A Number
The registration number assigned to each alien by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Accidental Death
An unintentional death occurring as a result of a series of atypical events that were unexpected and unforeseen by all those persons connected to or involved in the unfortunate situation.

Accredited Representative
A person who is approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals to represent aliens before the Immigration Courts, the BIA and USCIS. Accredited representatives must work for a specific nonprofit, religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization. The organization must be authorized by the BIA to represent aliens.

Acquired Citizenship
Citizenship conferred at birth on children born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent(s).

A legal process taken in court in which legal action is taken against another party with the express intention and purpose of protecting the individual legal rights of the offended party.

Adjustment to Immigrant Status
Procedure allowing certain aliens already in the United States to apply for immigrant status. Aliens 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. In such cases, the alien is counted as an immigrant as of the date of adjustment, even though the alien may have been in the United States for an extended period of time.

A voluntary written statement of facts, sworn to be complete and true, which is used in legal cases as evidence.  The affiant (person writing the affidavit) must include their full printed name and address, date and place of birth, relationship to the parties, if any, and complete details concerning how the affiant acquired knowledge of the events.  The affiant should sign the affidavit under oath and the signature should be witnessed by an official, such as a notary public.

Aggravated Felony
Usually refers to criminal offenses that carry severe consequences for immigrants seeking asylum, legal permanent resident status, citizenship, or avoidance of deportation proceedings. If you have committed an aggravated felony, you may be permanently ineligible for naturalization. The Immigration and Nationality Act and the laws in each State determine what is considered an aggravated felony.

A claim put forward by one party that they believe they may prove true against an offending party. Until proven in court however, an allegation is considered a mere claim, not the truth.

Any person not a citizen or national of the United States.

To bring your case to a higher court, with the intentions of seeking a reversal of the ruling of a lower court. New evidence is not allowed in an appealed case.

An attempt by each party to present their case before a panel, such as a former judge or lawyer, with the hopes of being able to settle their case out of court.

An alien in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be 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 the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.


Bench Trial
A trial presented before a judge presiding without a jury. Civil trials as a whole under United States law are bench trials and unless one of the parties specifically requests a jury.

In the event of the death of one party, the person to receive benefits and/or property as specified by the deceased person’s will is named the beneficiary of the will.

Abbreviation for the Board of Immigration Appeals. The Board of Immigration Appeals is 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.

Bond Proceedings
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.


Cancellation of Removal
A discretionary benefit adjusting an alien’s status from that of deportable alien to one lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Application for cancellation of removal is made during the course of a hearing before an immigration judge.

Capacity Defense
An often-used defense tactic by lawyers in cases in which disabled persons or children are concerned, a capacity defense claims that the involved persons cannot be held responsible for their actions.

Case Law
This law consists of present day laws based on the decisions of previous court rulings. Unless previously selected as a ‘court of first impression’, the decisions made in a case cannot be invoked in future rulings.

Certificate of Citizenship
Identity document proving U.S. citizenship. Certificates of citizenship are issued to derivative citizens and to persons who acquired U.S. citizenship

Certificate of Translation
A formal statement in which a translator shows that he or she has accurately translated a foreign-language document into English.

Civil Action
Civil action deals not with criminal acts but with civil matters such as business, contracts, family relations, etc. It is legal motion taken to protect personal civil rights and/or order a civil remedy.

Civil Courts
Unlike criminal courts that hear trials concerning crimes that have been committed, civil courts deal entirely with legal arguments. These arguments can arise from breach of contract, injury compensations, payment disputes, etc.

Civil Lawsuit
A specific kind of lawsuit that takes legal action against an offending party with the intent of securing protection for the offended party’s personal civil rights, potentially securing reparation for wrongs committed as well.

Code of Federal Regulations
The official interpretations of laws passed by Congress. These interpretations are known as “regulations.” Regulations are first published in a government publication called the Federal Register. After publication in the Federal Register, regulations can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Most immigration regulations are in Title 8 CFR, Aliens and Nationality.

Compensation may be defined in two ways: 1) payment given in return for work or 2) monies awarded (commonly by the insurers) to a party who has suffered loss or injury.

