U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Acronyms and Glossary Updated August 2023
You can use this dictionary to quickly look up a definition or explanation for a topic.
Here is a list of some of the most important acronyms used in USCIS immigration:
ACS: American Citizens' Services
AOS: Adjustment of Status
BIA: Board of Immigration Appeals
CBP: US Customs and Border Protection
CFR: Code of Federal Regulations
CIMT: Crime Involving Moral Turpitude
CIS: US Citizenship and Immigration Services
CMT: Crime of Moral Turpitude
ConOff: Consular Officer
COS: Change of Status
CR: Conditional Resident
DED: Deferred Enforced Departure
DSO: Designated School Official
I-94: Arrival-Departure Control Card
I-129: Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
I-129F: Petition for Fiancé(e)
I-130: Petition for Alien Relative
I-131: Application for Travel Document
I-140: Petition for Alien Worker
I-485: Application for Adjustment of Status
I-539: Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status or to Extend Nonimmigrant Stay
I-551: Legal Permanent Resident Card
I-765: Application for Employment Authorization Document
IAP-66: Exchange Visitor Information
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, and there may be other acronyms used in USCIS immigration. It's always a good idea to consult official USCIS resources or seek legal advice for accurate and up-to-date information.
A-Number/Alien Registration Number/Alien Number (A-Number or A#)
A unique seven-, eight- or nine-digit number assigned to a noncitizen by the Department of Homeland Security. Also see USCIS Number.
Outside the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. See INA 101(a)(38).
Note that “abroad” includes the U.S. territory of American Samoa. American Samoa is considered as abroad because it is not included in the definition of United States at INA 101(a)(38).
A modification of an existing practice or procedure that will enable an applicant with a disability to participate in the application process.
These are people who are connected to BIA-recognized organizations. These representatives can charge or accept only very small fees for their services. For a list of these BIA-accredited representatives, visit justice.gov/eoir/recognition-accreditationroster-reports.
This is citizenship conferred at birth on children born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent(s).
This is when proceedings have been postponed to another time or location.
USCIS’ review of a petition or application to determine if a petitioner or applicant is eligible for that immigration benefit .
This is the process that you can use to apply for lawful permanent resident status (also known as applying for a Green Card) when you are present in the United States. This means that you may get a Green Card without having to return to your home country to complete visa processing.
Adjustment to immigrant status
This procedure allows certain noncitizens already in the United States to apply for immigrant status. Noncitizens admitted to the United States in a nonimmigrant, refugee, or parolee category may have their status changed to that of lawful permanent resident if they are eligible to receive an immigrant visa and one is immediately available.
Eligibility of an alien to lawfully enter the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.
Admission Number or I-94 Number
An 11-digit number found on Form I-94 or Form I-94A Arrival-Departure Record.
This is a decision from the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) that binds all USCIS adjudication officers, but has not yet published as a precedent decision.
Advance parole allows you to travel back to the United States without applying for a visa. A transportation company (such as an airline) can accept an advance parole document instead of a visa as proof that you are authorized to travel to the United States. An advance parole document does not replace your passport. In most cases, you must have your advance parole document before you depart the United States.
This is a document in which a person gives facts, and swears that the facts are true and accurate.
An affidavit of support is a legally enforceable contract, and the sponsor’s responsibility usually lasts until the family member or other individual either becomes a U.S. citizen, or is credited with 40 quarters of work (usually 10 years).
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, this is an noncitizen coming temporarily to the United States to perform agricultural labor or services, as defined by the secretary of Labor.
Any person not a citizen or national of the United States as the term “alien” is defined in section 101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(3)). This term may include a stateless person and is synonymous with “noncitizen” and “foreign national.”
These are noncitizens born to U.S. citizen fathers in Vietnam after Jan. 1, 1962, and before Jan. 1, 1976. Spouses, children, and parents or guardians may accompany the noncitizen to the United States.
Pub. L. 97-359 (Act of 10/22/82) allows certain Amerasian children to immigrate to the United States. To qualify for benefits under this law, an noncitizen must have been born in Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam after Dec. 31, 1950, and before Oct. 22, 1982, and have been fathered by a U.S. citizen.
Application Support Center
USCIS offices where applicants usually have their biometrics (such as fingerprints, photograph and signature) taken.
This is when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests a removable noncitizen. Each apprehension of the same noncitizen in a fiscal year is counted separately.
This is a common tradition in many cultures and is not the same as forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, families may play a role in choosing the marriage partner, but both individuals are free to choose whether or not to marry and when to get married. A forced marriage happens when families or others both arrange the marriage and deny the individuals to be married the ultimate choice of whether, when, and whom to marry.
Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94/I-94A)
The Arrival and Departure Record is the I-94, in either paper or electronic format, issued by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer to foreign visitors entering the United States. As of April 30, 2013, most Arrival and/or Departure records are created electronically upon arrival. For more information, see uscis.gov/i-94information.
An alien in the United States or at a port of entry who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.
This is an attorney who has properly filed a Form G-28 in a particular case and is held responsible as an attorney for the respondent.
A Department of State J-1 cultural exchange program that provides exchange visitors between 18 and 26 years old the chance to participate in the home life of a U.S. host family. All au pair participants provide child care services to the host family and attend a U.S. post-secondary educational institution.
This is someone who is authorized by the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) to provide immigration services to the public. DOJ-recognized organizations and accredited representatives provide essential support to USCIS and the public. They provide educational materials and legal services to help immigrants navigate the immigration system. Authorized providers can help clients prepare forms and are also allowed to attend USCIS interviews with their clients.
An alien who is sponsored by a relative or a business, or has self-petitioned for an immigration benefit. A “principal beneficiary” is a alien who is named on an immigrant or nonimmigrant petition or application. A “derivative beneficiary” is an immediate family member of the principal beneficiary who may be eligible to receive the same immigration status as the principal beneficiary based on their family relationship.
This is an abbreviation for the Board of Immigration Appeals.
The processes used to identify people based on their physical traits, including fingerprints, photograph and signature.
A waiver issued by USCIS that means the applicant does not have to file a form or pay a fee. Find a detailed explanation of blanket waivers related to specific categories in each volume of the USCIS Policy Manual.
Board of Immigration Appeals
The part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review that is authorized to review most decisions of immigration judges and some types of decisions of Department of Homeland Security officers.
The amount of money set by the Department of Homeland Security or an immigration judge as a condition to release a person from detention for an immigration court hearing at a later date.
This is an immigration court hearing on a request to redetermine a bond set by the Department of Homeland Security. Bond proceedings are separate from other immigration court proceedings.
An noncitizen resident of the United States reentering the country after an absence of less than six months in Canada or Mexico; or
A nonresident noncitizen entering the United States across the Canadian border for stays of no more than six months or across the Mexican border for stays of no more than 72 hours.
The obligation of a party to establish a fact by presenting evidence in support of that fact.
This is an noncitizen coming temporarily to the United States to engage in commercial transactions which do not involve gainful employment in the United States (for example, those engaged in international commerce on behalf of a foreign firm, who are not employed in the U.S. labor market, and who receive no salary from U.S. sources).
Allows foreign students requesting to change to H-1B status to extend their status and employment authorization through Sept. 30 of the calendar year for which the H-1B petition is being filed, but only if the employment start date in H-1B status will begin on Oct. 1.The extension is automatically terminated if the petition is rejected, denied or revoked.
Carrier documentation allows an airline or other transportation carrier to board permanent residents who have temporarily been outside the United States and whose Green Card or re-entry permit has been lost, stolen, or destroyed.
Casual domestic employment
Sporadic, irregular or intermittent domestic service a person provides in a private home.
An abbreviation for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security.
Certificate of Citizenship
This is an identity document proving U.S. citizenship. Certificates of Citizenship are issued to derivative citizens and those who acquired U.S. citizenship (see definitions for Acquired citizenship and Derivative Citizenship).
Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Form DS-2019)
A Department of State-controlled document required to support an application for an exchange visitor visa (J-1) prepared by the program sponsor, which can only be produced through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status
For Academic and Language School (Form I-20) – A Department of Homeland Security-controlled document required to support an application for a student visa (F-1 or M-1) prepared by the sponsoring school, which can only be produced through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Certificate of Naturalization
A certificate given at the oath ceremony. It serves as evidence of your citizenship.
Certificate of translation
This is a translator’s formal statement showing they have accurately translated a foreign language document into English
Code of Federal Regulations abbreviation.
The INA provides two different definitions of “child.” One definition of child applies to immigration petitions and lawful permanent resident applications. The other definition of child applies to citizenship and naturalization.
One significant difference between the two definitions of child is that a stepchild is not included in the definition relating to citizenship and naturalization. Although a stepchild may be the stepparent’s “child” for purposes of visa issuance or adjustment of status, the stepchild is not the stepparent’s “child” for purposes of citizenship and naturalization. A stepchild is ineligible for citizenship or naturalization through their U.S. citizen stepparent unless the stepchild is adopted and the adoption meets certain requirements.
