Glossary of Common Legal Terms

Themes/Topics: Immigration Policy

Geography: Local (Bay Area), National, State

Audience: Ally, Educator, Undocumented Youth

This is a glossary intended for undocumented individuals who are attempting to identify and navigate possible forms of immigration relief. We gathered and summarized these terms from various sources. Please contact us if you would still like further clarity. You can reach us at legalservices@e4fc.org.

3 or 10-year bars
212(d)(3) Waiver
245(a)
245(i)
A-number (alien registration number)
Adjustment of Status
Administrative closure of removal proceedings
Adoption for immigration purposes
Advance parole
Affidavit of support
Aging out
Alien
Asylum
B-2 nonimmigrant visa (tourist)
Beneficiaries
Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)
C-33 category
Cancellation of Removal for non-lawful permanent resident
Child
Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)
Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR)
Crimes involving moral turpitude
Criminal background
Current/Not Current
Currently in Removal Proceedings
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
Deferred Action
Deportation (removal) proceedings
Derivative status
Diversity visa lottery
Dual nationality
DREAM Act (federal)
Driver’s license without a social security number
Employer-Based petition
Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Entry with Inspection
Entry without Inspection (EWI)
Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)
Extreme hardship
F non-immigrant visa (student)
Final order of removal
Green card or lawful permanent resident card
Grounds of inadmissibility
H-1B nonimmigrant visa (temporary employment)
H-4 nonimmigrant visa (derivative of H-1B nonimmigrant visa)
Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)
I-291
I-601
I-765
I-765W
I-821D
I-94
Immigration Attorney Help
Immigration Court
Immigration interview
Immigration status
Individual Taxpayer Identification (ITIN)
Labor certification
Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
Marriage fraud
Marriage petition
Motion to Reopen (MTR)
Motion to suppress
Nonimmigrant
Nonimmigrant visa
Notice to Appear (NTA)
Permanent bar
Priority date
Pro bono
Prosecutorial discretion
Provisional waiver I-601A
Removal proceedings
Social security card
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)
Sponsorship (income requirement)
T-Visa (human trafficking victims)
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
Termination of removal proceedings
TN NAFTA visa
U-Visa (victims of reported crimes)
Undocumented
US Citizen
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Visa bulletin categories
Voluntary Departure
Voluntary Return

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3 or 10-year bars

Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), a section sought to punish anyone who stayed in the US unlawfully by barring them from future legalization. Foreign nationals who have 6 to 12 months of unlawful presence in the US after their 18th birthday are barred from future entry for 3 years; those who are here for more than 1 year after their 18th birthday are barred for 10 years. Both of these bars are triggered on the day the foreign national leaves the U.S. The 3 or 10-year bars were supposed to discourage people from unlawfully entering the US, or from overstaying their visas, as well as to punish those who are already in the country without lawful status. The foreign national may be able to avoid the bars through several waivers. Back to Top.

212(d)(3) Waiver

The 212(d)(3) is a waiver under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that allows foreign nationals to overcome many grounds of inadmissibility. This waiver is often used to overcome inadmissibility issues, such as the 3 or 10 year bar for unlawful presence, overstaying a previous visa, criminal conduct, or previous fraud, among others. The waiver must be submitted from a US Consulate abroad.

The 212(d)(3) waiver is granted at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. The department’s discretion is based mainly upon these four factors:

1. Whether there is a risk of harm to society if the foreign national is allowed into the US,

2. The seriousness of the foreign national’s criminal or immigration violation (or other grounds of inadmissibility)

3. The reason for the foreign national coming into the US.

4. The foreign national’s bar from entering the US would result in an extreme hardship to his/her US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident parent, spouse, and/or child.

* Note: See definitions for foreign national, extreme hardship, and grounds of inadmissibility for more information. Back to Top.

245(a)

Section 245(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that the status of a foreign national who was inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States may be adjusted to that of a lawful permanent resident if:

1. the foreign national makes an application for such adjustment,
2. the foreign national is eligible to receive an immigrant visa and is admissible to the United States for permanent residence, and
3. an immigrant visa is immediately available to him/her at the time the application is filed.

245(a) is especially useful for immediate relatives (spouses, children or parents of U.S. Citizens) because it allows them to apply for permanent residency without leaving the U.S. through a process called “adjustment of status.” Back to Top.

245(i)

Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows some foreign nationals to apply for permanent residency without leaving the US through a process called “adjustment of status.” Generally, foreign nationals who entered the US without being inspected by an immigration officer, who were unlawfully employed in the US or who failed to maintain a lawful status in the US, must return to their home countries to finalize their legalization process, thus triggering the 3 or 10 year bar.

Generally, to be 245(i) eligible, an employer or relative must have filed a petition on the foreign national’s behalf (or the foreign national’s parent) on or prior to April 30, 2001 and must pay a $1000.00 fine when they file for adjustment of status.

* Note: See Adjustment of status, consular processing, & 3 & 10-year bar definitions for more information. Back to Top.

A-number (alien registration number)

The alien registration number or “A-number” is an identifying number that the Department of Homeland Security assigns to certain foreign nationals, such as those who apply for adjustment of status or who are in removal proceedings. It is a program to record every non-citizen who is within the United States. A-numbers begin with “A” and consist of up to 10 digits. The A-number is yours for life, much like a Social Security number. Back to Top.

