Terminology & Definitions

Basic Immigration Terms and Definitions

Adjustment of Status The process in which someone who holds non-immigrant status applies to change to immigrant or lawful permanent status without having to leave the United States.
Advance Parole A document that permits an alien with a pending change of status or permanent residence application to travel outside the United States. (If an alien has a pending permanent residence application, but is in valid H-1B status, he/she does not require advance parole to travel.)
Consular Processing Process of applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate in a foreign country.
Green Card The physical document issued by USCIS to permanent residents of the United States as evidence of their status.
Home Residence Requirement Unique requirement associated with the J-1 visa that requires some holders to return to their home country for two years after completing their stay in the United States before they are eligible to return.
I-94 The admission/departure record stapled into an alien’s passport. The I-94 includes a listing all of the basic information about the individual, including his or her immigration status and approved length of stay.
Immigrant A foreign national who has obtained permission to reside permanently in the United States.
Immigration Status Conferred by a Department of Homeland Security representative upon an alien’s entry into the United States, and evidenced by a Form I-94.
Labor Certification The first step in most employer-sponsored permanent residence applications. It is filed with the United States Department of Labor to demonstrate that an employer adequately tested the domestic labor market through competitive recruitment for a particular position.
Labor Condition Application Form that states that the employer will pay an H-1B worker the higher of the “prevailing wage” for the particular occupation in that geographic area, or the wage paid by the employer to U.S. workers performing the same job.
Non-Immigrant A foreign national who has obtained permission to enter the United States for a temporary period of time, for a specified purpose.
Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) The Department of Labor’s current process for labor certification.
Prevailing Wage The wage paid to similarly situated U.S. workers. An employer must certify that it will pay at least this wage to the foreign worker, in applications for H-1B and labor certification.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) (formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service or “INS”) Arm of the Department of Homeland Security that reviews immigration filings from individuals and organizations within the United States, assesses whether the requested visa status is appropriate for a particular individual, and makes the final determination to grant or deny the request.
Visa A printed label physically placed in the holder’s passport, which includes a photograph, identifies the person’s status, and the duration of the status. A valid visa is required for non-immigrants to enter the United States.