Conditional Resident
Any alien granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis (e.g., a spouse of a U.S. citizen; an immigrant investor), who is required to petition for the removal of the set conditions before the second anniversary of the approval of his or her conditional status.

Contingency Fee
This arrangement allows the injured party to secure an attorney without initial payment. Instead, the lawyer represents the plaintiff and upon winning the case, takes a percentage of the compensation awarded the plaintiff.

Contempt of Court
This may be either 1) rudeness, causing a disturbance in the courtroom or showing disrespect to the judge or other attorneys or 2) willfully refusing to obey a court order.

A part of civil procedure, the defendant of the initial lawsuit may submit a countersuit against the plaintiff in response. Reasons include reducing the claims, reducing the number of implications, introducing another claim, etc.

A foreign national serving in a capacity required for normal operations and service on board a vessel or aircraft. Crewmen are admitted for twenty-nine days, with no extensions. Two categories of crewmen are defined in the INA: D1, departing from the United States with the vessel or aircraft on which he arrived or some other vessel or aircraft; and D2, departing from Guam with the vessel on which he arrived.

Criminal Action
Criminal action relates to legal action taken against a defendant found guilty of crimes and punished according to State law by time in prison, by fine or a combination of both.


Damages are reparation payments awarded the plaintiff for the wrong doing committed against the plaintiff by the defendant. There are three main forms of damages—special damages, general damages and exemplary, or punitive, damages.

Decree, as a general rule, is the same as judgment. However, you may find the term used more frequently in specific areas of the law such as probates of estates, domestic relations and equity.

Default Judgment
If the defendant fails to answer the plaintiff’s complaint within a certain time set by law, the plaintiff will be awarded default judgment. Generally, the plaintiff receives the amount for which he/she sued.

In civil lawsuits, the defendant is the party being sued. In criminal prosecutions, the defendant is the party charged with a crime. In a divorce case, the term respondent is synonymous with defendant.

Arranged by an attorney, a deposition is part of the pre-trial investigation. A written record of a witnesses’ testimony under oath, it is taken by the court clerk outside of courtroom.

Directed Verdict
A judge’s command that a jury arrives at a specific verdict due to either the prosecution or the defense lawyer’s inability to prove his/her case sufficiently. A judge may not direct a guilty verdict.

Whether temporary or permanent, such as blindness, a disability is anything that keeps an individual from being able to perform all of the mental and physical functions previously enjoyed by that person.

Geographic areas into which the United States and its territories are divided for the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s field operations or one of three overseas offices located in Rome, Bangkok, and Mexico City. Each District Office, headed by a District Director, has a specified service area that may include part of a state, an entire state, or many states.

It may be defined as any permanent marks on an individual’s head, face or neck. If the result negligence or intent, injury lawyers may be able to win a considerable amount in damages.

Dismemberment means simply the complete severing of any part of an individual’s body. In relation to criminal cases, the court does discriminate between offensive dismemberment and dismemberment due to personal defense.

A category of immigrants replacing the earlier categories for nationals of underrepresented countries and countries adversely “affected” by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (P.L. 89-236).

Docket Control
The Department of Homeland Security mechanism for tracking the case status of potentially removable aliens.


Employer Sanctions
The employer sanctions provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 prohibits employers from hiring, recruiting, or referring for a fee aliens known to be unauthorized to work in the United States. Violators of the law are subject to a series of civil fines for violations or criminal penalties when there is a pattern or practice of violations.

Exchange Visitor
An alien coming temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program approved by the Secretary of State for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training.

Prior to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, exclusion was the formal term for denial of an alien’s entry into the United States. The decision to exclude an alien was made by an immigration judge after an exclusion hearing.

Executive Office for Immigration Review
The part of the United States Department of Justice that is responsible for the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals

An exhibit can be an object or a paper that serves as evidence to the validity of certain facts pertaining to a case. An attorney compiles these exhibits to strengthen his client’s case.


Fiance(e)s of U.S. Citizens
A nonimmigrant alien coming to the United States to conclude a valid marriage with a U.S. citizen within ninety days after entry.

Field Offices
Offices found in some Districts that serve a portion of the District’s jurisdiction. A Field Office, headed by a Field Office Director, provides many services and enforcement functions.