Adjustment of Status

Adjustment of Status refers to the process where a foreign national applies for Lawful Permanent Residency status in the US. This is in contrast to “consular processing,” which requires the person to apply from a US Consulate from his/her country of origin. It is also distinguished from “change of status,” which applies to nonimmigrants moving from one nonimmigrant status to another.

Note: See definition for Lawful Permanent Resident, Consular processing & nonimmigrant definitions. Back to Top.

Administrative closure of removal proceedings

Administrative closure of a case is used to temporarily remove the case from an Immigration Judge’s calendar or from the Board of Immigration Appeal’s docket. A case may not be administratively closed if opposed by either of the parties.

Administrative closing of a case does not result in a final order of removal. It is merely an administrative convenience which allows the removal of cases from the calendar in appropriate situations. When a case is administratively closed, it can be reopened at any time. Back to Top.

Adoption for immigration purposes

In order for adopted children to benefit from immigration remedies, they must have been adopted prior to their 16th birthday and have been residing with and in the legal custody of the adoptive parents for at least two years. Back to Top.

Advance Parole

An advance parole document is issued solely to authorize the temporary parole of a person into the United States. The document may be accepted by a transportation company in lieu of a visa as an authorization for the holder to travel to the United States. An advance parole document is not issued to serve in place of any required passport. Advance parole is an extraordinary measure used sparingly to bring an otherwise inadmissible individual to the United States.

To apply for an Advance Parole Document, the individual must file an Application for Travel Document, I-131. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Requestors may file this form only when the individual has received deferred action by USCIS or ICE. The individual must not file this form with Form I-821D, consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Back to Top.

Affidavit of support

Forms I-134 and I-864, also known as an Affidavits of Support, are legally enforceable agreements wherein a sponsor of an immigration petition commits to providing financial support to the foreign national he/she is petitioning for. Hence, an appropriately executed Affidavit creates a legally binding contract between the sponsor, the foreign national, the federal, state and local governments whose resources may be recouped should the foreign national receive any assistance from governmental agencies.

Usually, the person filling out the Affidavit of Support is the person petitioning for the foreign national. However, when the petitioner does not meet the income requirements, there could be a joint sponsor.

The sponsor must have income or assets, or a combination thereof that meets at least 125% of the stated poverty guidelines, based on size of household and income or assets.

* Note: Look at definition of Sponsorship (income requirement) for more information. Back to Top.

Aging out

“Aging out” occurs when children lose their immigration benefits because they turn 21 before they complete the processing of gaining Lawful Permanent Residency status.

For example, under the current law, when a US citizen parent sponsors a child under the age of 21 for Lawful Permanent Residency status, the child is considered an immediate relative and can complete their legalization process without being subject to a backlog and years of wait time. However, once the child turns 21, he/she ages out and is no longer considered a child for immigration purposes. The consequences for “aging out” could mean a longer wait time before the foreign national can complete the legalization process or that he/she can no longer benefit from the immigration petition.

* Note: See definition of Visa Bulletin for more information. Back to Top.

Alien

Although controversial, this term has been used to describe any person who is not a citizen or national of the United States. This includes immigrants and nonimmigrants.

Note: See definition of nonimmigrant for more information. Back to Top.

Asylum

A foreign national may be granted asylum if he or she can demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” based on (1) political opinion, (2) religion, (3) race, (4) nationality, or (5) membership in a particular social group in his/her home country.

Asylum cases should be filed within a year after arriving in the US. Some exceptions may apply. One year after the receipt of asylum status, the asylee may apply for lawful permanent residence. Back to Top.

B-2 nonimmigrant visa (tourist)

A B-2 nonimmigrant visa is a temporary visa for individuals entering the United States for pleasure, tourism, or medical treatment. Back to Top.

Beneficiaries

Generally, beneficiaries refers to anyone who gains an immigration benefit. Beneficiaries generally receive a lawful status as a result of their relationship to a US citizen, lawful permanent resident, or US employer. Back to Top.

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA or Board) is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws. Generally, the Board does not conduct courtroom proceedings – it decides appeals by conducting a “paper review” of cases. On rare occasions, however, the Board does hear oral arguments of appealed cases, predominantly at headquarters.

Most Board decisions are subject to judicial review in the Federal courts. The majority of appeals reaching the Board involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. Other cases before the Board include the exclusion of foreign nationals applying for admission to the United States, petitions to classify the status of individual’s relatives for the issuance of preference immigrant visas, fines imposed upon carriers for the violation of immigration laws, and motions for reopening and reconsideration of decisions previously rendered. Back to Top.

C-33 Category

C-33 refers to an Employment Authorization Document category that was created to identify those individuals who are applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This numeration/category must be indicated on the I-765 work authorization form to identify whether the individual has an economic need to work. Back to Top.

Cancellation of Removal for Non-Lawful Permanent Resident

Cancellation of removal is a form of immigration defense relief available to foreign nationals who have been placed in removal (deportation) proceedings before the United States Executive Office for Immigration Review.

