GLOSSARY OF IMMIGRATION TERMS
Abuser: A citizen of the United States or LPR who physically, mentally or emotionally abuses a non-citizen residing in the United States with whom he/she is involved in an intimate relationship.
Acquired Citizenship: Citizenship conferred at birth to a child born outside of the United States or its territories to United States citizen parent(s).
Adjustment of Status: The process of applying for lawful permanent residence for persons residing in the United States who have a visa available to them through a relative or employment, if they are still in lawful status. An alien who entered the United States as a nonimmigrant, parolee or refugee, and who has a visa immediately available to him/her, may adjust his/her status in the United States. Immigrant status begins as of the date of adjustment and is considered the date of admission as an immigrant. From October 1994 to April, 30, 2001, Section 245(i) of the INA permitted persons residing illegally in the United States to adjust their status by applying with the CIS or before an Immigration Court for adjustment and paying an additional "super fee" as penalty for their illegal residence. Since April 30, 2001, any person illegally residing in the United State may not adjust his/her status unless the visa petition or application for labor certification that he/she is using to adjust was filed prior to April 30, 2001. If the visa petition or application for labor certification was filed after January 1, 1998, the person applying for adjustment must have been present in the United States on December 21, 2000.
Admission: Legal arrival into the United States or adjustment to lawful permanent residence.
Adult: A person who has attained the age of either 18 years or 21 years, depending on the legal circumstances.
Aggravated felony: A criminal offense (which may or may not be a state felony offense) as defined in Section 101(a)(43) the INA. A person convicted of an aggravated felony is precluded from most forms of relief from removal and faces removal from the United States for a period of twenty (20) years if ICE or the Immigration Court enters an order of removal.
Agricultural Worker: A person who, as a nonimmigrant worker, may enter the United States temporarily to perform agricultural labor or services, as defined by the Secretary of Labor.
Alien: A person who is not a citizen or national of the United States.
Amerasian Act of October 22, 1982: The law enacted to provide for immigration benefits to children born in Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Thailand, or Vietnam after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, whose fathers were citizens of the United States.
Amerasian Act of December 22, 1987: The law enacted to provide immigrant visas to persons born in Vietnam after January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976, whose fathers were citizens of the United States. Such persons may be accompanied to the United States by his/her spouse, children and parents or guardians.
AntiTerrorism and Expedited Death Penalty Act of 1996: Abbreviated AEDPA. Law enacted on April 26, 1996 which, among other things, expanded the definition of "aggravated felony" and placed restrictions on relief from deportation for aliens convicted of crimes in the United States.
Asylee: A person granted asylum in the United States after applying with the CIS or the Immigration Court. An asylee may apply for adjustment of status after one year of continuous presence in the United States and their children and spouse may be included in such application if the relationship existed at the time the asylum application is approved.
Asylum: Protection from removal granted by CIS or the Immigration Court based on an application which demonstrates past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution based on the alien's race, nationality, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In recent years, asylum has opened up to include gender-based asylum for women and sexual orientation as a particular social group for homosexuals and lesbians.
Beneficiary: Any alien on whose behalf a United States citizen, LPR, or employer has filed a petition to receive immigration benefits, generally lawful permanent resident status.
Board of Immigration Appeals: Abbreviated BIA or the Board. The first appellate body to hear the appeal from the decision of an Immigration Judge or CIS (on visa petition appeals).
Bond: An amount of money imposed upon a person in DHS custody to permit his/her release from detention (not always legally available if a criminal)
Border crosser: A person, who is not a citizen or LPR of the United States, who has the legal right to enter the United States for employment purposes from Mexico and remain for no more than 72 hours.
Business nonimmigrant: A person who comes to the United States temporarily to engage in commercial transactions that do not involve gainful employment in the United States, i.e., the person is engaged in international commerce on behalf of a foreign firm and receives no salary from sources in the United States for such transactions.