Files Control Office
A USCIS field office–either a district (including USCIS overseas offices) or a suboffice of that district–where alien case files are maintained and controlled.

A proven answer of a question posed during the trial, the findings contribute to the final verdict, made by the either the jury or by a judge presiding without a jury.

Foreign Government Official
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States who has been accredited by a foreign government to function as an ambassador, public minister, career diplomatic or consular officer, other accredited official, or an attendant, servant or personal employee of an accredited official, and all above aliens’ spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.

Foreign Information Media Representative
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States as a bona fide representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media and the alien’s spouse and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.

Foreign State of Chargeability
The independent country to which an immigrant entering under the preference system is accredited. No more than 7 percent of the family-sponsored and employment-based visas may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year. No one dependency of any independent country may receive more than 2 percent of the family-sponsored and employment-based visas issued. Since these limits are based on visa issuance rather than entries into the United States, and immigrant visas are valid for 6 months, there is not total correspondence between these two occurrences. Chargeability is usually determined by country of birth. Exceptions are made to prevent the separation of family members when the limitation for the country of birth has been met.


General Naturalization Provisions
The basic requirements for naturalization that every applicant must meet, unless a member of a special class. General provisions require an applicant to be at least 18 years of age and a lawful permanent resident with five years of continuous residence in the United States, have been physically present in the country for half that period, and establish good moral character for at least that period.

Geographic Area of Chargeability
Any one of five regions–Africa, East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and South Asia, and the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe–into which the world is divided for the initial admission of refugees to the United States. Annual consultations between the Executive Branch and the Congress determine the ceiling on the number of refugees who can be admitted to the United States from each area.

Gross Negligence
An almost willful recklessness, gross negligence borders on intent to harm others. At the very least it is a complete disregard for the lives and the personal safety of others.


Hemispheric Ceilings
Statutory limits on immigration to the United States in effect from 1968 to October 1978. Mandated by the Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965, the ceiling on immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere was set at 170,000, with a per-country limit of 20,000. Immigration from the Western Hemisphere was held to 120,000, without a per-country limit until January 1, 1977. The Western Hemisphere was then made subject to a 20,000 per country limit. Effective October 1978, the separate hemisphere limits were abolished in favor of a worldwide limit.

Hit and Run
This crime involves a driver of a vehicle colliding with and knowingly harming another vehicle, individual or property and leaving the scene of the accident without giving State required identification.

Immediate Relatives
Certain immigrants who because of their close relationship to U.S. citizens are exempt from the numerical limitations imposed on immigration to the United States. Immediate relatives are: spouses of citizens, children (under 21 years of age and unmarried) of citizens, and parents of citizens 21 years of age or older.

Immigration Act of 1990
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 Judge
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
Public Law 99-639 (Act of 11/10/86), which was passed in order to deter immigration-related marriage fraud. Its major provision stipulates that aliens deriving their immigrant status based on a marriage of less than two years are conditional immigrants. To remove their conditional status the immigrants must apply at an U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office during the 90-day period before their second-year anniversary of receiving conditional status. If the aliens cannot show that the marriage through which the status was obtained was and is a valid one, their conditional immigrant status may be terminated and they may become deportable.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Public Law 99-603 (Act of 11/6/86), which was passed in order 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 and Nationality Act
The Act (INA), which, along with other immigration laws, treaties, and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalization, and removal of aliens.

An alien seeking admission at a port of entry who does not meet the criteria in the INA for admission. The alien may be placed in removal proceedings or, under certain circumstances, allowed to withdraw his or her application for admission.

Insurance Adjuster
Insurance adjusters are sent to review police and hospital records, interview claimants and witnesses and view the damages in order to determine the responsibility carried by the company in a given situation.

International Representative
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States as a principal or other accredited representative of a foreign government (whether officially recognized or not recognized by the United States) to an international organization, an international organization officer or employee, and all above aliens’ spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.

Intracompany Trainee
An alien, employed for at least one continuous year out of the last three by an international firm or corporation, who seeks to enter the United States temporarily in order to continue to work for the same employer, or a subsidiary or affiliate, in a capacity that is primarily managerial, executive, or involves specialized knowledge, and the alien’s spouse and minor unmarried children.


