Key Terms

The complexities of immigration law can be overwhelming. At JC Law Firm, we believe in supporting our clients with transparency and clarity. Learn more about the legal terminology of immigration with some important legal terms below.

Key Immigration Terms

Alien– The Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 USCA § 1101(a)(3), defines an alien as a foreign-born person who is not a citizen or national of the United States. This may include:

  • Persons seeking admission to the U.S.
  • Persons admitted temporarily as nonimmigrants
  • Persons admitted permanently as immigrants
  • Undocumented persons who are in the country illegally      

Non immigrant visa– issued to someone who wants to visit the United States on a temporary basis.  The most common non immigrant visas include those for visitors/tourists, business, medical treatment, temporary work, student or cultural exchange, among others.

Immigrant visa– is issued to a person who wishes to stay permanently in the U.S.

EWI or “entry without inspection”– When a foreign national crosses into the U.S. without presenting themselves at a border checkpoint and obtaining permission (ie. Inspection) to enter the country.

Undocumented– foreign-born people who do not possess a valid visa or other immigration documentation.

Conditional Resident– A conditional resident is someone who has obtained their green card, which is valid for only 2 years. A conditional green card holder must file Form I-751 to “remove the conditions” and obtain a permanent green card. In most cases, a conditional green card is issued to a spouse who has been married for less than 2 years at the time their green card was first approved.

Lawful Permanent Resident or “LPR”– non-citizens who are lawfully authorized to live and work permanently within the United States. Also known as “green card” holders or “residents”.

U.S. Citizen– a U.S. citizen is a status that allows those living in the U.S. all the rights, duties and privileges of the country. A person can become a U.S. citizen in two ways:

By Birth– citizen if you were born anywhere in the United States or its territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Through Naturalization– the process of allowing a foreigner who lives in one country to become a citizen of another country by filing an application and meeting all the requirements of that process.

Adjustment of Status– Process of filing a green card within the United States. The green card interview is conducted within one of the USCIS Field Offices.

Consular Processing– Process of filing a green card outside of the United States or abroad. The green card interview is conducted at the U.S. consulate and embassy.

Employment Authorization Document or “EAD”– this document authorizes a foreign national to work lawfully in the U.S. Also known as a work permit. **Green card holders or lawful permanent residents no longer need this card.

Alien number– a unique seven, eight or nine-digit number assigned to a noncitizen. The 9-digit USCIS number listed on permanent resident green cards issued after May 10, 2010, is the same as the A-number. The A-number can also be found on the back of green cards.* *this number is important for your attorney or legal representative in order to research the history of your immigration case**

Deportation/Removal– Commonly known as deportation, removal is the legal process that forces the departure of an alien from the United States. Some reasons why someone might be subject to deportation or removal are:

  • Conviction of certain crimes
  • Entry into the U.S. through fraudulent registration or entry documents
  • The use of fraudulent immigration documents
  • Becoming a public charge within five years of entry into the country
  • Specified security related concerns
  • Nonimmigrants overstaying their visa’s departure date (“overstays”)
  • Nonimmigrants violating the purpose of their immigrant visa
  • Nonimmigrants working illegally

Immigration Proceedings– A foreign national can be subject to removal proceedings to determine removability or deportability from the United States. These proceedings are brought forth by the Department of Homeland Security or “DHS” and take place in U.S. Immigration Court and are heard by an Immigration Judge.

Biometrics– biometrics are a requirement after you have filed an application to obtain lawful status. During a biometric screening, a government representative records an individual’s fingerprints and takes their photos and signature, in order to check government records for any serious criminal history or relevant prior immigration violations. The biometrics appointment is typically short and simple and an attorney does not need to be present.

Freedom of Information Act or “FOIA”– a request for paperwork that usually contains information about your entry, immigration history or criminal history.

Prosecutorial Discretion or “PD” – this is the authority of an agency that is charged with enforcing the law (in the immigration context, this would be the Department of Homeland Security or Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection) to decide where to allocate and focus their resources and decide whether to enforce or not to enforce the law against an individual.  Speak to our attorneys to see if PD can apply to your case and what it means for your status in the United States.

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