This is available to a foreign national who:

1. Has continuously resided in the United States for at least ten years
2. Has been a person of good moral character throughout this time
3. Is not otherwise subject to criminal bars arising from a conviction of any crime outlined under the Immigration and Nationality Act
4. Establishes that removal would result in “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” to the individual’s spouse, parent, or child who is a United States citizen or legal permanent resident. Back to Top.

Child

For the purposes of immigration, removal, and related matters, a child is: an unmarried person under 21 who is a legitimate child; a stepchild; a child legitimated under the law of the child’s residence or domicile; a child adopted while under the age of 16; or a child who is an orphan. Back to Top.

Child Status Protection Act (CSPA)

The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) was signed into law on August 6, 2002. CSPA was enacted to address the problem of minor children losing their eligibility for immigration benefits. This is because they had aged-out or turned 21 years old as a result of processing delays on the part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the Department of State. CSPA protects these individuals by allowing them to be considered a “child” even after aging out or turning 21. The eligibility of an applicant for benefits under the aging-out provisions of the CSPA may be determined only at the time an immigration visa is available. Back to Top.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR)

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a term used to mean reforming the immigration system as a whole. Some issues that are discussed in CIR are border enforcement, border security, adjusting the status of the undocumented population living in the US, visa reforms, among others. Back to Top.

Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

Being convicted of certain crimes makes someone inadmissible to obtaining lawful status in the US. Crimes involving moral turpitude involve certain crimes against property, against governmental authority, against persons, family relationship, sexual morality, and attempts, aiding and abetting, accessories and conspiracy.

* Note: Look at definition of Grounds of Inadmissibility for more information. Back to Top.

Criminal Background

Having a criminal background could make someone inadmissible to immigrating to the US. Since the types of crimes differ in their severity, foreign nationals should consult with an immigration attorney for more information.

* Note: Look at definition of Grounds of inadmissibility for more information. Back to Top.

Current/Not Current

There are limits on the number for certain individuals who can obtain their immigration status each year (i.e. immigrant visas that can be granted to anyone from any one foreign country). The limit is based on place of birth. Because of the limits, this means there is a waiting time before one’s immigrant visa can be granted.

The terms current/non-current refer to the priority date of a petition. In other words, it refers to the time in which one’s visa may be able to become processed. If the priority date is before the cut-off date according to the monthly Visa Bulletin, the case is current. This means the immigrant visa case can now be processed. However, if the priority date is later/comes after the cut-off date, the individual will need to wait longer, until the priority date is reached (becomes current). To find out whether a case is current, one can check the online Visa Bulletin.

* Note: Look at definition of Visa bulletin for more information. Back to Top.

Currently in Removal Proceedings

When an individual is in the process of being removed, or deported, they are considered to be in removal proceedings. Back to Top.

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

The Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges has made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S. since 2015. This overturns the 1996 law, Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), that prevented the federal government from recognizing gay marriage. Therefore, now, United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) must recognize marriages between spouses of the same sex as long as the marriages were made in ‘good faith’ (meaning were based on wanting to plan their future lives together and not just a false marriage so that the immigrant spouse can get papers). Back to Top.

Deferred Action

Deferred Action is a temporary protection given by the government with the promise not to deport the foreign national. Individuals who are granted deferred action are neither placed on a path to citizenship nor given a formal immigration status. They have no legal “right” to remain in the country, cannot sponsor family members to come to the United States, may not travel abroad without receiving advance permission from the government, and will not receive a “green card” or any other document evidencing a legal right to be in the country. Nor is it correct to equate deferred action with “immunity” from deportation. Because it is a purely discretionary form of relief, a grant of deferred action may be revoked at any time by this or any future administration. Back to Top.

Deportation (removal) proceedings

Deportation, or removal, occurs when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) orders that a foreign national be removed from the United States, typically after the violation of immigration or criminal laws.

If the DHS alleges a violation of immigration laws, it has the discretion to “serve” the individual with a charging document, known as a Notice to Appear. This document orders the foreign national to appear before an Immigration Judge, and advises him or her of, among other things:

1. The nature of the proceedings against the foreign national;
2. Foreign national’s alleged acts that violated the law;
3. Foreign national’s right to an attorney; and
4. Consequences of failing to appear at scheduled hearings.

Removal proceedings generally require an Immigration Judge to make two determinations:
1. A determination of the foreign national’s removability from the United States
2. Whether the individual is eligible for a form of relief from removal. Back to Top.

Derivative Status

Derivative status means getting a status (visa) 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 statuses as J-2 Visa holders. Derivative status is only possible if the principal applicant is issued a visa. Back to Top.

Diversity Visa Lottery

The Department of State has an annual Diversity Visa Lottery for immigration to the U.S. Up to 55,000 foreign nationals can enter the U.S. each year from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. A computer-generated, random lottery drawing chooses winners who can benefit from a Diversity Visa.

Eligible applicants must have at least a high school education or its equivalent or have, within the past five years, two years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years’ training or experience.

Foreign nationals who are awarded a Diversity Visa, must be eligible to immigrate to the U.S.

For the full list of eligible countries visit: http://travel.state.gov/. Back to Top.

Dual Nationality

Dual nationality is the simultaneous possession of two citizenships. This can occur by birth in one country and gained citizenship in another country, marriage to a foreign national, or by foreign naturalization. Certain countries do not accept dual citizenship, and require relinquishment of former citizenship upon naturalization in another country. Back to Top.