This is the final, written decision made by the presiding judge. In it, the judge writes out the verdict and specifies the awards given to the winner of the case.



Labor Certification
Requirement for U.S. employers seeking to employ certain persons 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 as to 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.

Lawful Permanent Resident
Any person not a citizen of the United States who is residing the 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.”

Legalization Dependents
A maximum of 55,000 visas were issued to spouses and children of aliens legalized under the provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 in each of fiscal years 1992-94.

Legalized Aliens
Certain illegal aliens who were eligible to apply for temporary resident status under the legalization provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. To be eligible, aliens must have continuously resided in the United States in an unlawful status since January 1, 1982, not be excludable, and have entered the United States either 1) illegally before January 1, 1982, or 2) as temporary visitors before January 1, 1982, with their authorized stay expiring before that date or with the Government’s knowledge of their unlawful status before that date. Legalization consists of two stages–temporary and then permanent residency. In order to adjust to permanent status aliens must have had continuous residence in the United States, be admissible as an immigrant, and demonstrate at least a minimal understanding and knowledge of the English language and U.S. history and government.

Most countries have legal procedures for natural fathers of children born out of wedlock to acknowledge their children. A legitimated child from any country has two legal parents and cannot qualify as an orphan unless: 1) only one of the parents is living, or 2) both of the parents have abandoned the child.

Liability indicates the legal responsibility an individual holds for his or her own actions and omissions. Failing in this responsibility can, and often does result in a lawsuit suing for incurred damages.

Loss of Consortium
If an individual suffers wrongdoing resulting in physical or mental consequences, that in turn leave a spouse unable to have sexual relations with his/her spouse, he/she may sue for loss of consortium.


Unlike murder, manslaughter is the killing of another person unlawfully, without premeditation or “malice aforethought.” The two degrees of manslaughter include voluntary (killing while committing a felony) and involuntary (killing while committing a non-felony).

Through the assistance of a third party, mediation seeks to resolve the legal conflicts between two parties out of court before seeking settlement through a trial. Mediation is commonly used in domestic relations situations.

Mediators, typically professional mediators or lawyers, act as the third party in disputes, seeking to resolve the conflict by finding mutual points of agreement that bring about a fair result to all parties involved.

Medical Malpractice
When a patient dies or suffers injury due to the negligence of a health care provider, that provider may be sued for medical malpractice. Generally, injury or death is the result of medical error.

Medical Waiver
A medical waiver permits an immigration applicant to be allowed 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.

A person who leaves his/her country of origin to seek residence in another country.


Nato Official
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien 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 alien’s spouse and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.

A person owing permanent allegiance to a state.

The conferring, by any means, of citizenship upon a person after birth.

Naturalization Application
The form used by a lawful permanent resident to apply for U.S. citizenship. The application is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Service Center with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence.

Negligence is one of two things. One, he/she involves himself/herself in actions a reasonable person would not or two, he/she chooses to act in a way that fails to show reasonable care for others.

An alien who seeks temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose. The alien must have a permanent residence abroad (for most classes of admission) and qualify for the nonimmigrant classification sought. The nonimmigrant classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiance(e)s of U.S. citizens, intracompany transferees, NATO officials, religious workers, and some others. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.

Numerical Limit, Exempt from
Those aliens accorded lawful permanent residence who are exempt from the provisions of the flexible numerical limit of 675,000 set by the Immigration Act of 1990. Exempt categories include immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, refugees, asylees (limited to 10,000 per year by section 209(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act), Amerasians, aliens adjusted under the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and certain parolees from the former Soviet Union and Indochina.

Nursing Relief Act of 1989
Public Law 101-238 (Act of 12/18/89), provides for the adjustment to permanent resident status of certain nonimmigrants who as of September 1, 1989, had H-1 nonimmigrant status as registered nurses; who had been employed in that capacity for at least 3 years; and whose continued nursing employment meets certain labor certification requirements.