Cancellation of Removal: Under Section 240A(a) of the INA, an LPR in removal proceedings may apply for cancellation of his/her removal from the United States before the Immigration Court and retention of lawful permanent residence if he/she has not been convicted of an aggravated felony and is otherwise statutorily eligible. Under Section 240A(b) of the INA, an alien in removal proceedings may apply for cancellation of his/her removal from the United States before the Immigration Court and adjustment to lawful permanent residence if he/she can demonstrate statutory eligibility (10 years continuous physical presence prior to issuance of the NTA/OSC, good moral character, and extreme and exceptionally unusual hardship to a qualifying relative) and if he/she can convince the Court that it should grant the benefit as a matter of discretion.
Child: An unmarried person, under the age of either 18 or 21 years old, depending on the circumstance, who is:
- A child born to parents who are married to each other;
- A stepchild, if the marriage creating the relationship with the stepparent took place before the child reached the age of 18 years;
- A child born out of wedlock (parents not married at the time the child was born). If the father is filing the petition, objective proof of a bona fide parent-child relationship must be demonstrated, i.e., paternity must be established through DNA testing;
- An adopted child, if the child was adopted before the age of 16 years and has lived with the adoptive parent(s) in their legal custody for at least two (2) years;
- An orphan, under the age of 16 years when (a) an adoptive or prospective adopting parent files a visa petition on his/her behalf, (b) who has been adopted abroad by a United States citizen or (c) is coming to the United States for adoption by a United States citizen; or
- A child adopted who is under the age of 18 years and the natural sibling of an orphan or adopted child under the age of 16 years, if adopted with or after the sibling. The child must otherwise meet the definition of an orphan or adopted child.
Civil Surgeon: A medically trained, licensed and experienced doctor practicing in the United States who is certified by CIS to provide examinations as required by the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") and CIS to persons applying for immigration benefits in the United States. Only examinations performed by a civil surgeon will be accepted by CIS or the Immigration Court as part of an application for benefits.
Citizen: A person who owes allegiance to a sovereign nation. A citizen of the United States is (a) a person born in the United States or one of its territories or (2) a person who successfully undergoes the naturalization process and takes the oath of allegiance to the United States.
Citizenship and Immigration Services: Abbreviated CIS. The agency within the DHS that handles all petitions for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, as well as applications for naturalization.
Coast Guard: One of the agencies merged into the DHS on March 1, 2003.
Conditional Resident: An alien granted lawful permanent residence on a conditional basis as the result of adjustment through a United States citizen spouse or as an immigrant investor. The conditional resident must apply for removal of the condition before the second anniversary of the grant of residence in order to obtain full LPR status. Failure to apply for the removal of the condition with CIS or denial of the petition by CIS results in the initiation of removal proceedings.
Court of Appeals: The Federal appellate court that hears appeals from the decisions of the BIA.
Coyote: Nickname for a smuggler, i.e., a person who smuggles people who are not lawfully entering the United States across the U.S./Mexican border.
Crewman: A foreign national serving on board a vessel or aircraft in a position required for normal operations and service. A crewman is admitted for twenty-nine (29) days, without extension of that time.
Crime Involving Moral Turpitude: Abbreviated CIMT; a criminal offense that shocks the consciousness of the court; CIMT is not defined in the INA or the regulations but is based on the interpretation by the courts.
Cuban/Haitian Entrant: A citizen of either Haiti or Cuba who has resided in the United States continuously since prior to January 1, 1982, were known to the INS prior to that date and is either (1) a Cuban who entered illegally or was paroled into the United States between April 15, 1980 and October 10, 1980, or (2) a Haitian who entered illegally or was paroled into the United States before January 1, 1981. A person meeting these criteria may adjust to lawful permanent residence in accordance with provisions of IRCA.
Customs and Border Protection: Abbreviated CBP. The agency within the DHS that has a specific mission to stop illegal entry into the United States of persons; as well as items deemed contraband under customs law. A merger of the former Border Patrol and former U.S. Customs Service into one agency after the overall merger into the DHS on March 1, 2003.
Daughter or Son: An unmarried "son or daughter" is a person 21 years or older who once met the definition of "child." A married son or daughter is a person who has a bona fide parent-child relationship, who is married, and is of any age.