DREAM Act (Federal)

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (The “DREAM Act”) is a piece of proposed federal legislation in the U.S. that has been introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives several times. This bill would provide certain undocumented individuals who graduate from U.S. high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.

The recent proposed Federal DREAM Act has four basic requirements, which are:
First entry into the U.S. before the age of 16;
Graduate high school or obtain a GED in the U.S.;
Have good moral character; and
Have at least five years of continuous presence in the U.S.

If applicants meet the above criteria, once the DREAM Act passes, they will then have six years within which to obtain a two-year college degree or complete two-years of military service. Upon doing all of this, applicants will gain the chance to adjust their conditional permanent residency to U.S. citizenship. Back to Top.

Driver’s License without a Social Security Number

Only a number of states provide Driver’s Licenses to people without Social Security Numbers for those who are residents of those states. As of May 2018, twelve states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia provide driver’s licenses to individuals without Social Security Numbers. All other states require a valid SSN for a Driver’s License. Back to Top.

Employment-Based Petition

Every fiscal year (October 1st – September 30th), approximately 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to qualified applicants under the provisions of U.S. immigration law. Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories. Certain spouses and children may accompany or follow-to-join employment-based immigrants.

To be considered for an immigrant visa under some of the employment-based categories, the applicant’s prospective employer or agent must first obtain a labor certification approval from the Department of Labor. Once received, the employer then files an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the appropriate employment-based preference category. Back to Top.

Employment Authorization Document

Individuals who are temporarily in the U.S. and eligible for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), or more commonly referred to as a work permit, may file Form I-765 or I-688B. This document provides its holder a legal right to work in the U.S. It should not be confused with a green card.

The EAD is issued for a specific period of time based on the individual’s immigration situation. If someone has a valid EAD, s/he is authorized to freely work in the U.S. Back to Top.

Entry with Inspection

A foreign national who enters the U.S. with a Visa or a valid border crossing card and is admitted at a U.S. port of entry at the time of arrival, has entered with inspection. Back to Top.

Entry without Inspection (EWI)

A foreign national who enters the U.S. without being admitted at a U.S. port of entry has entered without inspection. This can refer to individuals who crossed the border without a visa or entered with false documents. Back to Top.

Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)

The Executive Office of Immigration Reform (EOIR) is responsible for adjudicating immigration cases. Specifically, under delegated authority from the Attorney General, EOIR interprets and administers federal immigration laws by conducting immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings. EOIR consists of three agencies: the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, which is responsible for managing the numerous immigration courts located throughout the U.S. where immigration judges adjudicate individual cases; the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which primarily conducts appellate reviews of immigration judge decisions; and the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, which adjudicates immigration-related employment cases. EOIR is committed to providing fair, expeditious, and uniform application of the nation’s immigration laws in all cases. Back to Top.

Extreme hardship

Extreme hardship must be proved when one is applying for a waiver of inadmissibility. In order for someone to be eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility, they must have a qualifying U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident relative that would suffer extreme hardship if the foreign national is denied admission into the U.S. Extreme hardship is very vaguely defined as greater than the normal hardship that the qualifying relative can be expected to experience.

It is important to prove both why the qualifying relative cannot move abroad AND why the qualifying relative cannot simply live in the U.S. without the individual. It is not enough to say that the qualifying relative will miss the individual’s company as this is considered “normal” hardship, not extreme hardship.

Below are some examples of Extreme Hardship arguments.

Level 1 Arguments (Strongest):
Qualifying relative has a MAJOR medical condition (e.g. brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy) which makes him/her unable to move abroad and for which s/he absolutely needs the foreign national in the U.S. to provide care
Qualifying relative is caring for another relative who is either elderly, chronically ill, or disabled and needs constant care. In this situation, the qualifying relative is unable to move abroad and makes him/her really need the foreign national in the U.S. to help care for his/her relative and manage other responsibilities
Foreign national’s country is in a state of active war or major political upheaval.

Level 2 arguments:
Qualifying relative has a serious medical condition that makes it very difficult for him/her to move abroad and s/he needs the foreign national to provide help (e.g. Qualifying relative needs to have major surgery sometime in the next year, with an expected recovery time of several months),
Qualifying relative is caring for a moderately disabled relative who normally can care for him/herself but occasionally has episodes in which s/he needs a lot of help and during those times, in turn, needs help from the foreign national,
Qualifying relative has a child that s/he is about to put through college and the foreign national is the main financial supporter (note, some offices consider this a stronger argument, some consider it a weaker one)

Level 3 arguments:
Qualifying relative has a significant condition that makes it inconvenient to move out of the country (e.g. severe asthma and foreign national is from a country of poor environmental conditions),
Qualifying relative been diagnosed by a licensed psychologist/psychiatrist with clinical depression due to foreign nationals immigration problems – note: even thoughts of suicide do not raise this argument to Level 2,
Qualifying relative’s job requires a license to practice abroad (e.g. attorney, medical doctor),
Qualifying relative has job skills that are very specific to the U.S. (e.g. a tax accountant with extensive familiarity with U.S. tax law)

Level 4 arguments (Weakest):
Qualifying relative has debt that s/he wouldn’t be able to pay if they moved abroad
Foreign National’s country has a high crime rate
Qualifying relative’s parents are aging. Back to Top.