Oath Of Allegiance to the United Sates
The oath you take to become a U.S. citizen. When you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, you are promising to give up your allegiance to other countries and to support and defend the United States and its Constitution and laws. Ability to take and understand the Oath of Allegiance is a normal requirement for becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

For an alien 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 alien with a labor certification, occupation is the employment for which certification has been issued.

A child may be considered an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents. The child of an unwed mother or surviving parent may be considered an orphan if that parent is unable to care for the child properly and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. The child of an unwed mother may be considered an orphan, as long as the mother does not marry (which would result in the child’s having a stepfather) and as long as the child’s biological father has not legitimated the child. If the father legitimates the child or the mother marries, the mother is no longer considered a sole parent. The child of a surviving parent may also be an orphan if the surviving parent has not married since the death of the other parent (which would result in the child’s having a stepfather or stepmother).

Outlying Possessions
The current outlying possessions of the United States are American Samoa and Swains Island.

Out of Court Settlement
When the parties of a lawsuit are able to resolve their issues prior to final court judgment, the case is then settled out of court. Generally, this is accomplished through the attorneys.

Out of Wedlock
A child born of parents who were not legally married to each other at that time.


Panama Canal Act Immigrants
Three categories of special immigrants established by Public Law 96-70 (Act of 9/27/79): 1) certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government, their spouses and accompanying children; 2) certain former employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone who are Panamanian nationals, their spouses and children; and 3) certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone Government on April 1, 1979, their spouses and children. The Act provides for admission of a maximum of 15,000 immigrants, at a rate of no more than 5,000 each year.

Panel Physician
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 in order to provide examinations as required by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). IMPORTANT: medical examinations given overseas will not be recognized if they are given by a doctor who is not appointed by the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy; please be sure that your medical exam is being given by a Panel Physician or your results and documents will be invalid.

Paralegals have successfully completed a number of law courses providing them with a degree of legal knowledge and awareness of legal process to enable them to certain routine asks in a law office.

A parolee is an alien, appearing to be inadmissible to the inspecting officer, allowed into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or when that alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit. Parole does not constitute a formal admission to the United States and confers temporary status only, requiring parolees to leave when the conditions supporting their parole cease to exist. Types of parolees include: deferred inspection, advance parole, port-of-entry parole, humanitarian parole, significant public benefit parole, and overseas parole.

Per Country Limit
The maximum number of family-sponsored and employment-based preference visas that can be issued to citizens of any country in a fiscal year. The limits are calculated each fiscal year depending on the total number of family-sponsored and employment-based visas available. No more than 7 percent of the visas may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year; no more than 2 percent may be issued 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.

Permanent Resident
Any person not a citizen of the United States who is residing in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. Also known as “Permanent Resident Alien”, “Lawful Permanent Resident,” “Resident Alien Permit Holder,” and “Green Card Holder.”

Permanent Resident Alien
An alien admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Permanent residents are also commonly referred to as immigrants; however, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) broadly defines an immigrant as any alien in the United States, except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrant categories (INA section 101(a)(15)). An illegal alien who entered the United States without inspection, for example, would be strictly defined as an immigrant under the INA but is not a permanent resident alien. Lawful permanent residents are legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States. They may be issued immigrant visas by the Department of State overseas or adjusted to permanent resident status by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the United States.

Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers specialize in knowledge of tort law, providing legal representation and advice for those claiming injury due to the negligence of another, including companies, government agencies and other entities.

A person who files an immigration petition or application.

Physical Presence
Physical presence in the United States is an important eligibility requirement. Most naturalization applicants must spend a specified amount of time in the United States in order to meet the physical presence requirement for naturalization. Except in a few cases, time spent outside of the United States, even brief trips to Canada and Mexico, does not count toward your “physical presence.”

Physical Therapy
Treatment of any bodily injury through the use of controlled, therapeutic exercises with the intention of partial to full recovery of a person from the effects of the injuries suffered.

Physician-Patient Privilege
This privilege refers to the right any physician possesses to decline to testify in court to what his/her patient may have said as any and all communication between physician and patient is confidential.

The plaintiff is the individual filing a lawsuit with the court, seeking reparation for wrongdoing suffered because of a defendant’s actions. Reparation may include payment for damages, order for performance or decision of rights.