Department of Homeland Security: Abbreviated DHS. The department of the United States government created on March 1, 2003 by the merger of 22 federal agencies, including the former INS, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Air Marshal Service, Customs Service, et al.
Deportation: Removal from the United States under a final order entered by an Immigration Court based on a charging document issued prior to April 1, 1997. Consolidated by IRAIRA with exclusion proceedings into one "removal" proceeding.
Derivative Citizenship: United States citizenship conveyed to children through naturalization of parents or to foreign-born children adopted by United States citizen parents, if otherwise eligible.
Detention and Removal Office: Abbreviated DRO. An office within each Field Office which handles the detention of persons with final orders of removal and executes the orders of removal.
Diversity visa: Abbreviated "DV" lottery visa. Visa chosen by lottery for persons from underrepresented countries and countries adversely "affected" by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965. A cap of 55,000 visas are issued each fiscal year since 1995. Persons who "win" a visa through the DV lottery may be eligible for adjustment to lawful permanent residence, if otherwise eligible.
Domestic violence: Physical, mental or emotional abuse by a citizen or LPR of the United States upon the foreign-born spouse, significant other, or child.
Exclusion: Proceedings where a person attempting to enter the United States is excluded and removed from the United States after issuance of a charging document prior to April 1, 1997. Consolidated by IRAIRA with deportation proceedings into one "removal" proceeding.
Executive Office for Immigration Review:
Abbreviated EOIR. The agency within the Department of Justice responsible for hearing cases of person in local removal proceedings (Immigration Courts), as well as rendering decisions on appeals from the decision of an Immigration Judge (Board of Immigration Appeals) or a CIS officer.
Expedited removal: Removal proceedings for persons convicted of one or more crimes that meet the definition of an aggravated felony and who are not LPRs.
Federal Emergency Management Agency: Abbreviated "FEMA". One of the agencies merged into the DHS on March 1, 2003. Authorized to respond to emergency situations within the borders of the United States.
Haitian Relief and Immigrant Fairness Act of 2000: Abbreviated "HRIFA". The law enacted and amended on December 21, 2000 which provides lawful permanent residence for certain citizens and nationals of Haiti who qualify and apply for such status.
Immigrant: A person who intends to remain in the United States on a permanent basis.
Immigration and Nationality Act: Abbreviated INA or the Act. The federal statute in the United States that, in conjunction with treaties and other federal laws, governs immigration issues in the United States. Title 8, United States Code, §1001,
Immigration and Reform Act of 1986: Abbreviated "IRCA". The law enacted on November 6, 1986 that permitted adjustment to lawful permanent residence for various groups of persons illegally in the United States, as well as sanctions against employers who knowingly hired persons not authorized to work in the United States.
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996: Abbreviated IRAIRA or IRIRA. The law enacted on September 30, 1996 that revamped the INA, including changes to the section numbering and institution of removal proceedings to replace deportation and exclusion proceedings.
Immigration and Naturalization Service: Abbreviated INS or Service. The agency that was a part of the Department of Justice until it merged into the DHS on March 1, 2003.
Lawful permanent resident: Abbreviated LPR. A person who has been granted the legal right by the INS, the DHS or the EOIR to live and work in the United States and to travel outside of the United States without interference.
Mandatory Custody: Legal right for DHS to retain a person convicted of certain crimes or believed to be a terrorist in custody without the posting of a bond for his/her release into the community pending resolution of removal proceedings.
Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act of 1998: Abbreviated "NACARA." The law enact on __________ that provides legal resident status for persons from the designated countries residing within the United States who apply for such status.
Nonimmigrant: A person who comes to the United States temporarily, with the demonstrated intent to return to their home country on a permanent basis.
Removal Proceedings: The process of removing a person from the United States through the issuance of a charging document and hearings before the Immigration Court.
Snakehead: Slang term for a smuggler of persons from the Peoples Republic of China into the United States.
Visa: A permit usually issued by the Department of State allowing a person to lawfully enter the United States.
Waiver: A legal method of negating a ground of removability or inadmissibility to permit a non- citizen to remain an LPR or become an LPR.