Glossary of Terms

This Glossary of Immigration Terms has been compiled to give you a stronger understanding of the language associated with immigration. These definitions do not constitute legal advice.

Adjustment of Status

Procedure by which a person with temporary status acquires Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card).


A person who is not a citizen or a national of the United States; also known as a “foreign national.”

Alien Registration Number

Also called the A number, it is an eight or nine digit identification number assigned to foreign nationals who have attempted to obtain Legal Permanent Residency (Green Card). The number is assigned for life.

Alien Registration Receipt Card

Identification card which gives a person the legal right to live and work permanently in the United States and to enter and leave the country freely; also known as a “green card”


Humanitarian permission to remain in the U.S. due to persecution in the foreign nationals country of nationality.


An alien who is sponsored by a relative or a business, or has self-petitioned for an immigration benefit.


For immigration purposes, a child is an unmarried son or daughter under 21 years of age.


A person who, either through birth or naturalization, has full rights, privileges and protection of living in the United States.

Dual Citizenship

Having citizenship in two countries; permitted in the United States as long as US citizenship is not renounced or activities in second country are beyond that of an ordinary citizen.

Foreign National

An individual who is a citizen or a national of a country other than the United States.

Green Card

Legal Permanent Residency Card issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services which provides a foreign national (or “alien”) permission to live, travel and work in the United States.


Document which states place, date, status of entry and time allowed to remain in the U.S. Typically a small white card provided upon entry to the United States.


Formerly called exclusion, this is the process of being denied entry into the US.

Immediate Relative

Spouses, parents and children of United States Citizens.


Immigration & Naturalization Service. This agency is no longer in existence. It is the immigration service that existed prior to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


The process by which a foreign national acquires United States Citizenship.

Nonimmigrant Visas

Temporary visas conferring status in the United States. This includes B-1/B-2 visitor visas, F-1 student visas, H-1B professional work visas, O-1 visas for persons of extraordinary ability, P-1 visas for athletes and entertainers, K visas for the fiancées of United States Citizens, R visas for religious workers, L visas for managerial or executive transfers from a foreign company to a related US company and E investor visas.


Permission which allows a foreign national to physically enter the United States yet still be considered to not have legally entered the country.


The national identity document which facilitates international travel.


A person who files a nonimmigrant or immigrant petition or application.

Priority Date

In the USCIS Immigrant visa petition application process, the priority date is the date the petition was filed. If the alien relative has a priority date on or before the date listed in the visa bulletin, then he or she is currently eligible for a visa.

Legal Permanent Resident (LPR)

Individual who is able to reside in the United States on a permanent basis; has many but not all of the rights and privileges that a US citizen possesses. Also known as a Green Card holder.


A person outside of the United States and unable or unwilling to return to his or her country because of persecution or a well-rounded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.


Description of foreign national (or “alien”) issued by the USCIS inspector upon entering the U.S.


Document issued by the Department of State which allows you to request permission to enter the United States at a designated port of entry.

Embassy Index

Here is where you will find helpful links to external resources.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. Visit Website

Visa Bulletin

The Visa Bulletin provides information regarding the priority dates which govern visa availability in the numerically limited visa categories and other immigrant visa related information. Visit Website

Citizenship Test

The Citizenship test includes three parts, reading English, writing English and civics. In order to pass the civics exam, you must know the answers to 100 questions. The examiner will ask you ten questions from the list of 100 and you must get six correct. Find the questions by clicking here.