Port of Entry
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 and files control offices are also considered ports, since they become locations of entry for aliens adjusting to immigrant status.

A person who is authorized to file immigration petitions or applications with USCIS on behalf of aliens.

Complete immigration inspection of airport passengers before departure from a foreign country. No further immigration inspection is required upon arrival in the United States other than submission of Form I-94 for nonimmigrant aliens.

Precedent Decision
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).

Premise Liability
Premise liability refers to the responsibility of the owners of any property, land or buildings, for certain accidents or bodily injury that a person may incur while he/she is on the owner’s premises.

Principal Alien
The alien who applies for immigrant status and from whom another alien may derive lawful status under immigration law or regulations (usually spouses and minor unmarried children).

Product Liability
This is the responsibility of any company that manufactures, distributes or sells products, to provide the public with goods that are free from dangerous defects and to make restitution in the event they fail.

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.

Property Damage
Property damage refers to the damage caused to another’s possessions or property through the negligence or willful intent of another. Amounts awarded depend on replacement costs, repair costs, loss of use and sentimental value.

Punitive Damages
Punitive, also known as exemplary damages are those damages awarded to a plaintiff who has suffered special or general damages from the malicious or grossly reckless acts of the defendant.



Record of Proceedings
The official file containing documents relating to an alien’s case.

Any person who is outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. People with no nationality must generally be outside their country of last habitual residence to qualify as a refugee. Refugees are subject to ceilings by geographic area set annually by the President in consultation with Congress and are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States.

Refugee Approvals
The number of refugees approved for admission to the United States during a fiscal year.

Refugee Arrivals
The number of refugees admitted to the United States through ports of entry during a fiscal year.

Refugee Authorized Admissions
The maximum number of refugees allowed to enter the United States in a given fiscal year. As set forth in the Refugee Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-212) the President determines the annual figure after consultations with Congress.

A qualified applicant for conditional entry, between February 1970 and April 1980, whose application for admission to the United States could not be approved because of inadequate numbers of seventh preference visas. As a result, the applicant was paroled into the United States under the parole authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Registry Date
Aliens who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 1972, are of good moral character, and are not inadmissible, are eligible to adjust to legal permanent resident status under the registry provision. Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 amended the date, aliens had to have been in the country continuously since June 30, 1948, to qualify.

The expulsion of an alien from the United States. This expulsion may be based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability.

Permanent relocation of refugees in a place outside their country of origin to allow them to establish residence and become productive members of society there. Refugee resettlement is accomplished with the direct assistance of private voluntary agencies working with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Resident Alien
Applies to non-U.S. citizens currently residing in the United States.

Returning Resident
Any Lawful Permanent Resident who has been outside the United States and is returning to the U.S. Also defined as a “special immigrant.” If outside of the U.S. for more than 180 days, must apply for readmission to the U.S. If outside of the U.S. for more than one year and is returning to his or her permanent residence in the United States, usually must have a re-entry documentation from USCIS or an immigrant visa from the Department of State.


Safe Haven
Temporary refuge given to migrants who have fled their countries of origin to seek protection or relief from persecution or other hardships, until they can return to their countries safely or, if necessary until they can obtain permanent relief from the conditions they fled.

Service Centers
Four offices established to handle the filing, data entry, and adjudication of certain applications for immigration services and benefits. The applications are mailed to USCIS Service Centers — Service Centers are not staffed to receive walk-in applications or questions.

Settlement signifies the final agreement between the two parties involved in the lawsuit. Typically this resolution is written and/or read in court as well. Due to the overwhelming number of cases, judges encourage settlements.

Slip and Fall
Slip and fall claims fall under tort law. A person who has slipped and fallen may claim that they did so due to the failure of the premise owner to repair a hazardous condition.

Special Agricultural Workers (SAW)
Aliens who performed labor in perishable agricultural commodities for a specified period of time and were admitted for temporary and then permanent residence under a provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Up to 350,000 aliens who worked at least 90 days in each of the 3 years preceding May 1, 1986 were eligible for Group I temporary resident status. Eligible aliens who qualified under this requirement but applied after the 350,000 limit was met and aliens who performed labor in perishable agricultural commodities for at least 90 days during the year ending May 1, 1986 were eligible for Group II temporary resident status. Adjustment to permanent resident status is essentially automatic for both groups; however, aliens in Group I were eligible on December 1, 1989 and those in Group II were eligible one year later on December 1, 1990.