F non-immigrant visa (student)

F visas are a type of nonimmigrant student visa that allows individuals to pursue an education (academic studies and/or language training programs) in the U.S. F-1 visas are only issued in U.S. embassies and consulates outside the U.S. Prospective F-1 students must apply at the school and receive Form I-20 in order to apply for an F-1 visa. F-1 students must show that they are able to support themselves during their stay in the United States, as their opportunities for legal employment are limited. F-2 visas are given to dependents of an F-1 student. F-2 visa-holders are prohibited from any form of compensated employment. However, minor children may attend public schools. Back to Top.

Final order of removal

An order of removal made by the immigration judge at the conclusion of removal proceedings becomes final when: the individual does not appeal the finding or an appeal is denied; the individual does not appeal within the time allotted; or the individual does not appear for the immigration court hearing. Back to Top.

Green card or lawful permanent resident card

A lawful permanent resident is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis. As proof of that status, a person is granted a permanent resident card, commonly called a “green card.”
An individual with a green card application can obtain two important permits while the case is pending after a certain stage is passed in green card processing. The first is a temporary work permit known as the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows the foreign national to take employment in the United States. The second is a temporary travel document, advance parole, which allows them to leave and re-enter the U.S. Back to Top.

Grounds of inadmissibility

Grounds of inadmissibility play a role in whether or not a foreign national is granted admission to the U.S. (e.g. is granted lawful permanent residency or enters the U.S. as a temporary nonimmigrant). There are 10 basic grounds of inadmissibility. These are:

1. Health related grounds; certain communicable diseases of public health significance can make one inadmissible to immigrating (i.e. Class A Tuberculosis, Chancroid, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Leprosy or any other communicable disease as determined by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services).

2. Criminal grounds; A conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude makes a person inadmissible. However, a single offense that occurred before the age of 18 and more than five years ago will not be considered, nor will offenses for which the maximum punishment was only one year and the alien was sentenced to six months or less. (See: Crimes of Moral Turpitude.)

3. Security grounds; If a consular officer or USCIS inspector has a reasonable ground to believe that the person is coming to the US to engage in espionage or sabotage, the person is inadmissible (i.e. Members of a group designated as a terrorist organization, members of the Communist Party, people who assisted in Nazi-era persecution or anyone who has engaged in genocide).

4. Public charge grounds; A person who is likely to become a public charge is inadmissible. The effect of this is that family-based immigrants must have a valid affidavit of support.

5. Labor certifications; A person coming to the US to work must have a labor certification unless they are able to qualify for one of the other employment-based immigration categories.

6. Undocumented entry and immigration status violations; Anyone who comes to the US without permission of the USCIS or State Department is inadmissible.

7. Documentation requirements; If the applicant for entry does not possess a valid immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, they are inadmissible.

8. Ineligibility for citizenship; A person permanently barred from obtaining US citizenship is inadmissible. This category of people primarily includes people who got out of military service based on their alienate and people who left the US to avoid the draft.

9. Previous removal or unlawful presence; Individuals who have been deported are inadmissible. After a first deportation, the person is inadmissible for five years, and after subsequent deportations, the period of inadmissibility is 20 years. A person deported because of an aggravated felony is permanently inadmissible. People who have been unlawfully present in the US for more than 180 days but less than a year are inadmissible for three years. Unlawful presence of more than a year leads to inadmissibility for ten years.

10. Miscellaneous; Persons coming to the US to engage in polygamy are inadmissible. A person is also inadmissible if it is determined that they are required to assist another person who is inadmissible. Persons who have detained a US citizen child outside the US are inadmissible until they comply with any court order regarding the child’s custody. Finally, former US citizens who renounced their citizenship for tax purposes are inadmissible. Back to Top.

H-1B nonimmigrant visa (temporary employment)

An H-1B nonimmigrant visa is a temporary visa for professional workers in specialty occupations that normally require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent as a minimum requirement. Typical examples of H-1B eligible professionals are computer programmers, engineers, teachers, scientists, and lawyers. The H-1B visa is valid for three years and can be renewed for an additional three years.

For H-1Bs, the job and the degree must match. For example, an English major who is talented with computers, but only has limited academic or work experience, may not be eligible for an H-1B as a computer programmer, even if s/he is a better programmer than a computer science major. Generally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look to the degrees held by others with similar jobs at the same company, and across industry, to decide whether an H-1B is appropriate.

For an H-1B, the employer is the petitioner, and they are required to make filings with the Department of Labor and then with USCIS. The employer must promise that it will pay the prevailing wage for that job in that geographic area, as well as to the actual wage paid at the company for others in the same job, among other evidence. Back to Top.

H-4 nonimmigrant visa (derivative of H-1B nonimmigrant visa)

An H-4 visa is a visa issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders. Back to Top.

Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)

The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA) established procedures for certain nationals of Haiti who have been residing in the United States to become lawful permanent residents of this country. The HRIFA regulations allow certain Haitians to apply for lawful permanent resident status without having to first apply for an immigrant visa at a United States consulate abroad. They also waive many of the usual requirements for immigration. Principal applicants wishing to apply for lawful permanent residence under HRIFA initially had until March 31, 2000 to file for adjustment of status. After March 31, 2000, only derivatives are able to apply for lawful permanent residence under HRIFA.

