in effect, immediate relatives cannot apply for a waiver until after they have appeared for an immigrant visa interview abroad, and a Department of State (DOS) consular officer has determined that they are inadmissible to the United States.  Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are eligible for the new provisional unlawful presence waiver can still choose to apply for a waiver using the existing process by filing a Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, after a DOS consular officer has determined that he or she is inadmissible to the United States.
  • Public charge
    The term “public charge” refers to becoming dependent upon the government for the expenses of living (food, shelter, clothing, etc.).  An applicant is ineligible for a visa to the U.S. if s/he will be a public charge.


  • Reentry permit
    A reentry permit is a travel document that the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) issues to lawful permanent residents (“LPR”) who will reside outside the U.S. without abandoning their lawful permanent resident status.
  • Refugee
    Refugee status is a form of protection that may be granted to people who meet the definition of refugee and who are of special humanitarian concern to the United States. Refugees are generally people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm. For a legal definition of refugee, see section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). An individual may seek refugee status only from outside of the United States.
  • Removal of conditions (based on marriage)
    An individual’s initial lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) status is conditional if it is based on a marriage that was less than 2 years old on the day s/he was granted permanent residence. LPR status is conditional because it must proven that the marriage was not a fraudulent marriage.  An application to remove conditions based on marriage is made on Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
  • Removal proceedings
    Removal proceedings (formerly called “deportation proceedings”) are administrative proceedings to determine an individual’s removability under United States immigration law.  Removal proceedings are typically conducted in Immigration Court by an immigration judge.
  • Request for evidence
    A Request for Evidence (“RFE”) is a formal response from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) to petitions for immigration benefits such as residency, citizenship, or employment.RFEs typically request one or more of the following types of evidence:


    • ability of employer to pay
    • periods of current or prior stay in the United States
    • prior work experience
    • educational details or evaluation
    • documents supporting claims of exceptional ability or outstanding research

    Applicants or petitioners are required to provide the requested evidence; generally, petitions and applications are denied if such evidence is not provided.  Upon receiving the new evidence, USCIS will generally adjudicate the petition or application, although they may respond with an additional RFE.

  • Retrogression
    Retrogression refers to when, in the preference category system, the priority date of a certain visa category moves forward in time. Sometimes a case that is current one month will not be current the next month.  This occurs when the annual numerical limit has been reached.  When the new fiscal year begins, the Visa Office gets a new supply of visa numbers and usually brings back the cut-off dates to where they were before retrogression.
  • Returning resident
    A returning resident is a U.S. citizen or a person who has formerly resided in the United States who is returning from abroad.  In order to be classified as a returning resident, it must be understood that time spent out of the U.S. was for a temporary period.  If the returning resident’s intent was to move abroad permanently and after a time plans unexpectedly changed, a return to the U.S. may be classified as a nonresident move.“Returning resident visas” are issued at U.S. Consulates abroad.


  • Same-sex marriage
    A same-sex marriage is a marriage between a couple of the same sex.  U.S. immigration law, following the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), now recognizes family-based immigration applications from U.S. citizen petitioners on behalf of their same-sex spouses.
  • Social security number
    A Social Security number (“SSN”) is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents under section 205(c)(2) of the Social Security Act, codified as 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2).  The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration, an independent agency of the United States government.  Its primary purpose is to track individuals for Social Security purposes. A Social Security number may be obtained by applying on Form SS-5, “Application for A Social Security Number Card.”
  • 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. In order to apply for immigration documents under this status, an individual must fill out a petition documenting his or her circumstances and submit the petition to USCIS.
  • Sponsor
    The term “sponsor,” in the immigration context, may refer to either: (1) A person who fills out and submits an immigration visa petition (also known as a “petitioner”), or (2) a person who completes an affidavit of support for an immigrant visa applicant.
  • Stepchild
    A stepchild is a spouse’s child from a previous marriage or other relationship.  In order for a stepchild to be able to immigrate as a “child,” the marriage creating the stepchild/stepparent relationship must have happened before the stepchild’s 18th birthday.
  • Swearing-in ceremony
    The swearing-in ceremony is the final step of an individual’s naturalization to United States citizenship.  Each person who is naturalized must recite or otherwise declare the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.


  • Targeted Employment Area
    Targeted Employment Area (“TEA”), in the EB-5 Investment Immigration context, refers to a geographic area that, at the time of investment, is a rural area or an area experiencing unemployment of at least 150 percent of the national average rate.
  • Tax Return Transcript
    A tax return transcript shows most line items from your tax return (Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules.  In most cases, your transcript includes all the information a lender or government agency needs.  It does not show any changes you, your representative or we made after you filed.
  • Temporary Protected Status
    The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.   USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States.   Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.
  • Timely retraction
    The concept of “timely retraction” is found in the Foreign Affairs Manual (9 FAM 40.63 N4.6).  A timely retraction will serve to purge a misrepresentation and remove it from further consideration as a misrepresentation ground of inadmissibility.
  • TN visa
    The North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level.Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. You may be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, if:


    • You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
    • Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
    • The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
    • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment; and
    • You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.
  • Troubled business
    A troubled business, in the EB-5 Investment Immigration context, is an enterprise that has been in existence for at least two years and has incurred a net loss during the 12- or 24-month period prior to the priority date on the immigrant investor’s Form I-526.  The loss for this period must be at least 20 percent of the troubled business’ net worth prior to the loss.  For purposes of determining whether the troubled business has been in existence for two years, successors in interest to the troubled business will be deemed to have been in existence for the same period of time as the business they succeeded.