Special Immigrants
Certain categories of immigrants who were exempt from numerical limitation before fiscal year 1992 and subject to limitation under the employment-based fourth preference beginning in 1992; persons who lost citizenship by marriage; persons who lost citizenship by serving in foreign armed forces; ministers of religion and other religious workers, their spouses and children; certain employees and former employees of the U.S. Government abroad, their spouses and children; Panama Canal Act immigrants; certain foreign medical school graduates, their spouses and children; certain retired employees of international organizations, their spouses and children; juvenile court dependents; and certain aliens serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, their spouses and children.

Special Naturalization Provisions
Provisions covering special classes of persons whom may be naturalized even though they do not meet all the general requirements for naturalization. Such special provisions allow: 1) wives or husbands of U.S. citizens to file for naturalization after three years of lawful permanent residence instead of the prescribed five years; 2) a surviving spouse of a U.S. citizen who served in the armed forces to file his or her naturalization application in any district instead of where he/she resides; and 3) children of U.S. citizen parents to be naturalized without meeting certain requirements or taking the oath, if too young to understand the meaning. Other classes of persons who may qualify for special consideration are former U.S. citizens, servicemen, seamen, and employees of organizations promoting U.S. interests abroad.

The term “sponsor” as it relates to immigration often means to bring to the United States or “petition for”.  Another meaning of the term “sponsor” is a person who completes Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act. This type of sponsorship is not, however, the first step in any immigration process.  In order to be a sponsor and file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, the following conditions must already be met: 1) You have already petitioned for your relative; 2) You have been notified that USCIS has approved the petition; 3) The visa for that relative is currently available; 4) The relative has been scheduled to appear to submit his or her application for an immigrant visa overseas to a Consular Officer (DOS Form OF-230) or is preparing to file for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident (on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) in the United States. In the case of the overseas relative, you, the petitioner will be informed as to where and when to submit Form I-864. In the case where the relative is in the United States, you, the petitioner will complete Form I-864 and give it to your relative to file along with his or her application for permanent residency.

If you are a U.S. citizen and are sponsoring, or petitioning for, your spouse, parents or minor children who are currently in the United States, the above conditions do not need to be met in that exact order. Your relative may file his or her application for adjustment of status to that of a lawful permanent resident at the same time you file the relative petition. If this is your situation, you, the petitioner, must complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and the petition for your relative and give them to your relative to submit with the application for adjustment of status.

Having no nationality.

An alien coming to the United States surreptitiously on an airplane or vessel without legal status of admission. Such an alien is subject to denial of formal admission and return to the point of embarkation by the transportation carrier.

As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States to pursue a full course of study in an approved program in either an academic (college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, other institution, or language training program) or a vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution.

Subject to the Numerical Limit
Categories of legal immigrants subject to annual limits under the provisions of the flexible numerical limit of 675,000 set by the Immigration Act of 1990. The largest categories are: family-sponsored preferences; employment-based preferences; and diversity immigrants.

A subpoena is a court command to appear as a witness or to furnish certain documents necessary to an attorney’s case. Failure to comply with this order will result in contempt of court charges.


Temporary Protected Status
Establishes a legislative basis for allowing a group of persons temporary refuge in the United States. Under a provision of the Immigration Act of 1990, the Secretary of Homeland Security may designate nationals of a foreign state to be eligible for TPS with a finding that conditions in that country pose a danger to personal safety due to ongoing armed conflict or an environmental disaster. Grants of TPS are initially made for periods of 6 to 18 months and may be extended depending on the situation. Removal proceedings are suspended against aliens while they are in Temporary Protected Status.