* Note: See Adjustment of status & Derivative Status definitions for more information. Back to Top.

I-291

This is a decision that is sent to individuals who have been denied on their application for status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. Back to Top.

I-601

This form is known as the Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. It is filed by an individual who has been denied admission into the United States. Waivers must establish that a qualifying relative will suffer “extreme hardship” if the individual is not admitted.

* Note: See definition of Extreme Hardship for more information. Back to Top.

I-765

The I-765 is the application to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows an individual to lawfully work in the U.S.. This application can be filled out by an individual applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Temporary Protected Status, among others.

* See Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Deferred Action for more information. Back to Top.

I-765W

The I-765W is a supplemental form to the I-765. Individuals applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) must include this worksheet with their I-765.

* See Deferred Action for more information. Back to Top.

I-821D

The I-821D is the form an individual fills out in order to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The form must be submitted with the I-765 and the I-765W in order to be considered.

* See Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for more information. Back to Top.

I-94

An I-94, or an arrival-departure record, is a document that shows the date an individual arrived in the United States and the “Admitted Until” date, the date when that individual’s authorized period of stay in the United States expires. Back to Top.

Immigration Attorney Help

An immigration lawyer has studied the immigration laws of the United States and has graduated from law school. He or she is licensed to practice law and is regulated by the State and Federal Government. He or she can help obtain legal status from the Department of Homeland Security or represent in Immigration Court.

An immigration lawyer can help:
– Analyze the facts of the case thoroughly.
– Explain all the benefits for which a foreign national may be eligible.
– Recommend the best ways to obtain legal status.
– Complete and submit applications properly.
– Stay current on the new laws that affect foreign nationals.
– Avoid delays and problems with a case whenever possible.
– Discuss the status of a case
– Speak in discussions with the Department of Homeland Security or represent foreign nationals in court.
– File necessary appeals and waivers.
– Utilize the system to a foreign national’s advantage because he or she has the experience to do so. Back to Top.

Immigration Court

Immigration Court refers to the administrative court which hears removal and deportation proceedings. Immigration Judges have the authority to grant foreign nationals legal status in the United States as well as the authority to order them removed (deported). Back to Top.

Immigration Interview

At some point in the naturalization process, individuals must go through an interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While sometimes portrayed like an interrogation involving surprise questions and accusations, the majority of interviews are straightforward, simple affairs. For married couples, this interview is to assess that the marriage is authentic. Back to Top.

Immigration Status

An individual’s status is a legal position held in regards to the rest of the community and not by an act of law or by the consensual acts of the parties, and it is in rem, i.e. these conditions must be recognised by the world. It is the qualities of universality and permanence that distinguish status from consensual relationships such as employment and agency. Back to Top.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (or ITIN) is a United States tax processing number. It is a nine-digit number that begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit. The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a Social Security Number.

ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident individuals may have Federal tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code. Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception.

The program was created for the purpose of tax filing of passive income not salary or hourly income and use for these income sources is an unintended misuse. Receiving an ITIN number does not confer the right to work and receive income in the United States. Back to Top.

Labor Certification

A permanent labor certification issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) allows an employer to hire a foreign worker to work permanently in the United States. In most instances, before the U.S. employer can submit an immigration petition to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the employer must obtain an approved labor certification request from the DOL. The DOL must certify to the USCIS that there are no qualified U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the job at the prevailing wage for that occupation in the area of intended employment and that employment of the foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Back to Top.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)

This is a person born in another country who has been granted permission to live permanently in the United States. This person is given a Green Card, may engage in employment but may not vote in U.S. elections. Generally, after five years, this person can apply for Naturalization. Back to Top.

Marriage fraud

Marriage fraud is when a foreign national marries only to obtain a green card, without planning on sharing a married life with their spouse.

A marriage fraud charge is a life-altering offense with consequences that can tear apart a person’s life. Given the potential of being convicted of a federal crime, seeking legal counsel immediately is the only prudent course of action. Some of the known consequences are: Permanent Deportation with a Lifetime Ban on Ever Becoming a US Citizen and/or Permanent loss of all US benefits. Back to Top.

Marriage Petition

There is no exact definition of marriage in the immigration laws. Marriage is a subject matter of the laws of the state or country where the marriage was entered into. Federal laws usually recognize the validity of a marriage if the marriage was valid in a state or another country where the marriage was entered into. However, according to The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the U.S. Congress interprets that marriage exists only between male and female.

When determining whether a spousal relationship can form the basis for an immigration petition, one should consider the following: The marriage must have been valid at the time it was performed; The marriage must still be in existence at the time the petition is filed; and The marriage must not have been entered into solely for the purpose of conferring lawful permanent resident status on the foreign national.

It is now the administrative view that immigration benefits based on marriage may be sought even if the parties are separated, although the separation may be considered in determining whether the marriage was bona fide. However, if the couple is legally separated (i.e., by written agreement recognized by a court, or by court order) then it no longer qualifies.

* Look at Marriage Fraud for severe consequences. Back to Top.

Motion to Reopen

If you are ordered removed by an Immigration Judge, you may file an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) or file a Motion to Reopen (MTR) before the Immigration Court that ordered you removed.