Definition for Purposes of Immigration Petitions and Lawful Permanent Residence Applications
Generally, for purposes of immigration petitions and lawful permanent residence (Green Card) applications, a child is an unmarried person under 21 years of age who is:
A child born in wedlock (that is, to parents who are married to each other);
A child born through assisted reproductive technology to a non-genetic gestational mother who is also the legal mother under the law of the relevant jurisdiction at the time of birth;
A stepchild, if the child was under 18 years of age at the time of the marriage creating the stepchild relationship;
A legitimated child (a child born out of wedlock who has since been placed in the same legal position as a child born in wedlock);
A child born out of wedlock, when a benefit is sought on the basis of the child’s relationship with their mother, or to their father if the father has (or had) a bona fide relationship with the child;
A child adopted while under age 16 (or 18 if the sibling exception applies) who has jointly resided with and been in the legal custody of the adopting parent for at least two years (who meets the requirements of INA 101(b)(1)(E));
An orphan who has been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen or who is coming to the United States for adoption by a U.S. citizen (who meets the requirements of INA 101(b)(1)(F)); or
A Hague Convention adoptee who has been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen or who is coming to the United States for adoption by a U.S. citizen (who meets the requirements of INA 101(b)(1)(G)).
Definition for Purposes of Citizenship and Naturalization
For the definition of a child for purposes of citizenship and naturalization, please refer to the USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 12, Citizenship and Naturalization, Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens, Chapter 2, Definition of Child and Residence for Citizenship and Naturalization, Section A, Definition of Child [12 USCIS-PM H.2(A)].
A medically trained and licensed physician having no less than 4 years’ experience who is designated by USCIS to perform immigration medical exams in a state where the physician is licensed and practicing medicine. For medical examinations performed abroad, please see panel physician
IMPORTANT: Medical examinations will not be recognized if they are given by a doctor in the U.S. who is not a civil surgeon. Please make sure that your appointment is with a civil surgeon, or your results and documents will be invalid.
Code of Federal Regulations
Federal departments and agencies issue regulations to interpret and implement the general provisions of laws enacted by Congress. These regulations apply the law to daily situations. Once regulations are published in the Federal Register, they are collected and published in the Code of Federal Regulations, commonly known as the CFR. The CFR is arranged by subject heading and in general follows the structure of the United States Code.
Any alien granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis (for example, a spouse of a U.S. citizen or an immigrant investor) who must petition to remove the conditions of their status before the second anniversary of the approval date of their conditional status.
H-1B petitions with anything other than “New employment” or “New concurrent employment” selected on Part 2, Question 2 of the Form I-129, whose first decision is an approval. This includes, for example, continuing employment, change of employer, and amended petitions.
H-1B petitions with anything other than “New employment” or “New concurrent employment” selected on Part 2, Question 2 of the Form I-129 whose first decision is a denial. This includes, for example, continuing employment, change of employer, and amended petitions.
The length of time a person has maintained a permanent home in the United States after being admitted as a lawful permanent resident. See the Policy Manual for more information.
Country of -
Birth: The country where a person is born.
Chargeability: The independent country to which an immigrant entering under the preference system is accredited for purposes of numerical limitations.
Citizenship: The country a person is born in or naturalized in (and has not renounced or lost citizenship).
Former Allegiance: The previous country of citizenship of a naturalized U.S. citizen.
(Last) Residence: The country that an noncitizen habitually resided in before entering the United States.
Nationality: The country of a person’s citizenship or country in which the person is deemed a national.
This is an noncitizen serving in a capacity required for normal operations and service on board a vessel or aircraft. Crewmen are admitted for 29 days with no extensions. The INA defines two categories of crewmen: D-1, departing from the United States with the vessel or aircraft on which they arrived, or some other vessel or aircraft; and D-2, departing from Guam with the vessel on which they arrived.
Status accorded 1) Cubans who entered illegally or were paroled into the United States between April 15, 1980, and October 10, 1980, and 2) Haitians who entered illegally or were paroled into the country before January 1, 1981. Cubans and Haitians meeting these criteria who have continuously resided in the United States since before January 1, 1982, and who were known to Immigration before that date, may adjust to permanent residence under a provision of the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986.
Curricular Practical Training
A program that allows students to accept paid alternative work or study, internships, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that employers offer though cooperative agreements with the school.
The date the U.S. Department of State uses to determine 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 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 Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program launched in 2012. For more information, go to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 2017 Announcement page.