Temporary Worker
An alien coming to the United States to work for a temporary period of time. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and the Immigration Act of 1990, as well as other legislation, revised existing classes and created new classes of nonimmigrant admission. Nonimmigrant temporary worker classes of admission are as follows:

1)    H-1A – registered nurses (valid from 10/1/1990 through 9/30/1995);

2)    H-1B – workers with “specialty occupations” admitted on the basis of professional education, skills, and/or equivalent experience;

3)    H-1C – registered nurses to work in areas with a shortage of health professionals under the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999;

4)    H-2A – temporary agricultural workers coming to the United States to perform agricultural services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature when authorized workers are unavailable in the United States;

5)    H-2B – temporary non-agricultural workers coming to the United States to perform temporary services or labor if unemployed persons capable of performing the service or labor cannot be found in the United States;

6)    H-3 – aliens coming temporarily to the United States as trainees, other than to receive graduate medical education or training;

7)    O-1, O-2, O-3 – temporary workers with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; those entering solely for the purpose of accompanying and assisting such workers; and their spouses and children;

8)    P-1, P-2, P-3, P-4 – athletes and entertainers at an internationally recognized level of performance; artists and entertainers under a reciprocal exchange program; artists and entertainers under a program that is “culturally unique”; and their spouses and children;

9)    Q-1, Q-2, Q-3 – participants in international cultural exchange programs; participants in the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program; and spouses and children of Irish Peace Process participants;

10)   R-1, R-2 – temporary workers to perform work in religious occupations and their spouses and children.

Transit Alien
An alien in immediate and continuous transit through the United States, with or without a visa, including, 1) aliens who qualify as persons entitled to pass in transit to and from the United Nations Headquarters District and foreign countries and 2) foreign government officials and their spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children in transit.

Transit Without Visa (TWOV)
A transit alien traveling without a nonimmigrant visa under section 233 of the INA. An alien admitted under agreements with a transportation line, which guarantees his immediate and continuous passage to a foreign destination.

Treaty Trader or Investor
As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming to the United States, under the provisions of a treaty of commerce and navigation between the United States and the foreign state of such alien, to carry on substantial trade or to direct the operations of an enterprise in which he/she has invested a substantial amount of capital, and the alien’s spouse and unmarried minor children.


An abbreviation for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Underrepresented Countries, Natives of
The Immigration Amendments of 1988, Public Law 101-658 (Act of 11/5/88) allowed for 10,000 visas to be issued to natives of underrepresented countries in each of fiscal years 1990 and 1991. Under-represented countries are defined as countries that received less than 25 percent of the maximum allowed under the country limitations (20,000 for independent countries and 5,000 for dependencies) in fiscal year 1988.


A U.S. visa allows the bearer to apply for entry to the U.S. in a certain classification (e.g. student (F), visitor (B), temporary worker (H)). A visa does not grant the bearer the right to enter the United States. The Department of State (DOS) is responsible for visa adjudication at U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside of the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) immigration inspectors determine admission into, length of stay and conditions of stay in, the U.S. at a port of entry. The information on a nonimmigrant visa only relates to when an individual may apply for entry into the U.S. DHS immigration inspectors will record the terms of your admission on your Arrival/Departure Record (I-94 white or I-94W green) and in your passport.

Visa Waiver Program
Allows citizens of certain selected countries, traveling temporarily to the United States under the nonimmigrant admission classes of visitors for pleasure and visitors for business, to enter the United States without obtaining nonimmigrant visas. Admission is for no more than 90 days. The program was instituted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (entries began 7/1/88). Under the Guam Visa Waiver Program, certain visitors from designated countries may visit Guam only for up to 15 days without first having to obtain nonimmigrant visitor visas.

Voluntary Departure
The departure of an alien from the United States without an order of removal. The departure may or may not have been preceded by a hearing before an immigration judge. An alien allowed to voluntarily depart concedes removability but does not have a bar to seeking admission at a port-of-entry at any time. Failure to depart within the time granted results in a fine and a ten-year bar to several forms of relief from deportation.


A waiver indicates giving up a right through statement or by manner of conduct, intentionally or voluntarily. Misinterpretations of waivers can frequently occur; consequently, to be accepted in court, waivers must be on record.

An arriving alien’s voluntary retraction of an application for admission to the United States in lieu of a removal hearing before an immigration judge or an expedited removal.

Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is death caused by wrongful actions of another individual. These actions may be due to negligence, intentional attacks, death occurring in the event of another crime, vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter or murder.