The purpose of an MTR with the Immigration Court or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is to have the court or the BIA review the case for either of the following reasons:

There is new material evidence that was not available and could not have been discovered at the time of the hearing before the court or review by the BIA.

There are changed conditions, including a change in the law or facts that may make the individual eligible for relief from removal.

* Look at Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) for severe consequences. Back to Top.

Motion to suppress

A motion to suppress is a formal, written request to a judge for an order that certain evidence be excluded from consideration by the judge or jury at trial. The term “motion to suppress” typically encompasses motions in criminal cases where the proposed basis for exclusion arises from the United States Constitution, a state constitution, or a specific statute permitting the exclusion of certain types of evidence (for instance, a complaint that police procedures in a given case violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures).

In Immigration cases, for example, this request may apply where immigration official asks immigration questions without any basis. Back to Top.

Nonimmigrant

Nonimmigrant visas are issued to the citizens of other countries coming to the United States temporarily. To be precise, individuals traveling to the United States for a temporary intention are categorized under U.S. law as nonimmigrants (or temporary visitors). The law requires that these people provide confirmation that they don’t plan to immigrate to the United States. Some of the nonimmigrant categories are students, tourists, treaty investors, foreign government officials, etc. Back to Top.

Nonimmigrant Visa

A visa refers to a certificate issued or a stamp marked on a person’s passport by the immigration authorities of a country to indicate that the person’s credentials have been verified and he or she has been granted permission to enter the country for a temporary stay within a specified period. This permission, however, is conditional and subject to the approval of the immigration officer at the entry point.

* See specific definitions for B-2 nonimmigrant visa (tourist), F non-immigrant visa (student), H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa (Temporary Employment), H-4 Nonimmigrant Visa (Derivative of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa), T-Visa (Human Trafficking Victims) TN NAFTA Visa, U Visa (Victims of Reported Crimes). Back to Top.

Notice to Appear (NTA)

A Notice to Appear is a document that summons a person to appear in court. For immigration purposes, a Notice to Appear form initiates the removal proceeding process by letting the foreign national know why the government believes that s/he should be removed from the U.S. It provides the foreign national with the date of their first court hearing.

* See Removal Proceeding for more information. Back to Top.

Permanent bar

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) renders certain foreign nationals permanently inadmissible based on prior violations of United States immigration law. A foreign national who enters or attempts to enter the U.S. without admission after having been removed or after having accrued more than one year (in the aggregate) of unlawful presence is said to be permanently barred from entering the U.S. However, the foreign national can apply for a waiver after ten years of being outside of the U.S.

*See 3 or 10 year Bars (Unlawful Presence) for more information. Back to Top.

Priority date

The Priority Date refers to the date on which a foreign national submitted documentation establishing eligibility for an immigrant visa. For family-based foreign nationals, a person’s priority date is the date on which he or she filed the family-based preference petition. If the foreign national’s relative has a priority date on or before the date listed in the Visa Bulletin, then they are currently eligible for an immigrant visa. For employment-based cases, it is the date of the filing of the labor certification application, or if no labor certification is required, the date the immigrant visa petition is filed.

* Note: See definition for Visa Bulletin for more information. Back to Top.

Pro Bono

Pro bono publico (usually shortened to pro bono) is a phrase derived from Latin meaning “for the public good”. The term is generally used to describe legal work performed by lawyers without pay, often to help those without financial resources to pay for services, or to support social causes such as youth, battered women, or undocumented individuals. Back to Top.

Prosecutorial discretion

Prosecutorial discretion refers to the fact that under American law, government prosecuting attorneys have nearly absolute powers. A prosecuting attorney has power on various matters including those relating to choosing whether or not to bring criminal charges, deciding the nature of charges, plea bargaining and sentence recommendation. This discretion of the prosecuting attorney is called prosecutorial discretion.

For Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, for example, these judgments include: to stop, question, and arrest individuals; to maintain persons in custody; to place persons in expedited removal or other non removal proceedings; or to settle or dismiss actions. Back to Top.

Provisional waiver I-601A

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now allows certain immediate relatives (the spouse or children of a United States Citizen), who can demonstrate extreme hardship to that US Citizen, to receive a provisional waiver of the 3 or 10 year bars before leaving the U.S.

Qualifying foreign nationals can file Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, before leaving the United States to obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. All individuals eligible for this streamlined process are still required to depart the United States and must meet all legal requirements for issuance of an immigrant visa and admission to the United States.

* See 3 or 10 year bars for more information. Back to Top.

Removal proceedings

Removal proceedings are administrative proceedings to determine a foreign nationa’s removability under United States immigration law. Removal proceedings are typically conducted in Immigration Court (the Executive Office for Immigration Review) by an immigration judge. Before 1997, this process was known as Deportation Proceedings.

Generally speaking, a foreign national who is already in the U.S. cannot be removed without first going to court through a removal proceeding process, while someone arriving at the border or a port of entry can be removed without a hearing or ever seeing a judge. Back to Top.