Declaration under penalty of perjury
This is a person’s statement saying the information they have provided is true. For example, a declaration may list the facts and then state, “l declare under penalty of perjury (under the laws of the United States of America) that the foregoing is true and correct.”
Defensive Asylum Application
This is an asylum application filed with an immigration judge during removal proceedings in immigration court as a defense against removal from the United States. Immigration courts are part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).
A type of prosecutorial discretion that allows an individual to remain in the United States for a set period of time, unless the deferred action is terminated for some reason. Deferred action is determined on a case-by-case basis and only establishes lawful presence. It does not provide immigration status or benefits of any kind. DACA is one type of deferred action.
Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
The president may authorize DED as part of his power to conduct foreign relations and 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.
Denial (as compared to reject) – When USCIS notifies applicants or petitioners that the benefit will not be granted, or that they have not shown they are eligible for the benefit they have requested.
Department of Homeland Security
Department of the executive branch of the U.S. government charged with homeland security. This includes:
Preventing terrorism and managing risks to critical infrastructure;
Securing and managing the border;
Enforcing and administering immigration laws;
Safeguarding and securing cyberspace; and
Ensuring resilience to disasters.
Department of the executive branch of the U.S. government with the primary responsibilities to:
Enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law;
Ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic;
Provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime;
Seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and
Ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.
Department of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government that fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements. In carrying out this mission, the Department administers a variety of Federal labor laws including those that guarantee workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions; a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay; freedom from employment discrimination; unemployment insurance; and other income support.
This is a noncitizen who has been admitted into the United States subject to any grounds of removal specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act. This includes any noncitizen illegally in the United States, regardless of whether they entered the country by fraud or misrepresentation or entered legally but subsequently violated the terms of their nonimmigrant classification or status.
This is the formal removal of an noncitizen from the United States when they have been found removable for violating the immigration laws. An immigration judge orders deportation without imposing or contemplating any punishment. Before April 1997, deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 consolidated these procedures. After April 1, 1997, noncitizens in and admitted to the United States may be subject to removal based on deportability. Now called “removal,” this function is managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Citizenship conveyed to children through the naturalization of their parents or, under certain circumstances, to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, provided certain conditions are met.
This is the primary applicant’s spouse and/or children who will obtain status from the primary applicant.
Designated School Official (DSO)
The person designated by the head of a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved school to support the principal designated school official and maintain records in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
When a person is held in the custody of an agency in a prison or similar place.
An abbreviation for the Department of Homeland Security.
Directorates and Program Offices
Groups of offices within USCIS that perform certain tasks to fulfill the USCIS mission.
Disabilities, Employees/Individuals with
Individuals who have physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more of their major life activities, have a record of such impairments, or are regarded as having such impairments.
See Special Situations.
USCIS’ ability to decide the outcome of a request by weighing positive and negative factors in the applicant’s case, based on the facts and circumstances the applicant describes in the benefit application.
Unfair treatment in the workplace because of your race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), citizenship or immigration status, national origin, disability, age (age 40 or older) or genetic information.
This category of immigrants replaces the earlier categories for nationals of underrepresented countries and countries adversely affected by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (Pub. L. 89-236). The annual limit on diversity immigration was 40,000 during fiscal years 1992-94, under a transitional diversity program, and 55,000 beginning in fiscal year 1995, under a permanent diversity program.
This is the DHS mechanism for tracking the case status of potentially removable noncitizens.
An abbreviation for the U.S. Department of Justice.
An abbreviation for the U.S. Department of Labor.
Individuals who perform child care, household tasks, or upkeep of a home or surrounding yard on a regular basis in return for wages or other benefits, and who are not independent contractors or providing services on a sporadic basis or for independent contractors or separate businesses.
See Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status.
Notation on certain nonimmigrant Forms I-94 indicating that a person, such as an F-1 nonimmigrant student, is authorized to remain in the United States as long as they maintain a valid status.
E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify electronically compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, against government records, including the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program, sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises based on proposals for promoting economic growth.
An abbreviation for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A person who provides services or labor for an employer for wages or other remuneration (does not include an independent contractor or those engaged in casual domestic employment).
A person or entity, including an agent or anyone acting directly or indirectly in this interest, who engages the services or labor of an employee for wages or other remuneration to perform work in the United States. The term employer includes agricultural recruiters and referrers for a fee. In the case of an independent contractor or contract labor or services, the term employer means the independent contractor or contractor and not the person or entity using the contract labor.