  • U visa
    The U visa classification is available for certain individuals who are victims of qualifying criminal activity, and to their qualifying family members.
  • Undocumented immigrant
    The term “undocumented immigrant” refers to an alien who entered the United States without inspection or who otherwise is physically present in the United States without lawful status.
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) is a component of the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). It performs many administrative functions formerly carried out by the former United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”), which was part of the Department of Justice.  The stated priorities of the USCIS are to promote national security, to eliminate immigration case backlogs, and to improve customer services.  USCIS is headed by a director who reports directly to the Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security.  USCIS was formerly and briefly named the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (“BCIS”), before becoming USCIS.
  • United States Customs and Border Protection
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) is a federal law enforcement agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. regulations, including trade, customs, and immigration.  CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the United States.   It has a workforce of more than 45,600 sworn federal agents and officers. It has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. While its primary mission is preventing terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, CBP is also responsible for apprehending individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally including those with a criminal record, stemming the flow of illegal drugs and other contraband, protecting United States agricultural and economic interests from harmful pests and diseases, and protecting American businesses from intellectual property theft.
  • United States Department of Homeland Security
    The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is a cabinet department of the United States federal government, created in response to the September 11 attacks, and with the primary responsibilities of protecting the United States and its territories (including protectorates) from and responding to terrorist attacks, man-made accidents, and natural disasters.  DHS, and not the United States Department of the Interior, is equivalent to the Interior ministries of other countries.
  • United States Department of Labor
    The United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) is a cabinet-level department of the U.S. federal government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics; many U.S. states also have such departments. The purpose of the DOL is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. In carrying out this mission, the DOL administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws. These mandates and the regulations that implement them cover many workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers.
  • United States Department of State
    The United States Department of State (“DOS”), often referred to as the State Department, is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministry of other countries.  The Department was created in 1789 and was the first executive department established. DOS operates the diplomatic missions, normally Embassies or Consulates, of the United States abroad and is responsible for implementing the foreign policy of the United States and U.S. diplomacy efforts. DOS is also the depositary for more than 200 multilateral treaties. DOS is led by the Secretary of State, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate and is a member of the Cabinet.
  • United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) is an American federal law enforcement agency under the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), responsible for identifying, investigating, and dismantling vulnerabilities regarding the nation’s border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.  ICE has two primary components: Homeland Security Investigations (“HIS”) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (“ERO”).  ICE is charged with the investigation and enforcement of over 400 federal statutes within the United States, and maintains attachés at major U.S. embassies overseas. ICE is led by a director, who is appointed at the sub-Cabinet level by the president of the United States, confirmed by the Senate, and reports directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security.  ICE is the second largest criminal investigations agency in the U.S. government, following the FBI. The mission of ICE is to protect the United States and uphold public safety by enforcing immigration and customs laws.
  • Unlawful presence
    Unlawful Presence (“ULP”) refers to a nonimmigrant who remains in the U.S.  ULP is one of the grounds of inadmissibility.


  • Violence Against Women Act
    The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) is a United States federal law which went into effect on September 13, 1994.  VAWA provides $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted.  VAWA also establishes the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.  Its coverage extends to male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. VAWA protects certain individuals from removal from the United States.
  • Visa
    A citizen of a foreign country, wishing to enter the U.S., generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence.  Visa applicants will need to apply overseas, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, generally in their country of permanent residence.  The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel.  A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-of entry, and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S.  Issuance of a visa does not guarantee entry to the U.S.  The CBP Officer at the port-of-entry determines whether you can be admitted and decides how long you can stay for any particular visit.
  • Visa Bulletin
    The Visa Bulletin is a publication regarding immigration to the United States published by the United States Department of State. The primary purpose of this bulletin is to provide an updated list of Priority Dates for immigrants that are subject to the quota system.
  • Visa Waiver Program
    Citizens of participating countries meeting the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) requirements to may be allowed to enter the U.S. as visitors for pleasure or business without first getting a visa.  Visitors can stay only 90 days and cannot extend their stay.
  • Voluntary Departure
    Voluntary Departure (“VD”) is a form of relief from removal that allows a respondent to leave the United States on his or her own, rather than under a removal order.


  • Waiver of Inadmissibility. An Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility is an application for legal entry to the United States made by an individual who is otherwise inadmissible on one or more grounds. The application is submitted to the consular office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) office or immigration court considering the immigrant visa or adjustment of status application.
  • Withholding of Removal. Withholding of removal is a form of relief to individuals in removal proceedings.  Withholding of removal is a status similar to asylum.  Individuals granted withholding of removal have the right to remain in the U.S. and work legally.  Unlike asylees, however, people with “withholding” do not have the right to apply for legal permanent residence.  People who are granted “withholding” actually have a final order of removal against them, so if they ever travel outside the U.S., they will not be permitted to return to the United States.
Scroll to Top