Social Security Card

In the United States, a Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary working residents (e.g. Deferred Action holders). Its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes. In recent years, however, the SSN has also become an identification number. Back to Top.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a federal law that assists certain children who are foreign nationals in obtaining legal permanent residency. Individuals under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court (“family court”, “orphan’s court”, or some other name, depending on which state it is in) due to abuse, abandonment, neglect, or similar reason under state law, may qualify for SIJS and based on that, apply for adjustment of status to a Lawful Permanent Resident.

In California, non-parent child placement decisions are made in juvenile dependency and delinquency court and probate court. Typically SIJS is granted to children in juvenile dependency court who are placed in foster care. Children under the jurisdiction of the juvenile delinquency court may also be eligible for SIJS. SIJS is a way for a dependent of juvenile court to become a permanent resident of the United States (i.e., get a “green card”). If the juvenile applies for this status and is successful, s/he may remain in the United States, work legally, qualify for in-state tuition at colleges, and in five years apply for United States Citizenship. Back to Top.

Sponsorship (income requirement)

If an individual wants to sponsor a family member for an immigrant visa, you must prove your income is above a certain level. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) intends to prevent foreign nationals from becoming public charges and seeking government assistance, so sponsors are legally bound to support applicants.

The minimum income level to successfully petition for an immigrant visa is 125 percent of the current federal poverty guidelines. This amount varies depending on the size of the household. For 2010, an income of $18,213 satisfied the requirements for a two-person family, an income of $22,887 satisfied the requirements for a three-person family, and $27,562 for a four-person family. Once filed, a petitioner is financially liable until the sponsored individual either obtains U.S. citizenship or can be credited with 40 quarters of work. Back to Top.

T-Visa (human trafficking victims)

T Non-immigrant Status (T Visa) is set aside for those who are or have been victims of human trafficking and are willing to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of acts of trafficking. Back to Top.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

The U.S. government may grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to persons already in the United States who came from certain countries experiencing conditions of war or natural disasters. TPS allows a person to live and work in the United States for a specific time period, but it does not lead to U.S. permanent residence (a green card). Back to Top.

Termination of removal proceedings

Termination of Removal Proceedings means that the foreign national is no longer in removal proceedings. Upon termination, the foreign national reverts to the same immigration status he or she had before commencement of removal proceedings. If the government tries to place that person back into removal proceedings after a case is terminated, it has to file a new Notice to Appear.

* See definition for Notice to Appear for more information. Back to Top.

TN NAFTA visa

A TN NAFTA Visa is a temporary worker visa that allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to work in the United States, assuming that the job requires a Professional and is listed on NAFTA professions list (Check Online for List). Moreover, the Mexican or Canadian applicant will be working for a U.S. employer (self-employment is not allowed). Back to Top.

U-Visa (victims of reported crimes)

The U-Visa was created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act, enacted in October 2000. It is available to foreign nationals who 1) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse resulting from a wide range of criminal activity, and 2) have been helpful, are being helpful or are likely to be helpful with the investigation or prosecution of the crime. The U visa provides eligible foreign nationals with authorized stay in the United States and employment authorization. Furthermore, a foreign national who receives a U visa may be able to obtain relief for his/her spouse, children, and parent (in the case of a child applicant under the age of 16). However, the eligible family member must prove extreme hardship if removed from the United States and provide a certification that states the investigation or prosecution would be harmed without their assistance. Back to Top.

Undocumented

An undocumented person refers to a foreign-born individual that has entered the United States without inspection (and not subsequently obtained any right to remain) or stayed in the United States beyond the expiration date of a visa or other status. This has become a symbolic term used to replace derogatory words like “illegal” or “alien.” Back to Top.

US Citizen

A US Citizen is a person who, by place of birth, nationality of one or both parents, or having successfully completed any applicable requirements, is granted full rights and responsibilities as a member of the United States. Back to Top.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). USCIS is primarily responsible for handling immigration benefits, such as applications for asylum, work permits, green cards, and citizenship. Back to Top.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

A sweeping response to the perception of increased violence against women in America, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 was a broad-based law that created everything from funding of domestic-violence programs to new Civil Rights remedies for women who were victims of gender-based attacks. Under VAWA, battered foreign nationals who are married to, or recently divorced from US Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents can obtain Lawful Permanent Residence or to remove the condition on their 2-year Conditional Permanent Residence cards. If the foreign national has never been married to their abuser, or if their abuser is not a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, then you most likely do not qualify to self-petition for Lawful Permanent Residence under VAWA. However, the foreign national may qualify for a U-visa.

*See definition of U-Visa for more information. Back to Top.

Visa bulletin categories

This is where the Department of State keeps track of whether a foreign national with an approved family or employment-based petition, can see whether their “priority date” is current and whether it is now possible to receive a “green card.” The Visa Bulletin helps applicants estimate how long they will have to wait for their visas.

* See definition of Current/Non-Current for more information. Back to Top.

Voluntary Departure

Voluntary Departure allows an individual to depart from the country, without an order of removal, at his or her own expense. The departure may or may not have been preceded before an immigration judge. The individual allowed to voluntarily depart leaves but does not have a bar to reenter the United States due to a removal order. Back to Top.

Voluntary Return

Through a Voluntary Return, the individual waives rights to a formal hearing before an immigration judge and agrees to pay removal expenses. By doing so, s/he can re-apply for admittance without consequence. Voluntary returns are most common among non-criminal cases where the Border Patrol has made the apprehension. Back to Top.

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