A series of civil fines or criminal penalties for violating regulations that prohibit employers from hiring, recruiting or referring for a fee aliens known to be unauthorized to work in the United States, or continuing to employ aliens knowing they are unauthorized, or hiring an individual without completing Form I-9.
Any service or labor performed by an employee for an employer within the United States, not including casual domestic employment or duties performed by nonimmigrant crewmen (D-1 or D-2).
Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766/EAD)
A general term used to describe a card USCIS issues on Form I-766, Employment Authorization Card, to aliens who are authorized to work in the United States. The card contains a photograph of the individual and sometimes his or her fingerprint. An alien who has an EAD usually has open-market employment authorization, but there are exceptions.
An employer who has enrolled in E-Verify and has agreed to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
This is an abbreviation for the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Agency that enforces federal laws that prohibit discrimination against a job applicant or employee because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
An alien admitted temporarily to the United States in J-1 status as a participant in a program approved by the secretary of state for the purpose of teaching, instructing, lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills or receiving training.
Executive actions have the same effect as a law, but are not subject to the legislative process.
These include presidential proclamations, presidential directives, executive orders, and presidential memoranda.
Executive Office for Immigration Review
This is the part of the Department of Justice that is responsible for immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals.
A person who has been admitted to the United States as a full-time academic student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school or other academic institution, or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma or certificate, and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.
Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C)
FGM/C refers to cutting and other procedures that injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The U.S. government opposes FGM/C, no matter the type, degree, or severity, and no matter what the motivation for performing it. The U.S. government considers FGM/C to be a serious human rights abuse, gender-based violence, and, when done to children, a form of child abuse.
Offices within a USCIS district that provide services and enforcement functions for a particular portion of the district.
This refers to a USCIS district office or a sub-office of that district that maintains and controls noncitizen files, commonly called A-Files.
This is the 12-month period that begins on Oct. 1 of one year and ends on Sept. 30 of the following year.
This is an abbreviation for the Freedom of Information Act.
This is a marriage that takes place without the consent of one or both people in the marriage. Consent means that you have given your full, free, and informed agreement to marry your intended spouse and to the timing of the marriage. Forced marriage may occur when family members or others use physical or emotional abuse, threats, or deception to force you to marry without your consent.
Victims of forced marriage may be girls, boys, women, or men. Forced marriage can affect individuals of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or national origin, from all economic and educational backgrounds.
Foreign government official
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, this is an noncitizen (and their spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children) who comes temporarily to the United States who has been accredited by a foreign government to function as an:
Career diplomatic or consular officer;
Other accredited official; or
Attendant, servant, or personal employee of an accredited official.
Foreign information media representative
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, this is an noncitizen coming temporarily to the United States as a bona fide representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media, and their spouse and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
A person without U.S. citizenship or nationality (may include a stateless person). This term is synonymous with “noncitizen” and with “alien” as defined in section 101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(3)).
Foreign State of Chargeability
See country of - chargeability.
F-1 Nonimmigrant Student — An alien who has been admitted to the United States as a full-time academic student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school or other academic institution, or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students; or
M-1 Nonimmigrant Student — A alien who has been admitted to the United States to participate in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training.
Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal statute that:
Says people generally have a right to request access to federal agency records; and
Establishes a presumption that records from agencies and departments of the Executive Branch of the U. S. government are accessible to the people, except when the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions.
Geographic area of chargeability
This refers to the five regions that the world is divided into—Africa, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and South Asia, and the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—for the initial admission of refugees to the United States.
Also known as a Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551, or alien registration card. USCIS issues Green Cards to aliens as evidence of their lawful permanent resident status in the United States. For Form I-9, it is acceptable as proof of identity and employment authorization. Although some Green Cards do not have an expiration date, most are valid for 10 years. Cards issued to individuals with conditional permanent resident status are valid for two years.
These were statutory limits on immigration to the United States in effect from 1968 to October 1978.
The actual commencement of employment of an employee for wages or other remuneration.
Locations associated with an MOU where employees are hired.
Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, is a form of modern-day slavery where traffickers lure individuals with false promises of employment and a better life.
Individuals who are outside of the United States may be able to request parole into the United States based on humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons. See Parole.
See certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant (F-1) student status – For Academic and Language School.
See arrival-departure record.
An abbreviation for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.
An abbreviation for the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
Immediate relatives include:
The spouses of U.S. citizens,
The children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of U.S. citizens,
The parents of U.S. citizens at least 21 years old, and
Widows or widowers of U.S. citizens if the U.S. citizen filed a petition before his or her death or if the widow(er) files a petition within 2 years of the citizen’s death.
Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER)
A section within the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice that enforces the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. § 1324b). This office protects U.S. citizens and employment-authorized individuals from employment discrimination based on citizenship, immigration status or national origin, with respect to hiring, firing and recruitment or referral for a fee, and discrimination during the employment verification process.
Public Law 101-649 (Act of November 29, 1990), which increased the limits on legal immigration to the United States, revised all grounds for exclusion and deportation, authorized temporary protected status to aliens of designated countries, revised and established new nonimmigrant admission categories, revised and extended the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, and revised naturalization authority and requirements.
Immigration and Nationality Act
An act of Congress that, along with other immigration laws, treaties and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalization and removal of aliens.
This is an attorney appointed by the Attorney General to act as an administrative judge within the Executive Office for Immigration Review. They are qualified to conduct specified classes of proceedings, including removal proceedings.
Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986
This is Pub. L. 99-639 (Act of 11/10/86), which was passed to deter immigration-related marriage fraud. Its major provision stipulates that noncitizens deriving their immigrant status based on a marriage of less than two years are conditional immigrants. To remove their conditional status they must apply at a USCIS office during the 90-day period before their second anniversary of receiving conditional status. If they cannot show their marriage was and is a valid one, we may terminate their conditional immigrant status and they may become deportable.
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA),Public Law 99-603, 100 Stat. 3359 (enacted November 6, 1986)
An act of Congress passed into law to control and deter illegal immigration to the United States. Its major provisions stipulate legalization of undocumented aliens who had been continuously unlawfully present since 1982, legalization of certain agricultural workers, sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers and increased enforcement at U.S. borders.
Immigration scams are fraudulent or deceptive practices that target immigrants.
Common immigration scams include Temporary Protected Status re-registration, the visa lottery, and “notarios públicos.”
An abbreviation for the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Not being allowed to lawfully enter the United States or obtain a visa abroad based on acts or conduct that is listed as an inadmissibility ground in section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
This is an noncitizen seeking admission at a port of entry who does not meet the criteria in the INA for admission. The noncitizen may be placed in removal proceedings or, under certain circumstances, allowed to withdraw their application for admission.
A human being (does not include a non-human entity that is treated as a person for limited legal purposes, unless otherwise specified). This term is synonymous with “person” when it is used to describe a human being. The term may also refer to a characteristic of a single person, thing, or one particular member of a class or group.
H-1B petitions with “New employment” or “New concurrent employment” selected on Part 2, Question 2 of the Form I-129 whose first decision is an approval.
H-1B petitions with “New employment” or “New concurrent employment” selected on Part 2, Question 2 of the Form I-129 whose first decision is a denial.
An abbreviation for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which was abolished in 2003. Its functions are now performed by three agencies of the Department of Homeland Security: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Something that comes and goes in intervals.
An abbreviation for the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, Public Law 99-603, 100 Stat. 3359 (enacted Nov. 6, 1986).
An occurrence or activity that lacks in continuity or regularity.
The Internal Revenue Service is the nation's tax collection agency and administers the Internal Revenue Code enacted by Congress. (www.irs.gov)
The government’s authority to govern or enforce laws or to enforce them in a certain area or over certain people.
L-1A Nonimmigrant Classification
This classification enables:
• A U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States; and
• A foreign company which does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.
A Department of Labor certification required for U.S. employers seeking to employ individuals whose immigration to the United States is based on job skills or nonimmigrant temporary workers coming to perform services for which qualified authorized workers are unavailable in the United States.
Labor certification is issued by the secretary of labor and contains attestations by U.S. employers of the numbers of U.S. workers available to undertake the employment sought by an applicant, and the effect of the alien’s employment on the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed. Determination of labor availability in the United States is made at the time of a visa application and at the location where the applicant wishes to work.
Family name or surname.
Lawful Permanent Resident
Any person not a citizen of the United States who is living in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. Also known as “permanent resident alien,” “resident alien permit holder,” and “Green Card holder.”
This refers to the maximum of 55,000 visas that were issued to spouses and children of noncitizens legalized under the provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA),Public Law 99-603, 100 Stat. 3359 (enacted November 6, 1986) in each of fiscal years 1992-94.
These are certain illegal noncitizens who are eligible to apply for temporary resident status under the legalization provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
This is an abbreviation for Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act.
This occurs when an immigration court clerk stamps a complete asylum application as “lodged not filed” at an immigration court window before the application is filed with an immigration judge at an immigration hearing.
