Immigration Terms

Accompanying Relative Adjustment of Status Attestation
Deportation Diversity Program
(Green Card Lottery)
Dual Intent
Green Card Immigrant Visa Inadmissibility
Labor Certification Labor Condition Application
Non-immigrant visa (Advance) Parole Petition
Preferences Priority Date Quota
Removal Temporary Protected Status 3-10 Year Bar
Visa Waiver Program I-94 Card  

Accompanying Relative

Those family members (must be a spouse or unmarried children under 21) who are eligible to receive immigrant or nonimmigrant visas based on their relation to the visa holder.

Adjustment of Status

Adjusting status is the process of moving from one immigrant status to another. Often used to describe changing status from H-1B non-immigrant to permanent resident.

Attestation (aka Labor Condition Application, or LCA)

A sworn statement that must be made by a foreign worker's prospective US employer to the US Department of Labor before a formal non-immigrant employment visa petition can be made. Attestations are designed to show that the employer will not be unfairly replacing American candidates for the position by hiring a foreigner and undercutting wages.

Deportation (See Removal)

Diversity Program (Green Card Lottery)

A free annual lottery held by the US government which attempts to increase diversity in the US population by randomly selecting people from those countries which have the fewest immigrants to the US relative to their population. To learn more about the green card lottery, click here.

Dual Intent

An H-1B alien can apply for an immigrant visa, adjustment of status, or take other steps toward permanent resident status without affecting H-1B status. This is known as "dual intent" and has been recognized in the immigration law since passage of the Immigration Act of 1990.While an application for permanent resident status is pending, an alien may travel on his or her H-1B visa rather than obtaining advance parole or request other advance permission from the USCIS to return to the U.S.

Green Card ("Alien Registration Receipt Card")

A photo i.d. whose possession allows you to live and work legally inside the U.S. as a permanent resident. The green card lets you travel outside the U.S. and return as long you maintain your primary residence in the U.S. Renewable after ten years.

Immigrant Visa

A visa issued to those who have been approved to reside in the U.S. permanently and receive green cards. Once you obtain a green card, it replaces your immigrant visa. One who possesses an immigrant visa is considered to have immigrant status.


A visa applicant may be refused a visa on grounds of inadmissibility such as possessing a criminal history, suspicion of subversive activities or lack of financial support. In some such cases it may be possible to file an appeal.

I-94 Card

Upon entering the US, an immigration inspector should issue you anUSCIS form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record). The bottom right-hand corner of this form indicates when you must leave the US. You must return this record upon your departure. Canadians are not issued I-94 cards.

Labor Certification

The first step in receiving an employment-based immigrant visa for certain classes of workers. The potential US employer must first undergo an elaborate and often lengthy process of advertising the position, based on specific instructions from the US Department of Labor, to ensure that no qualified American workers are available to perform the job before hiring the foreign worker.

Labor Condition Application (LCA)

See Attestation above.


The legal process through which a green card holder becomes a legal US citizen, with all the rights and privileges of a US citizen.

Length of Process: After ten years of residency in the US without interruption, many green card holders may apply to become naturalized citizens.

Non-immigrant visa

Issued to those planning to live or work only temporarily in the U.S.; in order to obtain this visa you must be able to show that you intend to return to your home country after your status expires.

One who possesses a non-immigrant visa is considered to have non-immigrant status. Status can be changed from nonimmigrant to immigrant status only if it can be proven that the possessor of the current visa did not intend to live permanently in the U.S. at the time the nonimmigrant visa was issued.

(Advance) Parole
In certain situations, one may be allowed to enter the U.S. without meeting visa requirements. Advance parole lets non-immigrant visa holders, or sometimes illegal aliens, travel outside the U.S. without needing to re-apply for a visa upon returning. Advance parole must be issued before leaving the U.S.

Who Needs Advance Parole:

Aliens in the United States who have an emergent personal or bona fide reason to travel temporarily abroad and who have:

  • An application for adjustment of status pending;
  • Been granted benefits under the Family Unity Program;
  • Been granted Temporary Protected Status; or
  • An asylum application pending.

Who Doesn't Need Advance Parole:

(1) Aliens holding valid H-1 (temporary worker in a specialty occupation) or L-1 (intra-company transferee) visas and their dependants who have filed for adjustment of status do not have to file for Advance Parole as long as they maintain their non-immigrant status.

(2) An alien who has been admitted as a refugee or has been granted asylum does not need to obtain advance parole, but will require a Refugee Travel Document in order to re-enter the United States after travelling abroad. An application for a Refugee Travel Document must be filed on USCIS Form I-131.

For more on advance parole for H and L visa holders, see the "Visa Updates" section. Also see the December 13,2000 USCIS Travel Advisory.


A form which is normally the first step in the visa application process. After a petition is approved, the applicant can proceed with Part 2 of the process, the application. The petitioner is the individual who sponsors the visa applicant's petition. A petitioner can be one's US employer or a family member who is a US citizen or green-card holder.


Certain groups of people are given first chance at the green cards available under a quota every year. The two main preference categories are family preference and employment preference.

Priority Date

The date from which a green card filing officially begins. The priority date determines your place in the quota.


The number of immigrant or non-immigrant visas available during a particular year for certain types of visa categories. Not all visa categories have quotas. Check the quota page for details on each visa.

Removal (formerly Deportation)

A legal proceeding in US courts to determine whether a foreigner may be allowed to remain in the US. Many immigrants facing removal have the right to a deportation hearing.

Temporary Protected Status

A temporary status which allows foreign victims of war or natural disaster to live and work in the US for a limited period of time. Note: This status does NOT lead to a green card.

Currently available for residents of:
Country Designation Date* Expiration Date
Haiti January 22, 2010 July 22, 2011

El Salvador

March 9, 2001

September 9, 2010


January 5, 1999

July 5, 1010


January 5, 1999

July 5, 2010


September 4, 2001

March 17, 2011


October 7, 2004

November 2, 2011

* You may be able to re-register for Temporary Protected Status if you originally registered by the deadline for a specific country. For more information about re-registration guidelines, please see the US Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services website.


Three-to-Ten Year Bar

Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, aliens who depart the United States after being unlawfully present in the United States for certain periods can be barred from admission, even if they have obtained Advance Parole. Those aliens who have been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days but less than one year are inadmissible for three years; those who have been unlawfully present for a year or more are inadmissible for 10 years.

Visa Waiver Program

Visitors from certain countries may be eligible to enter the US for 90 days without having to apply for a visa. Learn more about this program and its limitations by visiting the visa waiver page.


Immigration Updates

All About The
Green Card Lottery

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