EOIR uses the date the immigration judge accepts the application at a hearing as the date it is “filed.” However, we use the date the asylum application was stamped “lodged not filed” as an application filing date for purposes of calculating the 180-day asylum EAD clock.
An abbreviation for lawful permanent resident.
A woman’s last name or family name at birth, before she married.
The address where you would like to receive written correspondence from USCIS.
A medical waiver allows an immigration applicant to be admitted into, or remain in the United States despite having a health condition identified as grounds of inadmissibility. Terms and conditions can be applied to a medical waiver on a case-by-case basis.
The first letter of the second given name.
A person who leaves their country of origin to seek residence in another country.
This is an acronym for the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act
This is the North American Industry Classification System Code: A character string that refers to an industry classification within the North American Industry Classification System.
National of the United States
A person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States (for example, persons born in American Samoa or Swains Island).
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, this is an noncitizen coming temporarily to the United States as a member of the armed forces or as a civilian employed by the armed forces on assignment with a foreign government signatory to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and the noncitizen’s spouse and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
The manner in which a person not born in the United States voluntarily becomes a U.S. citizen.
We issue this certificate to a person who becomes a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process after their 18th birthday.
A person who appears in a lawsuit to act for the benefit of an alien who is under the age of 16, or is incapacitated or incompetent, who has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being a victim of qualifying criminal activity. The next friend is not a party to the legal proceeding and is not appointed as a guardian.
A person without U.S. citizenship or nationality (may include a stateless person). This term is synonymous with “foreign national” and with “alien” as defined in section 101(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(3)).
An alien who is admitted to the United States for a specific temporary period of time. There are clear conditions on their stay. There are a large variety of nonimmigrant categories, and each exists for a specific purpose and has specific terms and conditions. Nonimmigrant classifications include:
Foreign government officials;
Visitors for business and for pleasure;
Aliens in transit through the United States;
Treaty traders and investors;
Temporary workers and trainees;
Representatives of foreign information media;
Fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens;
NATO officials; and
Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.
Nonpreference visas were available to qualified applicants not entitled to a visa under the preferences until the category was eliminated by the Immigration Act of 1990.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Public Law 103-182 (Act of Dec. 8, 1993), created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. Accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists and teachers fall into this category.
In many Latin American countries, the term “notario público” (which is Spanish for “notary public”) means something very different than what it means in the United States. In many Spanish-speaking nations, “notarios” are powerful attorneys with special legal credentials. In the U.S., however, notary publics are people appointed by state governments to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. A notario público is not authorized to provide you with any legal services related to immigration. Only an attorney or an accredited representative working for a Department of Justice (DOJ)-recognized organization can give you legal advice.
Number as in A-Number, please see the A-Number/Alien Registration Number/Alien Number (A-Number or A#) entry.
Numerical limit, exempt from
Lawful permanent residents who are exempt from the provisions of the flexible numerical limit of 675,000 set by the Immigration Act of 1990.
Nursing Relief Act of 1989
Pub. L. 101-238 (Act of 12/18/89) allows certain nonimmigrants to adjust to permanent resident status if:
They had H-1 nonimmigrant status as registered nurses as of Sept. 1, 1989;
They had been employed in that capacity for at least 3 years; and
Their continued nursing employment meets certain labor certification requirements.
For an noncitizen entering the United States or adjusting without a labor certification, occupation refers to the employment held in the country of last legal residence or in the United States. For an noncitizen with a labor certification, occupation is the employment for which certification has been issued.
The Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman is an impartial resource that makes recommendations to us on how to improve services, increase efficiencies, and provide a more meaningful experience. We take these recommendations seriously, review them thoroughly, and, where possible, implement them.
Panama Canal Act Immigrants
These are special immigrants that fall into one of three categories established by Pub. L. 96-70 (Act of 9/27/79):
Certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government, their spouses and accompanying children;
Certain former employees of the U.S. government in the Panama Canal Zone who are Panamanian nationals, their spouses and children; and
Certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1, 1979, their spouses and children.
A medically trained, licensed and experienced doctor practicing overseas who is appointed by the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. These medical professionals receive U.S. immigration-focused training to provide examinations as required by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. For medical examinations given in the U.S., please see civil surgeon.
IMPORTANT: Please make sure that your appointment is with a civil surgeon or your results and documents will be invalid.
The discretionary decision that allows inadmissible aliens to leave an inspection facility freely so that, although they are not admitted to the United States, they are permitted to be physically present in the United States. Parole is granted on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Parole is not an “admission” or “entry.” The paroled alien is treated as an applicant for admission. Parole falls under INA section 212(d)(5)(A).
Discretion that allows aliens who are already physically present in the U.S. without inspection or admission an opportunity to stay in U.S. for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Parole in place falls under INA section 212(d)(5)(A).
This is an individual who is paroled into the United States. See Parole.
Regular, repeated and intentional acts, but does not include isolated, sporadic or accidental acts.
Wages or other remuneration.
This is the maximum number of family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas that we can issue to citizens of any country in a fiscal year. We calculate the limits each fiscal year depending on the total number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas available. We cannot issue more than 7% of visas to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year, and we cannot issue more than 2% of visas to any one dependency of any independent country. The per-country limit does not indicate, however, that a country is entitled to the maximum number of visas each year, just that it cannot receive more than that number. Because of the combined workings of the preference system and per-country limits, most countries do not reach this level of visa issuance.
See Lawful Permanent Resident.
See Lawful Permanent Resident.
Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551)
Also known as a Green Card or alien registration card, this card is issued by USCIS to aliens as evidence of their lawful permanent resident status in the United States. For Form I-9, it is acceptable as proof of identity and employment authorization. Although some Permanent Resident Cards contain no expiration date, most are valid for 10 years. Cards held by individuals with conditional permanent resident status are valid for two years.
A human being (does not include a non-human entity that is treated as a person for limited legal purposes, unless otherwise specified). This term is synonymous with “individual” when it is used to describe a human being. Note that this definition is different than the one Congress has provided for determining the meaning of federal statutes, according to which “person” includes “corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals,” unless the context indicates otherwise. See 1 U.S.C. 1.
This is a person who files an immigration petition or application.
The address where you physically reside.
Any location in the United States or its territories that is designated as a point of entry for aliens and U.S. citizens. All district offices and service centers are also considered ports, because they become locations of entry for aliens adjusting to immigrant status.
This is a person who is authorized to file immigration petitions or applications with USCIS on behalf of noncitizens.
This is the complete immigration inspection of airport passengers before departing a foreign country. These immigrants do not need another inspection when they arrive in the United States (however, nonimmigrant noncitizens must submit Form I-94).
This is a published decision of the BIA or the AAO that is binding on all USCIS officers in the administration of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Preference System (Immigration Act of 1990)
The nine categories since fiscal year 1992 among which the family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant preference visas are distributed. The family-sponsored preferences are: 1) unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 2) spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent resident aliens; 3) married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 4) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The employment-based preferences are: 1) priority workers (persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers); 2) professionals with advanced degrees or aliens with exceptional ability; 3) skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers; 4) special immigrants; and 5) employment creation immigrants (investors).
Principal Designated School Official (PDSO)
An individual designated by the head of an Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved school to have primary responsibility for students in that program and maintaining records in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
This is an noncitizen who applies for immigrant status and from whom another noncitizen may derive lawful status under immigration law or regulations (usually spouses and minor unmarried children).
The priority date determines when it’s a person’s turn to apply for an immigrant visa. In family immigration, the priority date is the date when a person files a petition at a DHS office or submitted to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. In employment immigration, the priority date may be the date the Department of Labor receives a labor certification application.
This is a list of local organizations that provide free legal services, and is usually available at each local USCIS office.
For more information about finding legal services, please visit uscis.gov/legaladvice.
These are an estimate of how long it will take to process your case from start to finish. Each case is different, so some cases may take longer than others to process. You can find our average processing times on our website. If you use your receipt number to check your case status, please remember that we will only research your case if it is beyond our current processing times.
The legal authority to choose whether or not to take action against an individual for committing an offense.
Waiver for individuals who are otherwise inadmissible due to more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States, based on a showing of extreme hardship to certain U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members, which allows the individual to return after departure for an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. For more information, go to the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers page.
These are people who will provide free services. These representatives must know about immigration law and the rules of practice in court. Law school students and graduates, and people with good moral character who have a personal or professional affiliation with you (a relative, neighbor, clergy, co-worker, or friend) are all examples of qualified representatives.
Permanent or conditional residents should apply for a re-entry permit if they will be outside the United States for one year or more. A valid re-entry permit allows you to apply for admission to the U.S. without having to get a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
The receipt number is a unique 13-character identifier that USCIS provides for each application or petition it receives. The agency uses it to identify and track its cases.
The receipt number consists of three letters-for example, EAC, WAC, LIN, SRC, NBC, MSC or IOE-and 10 numbers. You can find it on notices of action USCIS has sent you.