U.S. Immigration Glossary

Last Updated on July 1, 2024

Your U.S. immigration glossary, presented by Envoy Global and Corporate Immigration Partners.

Immigration and immigration law have many specialized terms. Whether you’re an employer or a foreign national seeking more information on U.S. immigration, this immigration dictionary can serve as a reference tool to explain the most common terms that you may encounter throughout the immigration process.

Be sure to bookmark this immigration glossary of terms and check back often! We will continue to update these common immigration terms and phrases.


To make a decision or determination, usually related to a legal issue or dispute. When an immigration case has been “adjudicated,” it means that an officer has made a decision to either approve or deny the requested immigration benefit. 

Adjustment of Status 

The process of applying for permanent residency (green card) from within the U.S., as opposed to applying from outside the U.S. through consular processing. It is called “adjustment of status,” which is a nonimmigrant status to immigration or permanent resident status. 


This term refers to whether a foreign national can enter, stay in, or gain legal status in the U.S, after being inspected by an immigration officer.  

Admit-Until Date 

The date that a person’s immigration status in the U.S. will expire, as marked in their I-94 travel record issued by the Customs Border Patrol (CBP) at entry in the U.S.  

Advance Parole 

Advance parole is a travel document issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows certain noncitizens to reenter the United States after traveling abroad. Non-citizens may be eligible for advance parole if they have pending applications for certain immigration benefits, such as: Adjustment of status, Asylum or withholding of removal, Family Unity Program benefits, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). 


A sworn statement, submitted in writing, that asserts that certain facts are true and accurate to the best of that person’s knowledge. This document can be witnessed and certified by a notary. 

Affidavit of Support 

A document in which a person promises to support an immigrant financially and to reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of any public assistance they receive. Typically submitted as part of a family-based adjustment of status application.  


A request to overturn an official decision or ruling. Some immigration decisions can be appealed to the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which is an office within the Department of Justice. Other decisions cannot be formally appealed, but they may be referred back to the issuing office for reconsideration.  


Foreign nationals applying for an immigration benefit.  


A form of protection that also allows for immigration benefits to be granted to a person already in the U.S. or at a U.S. port of entry because they fear persecution in their home country. Refugees become asylees once they arrive in the U.S. or at a U.S. port of entry. Asylees can apply for adjustment of status (green card) after 12 months in the U.S.   

Automatic Visa Revalidation 

A process allowing certain nonimmigrants to take short trips to Mexico, Canada or some Caribbean islands and return to the U.S. on an expired visa without first needing to apply for a new visa.  


Someone for whom an immigration benefit has been requested, either by the beneficiary themselves or by a relative or employer. The person for whom the benefit is requested is the principal beneficiary, while close family members who also qualify for such benefits are derivative beneficiaries. 


Immigration biometrics are a way to confirm a person’s identity using their unique physical characteristics. Biometrics are typically collected when you apply for a visa or other immigration benefits.  During a biometrics appointment, your fingerprints will be recorded, and your photograph will be taken. 

Birth Certificate 

A government-issued document that records the birth of a child. The birth certificate includes certain key identifying information such as the full name, place of birth and names of both parents. For immigration purposes, the U.S. government will follow guidance outlined by the Department of State’s Country Reciprocity Schedule.  

B Visa 

A nonimmigrant visa issued for temporary travel to the U.S. This category includes the B-1 visa (business) and the B-2 visa (tourism and pleasure). Since many people combine business and pleasure during trips to the U.S., the visa can be issued as a single multipurpose B-1/B-2 visa. 


A limit on the number of visa applications processed for a particular category. Typically, the “Cap” refers to the H-1B visa lottery, which limits the number of new applications processed annually to 85,000.  

Cap-Gap Authorization 

An F-1 OPT status authorization is granted to student visa holders waiting for their H-1B transfer of status to begin. During the H-1B cap season, a status gap occurs when the student’s F-1 OPT employment authorization expires on or after April 1st and the H-1B effective start date. Students selected for the Cap and who request a change of status filed before their OPT employment authorization expiration may request for Cap-Gap Authorization to allow them to remain and continue to work in the U.S. until the effective date of the H-1B visa.  

Case Number 

A number issued by USCIS to track an individual’s immigration and visa applications. A single person can have multiple case numbers tracking their different immigration requests and visa petitions/applications.  

Certificate of Citizenship 

An official document that identifies the holder as a U.S. citizen. It is issued to people who were born abroad and gained citizenship either at birth or later, such as when their parents became naturalized citizens.  

Certificate of Naturalization 

An official document that identifies the holder as a U.S. citizen. It is issued to people who gain citizenship through naturalization after the Oath of Allegiance.  

Change of Status  

A request filed with USCIS stating an individual would like to officially change the purpose of his or her visit to the U.S. For example, foreign students on F-1 visas often sponsored by an employer to change their status to H-1B status for work authorization.  


A national of a particular country. U.S. citizenship can be acquired at birth, through naturalization, or through one’s parents later. 

Citizenship Test 

As part of the naturalization in-person interview, candidates must demonstrate that they can speak, read and write in English. Additionally, they must show a basic knowledge of American civics, which includes answering questions about American history and government.  

Continuous Residence 

A period of time that a green card holder spends in the U.S. after gaining U.S. permanent residence. Permanent residents must spend between three and five years residing continuously in the U.S. to qualify for U.S. naturalization. Extended absences of more than six months abroad can disrupt continuous residence unless the applicant can prove otherwise. Absences over one year may be deemed abandonment of the applicant’s permanent residency.  

Consular Processing 

The process used to apply for a green card from outside the U.S., as opposed to applying from within the U.S. using the adjustment of status process. Most of the process is handled by officials at the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to the applicant’s place of residence. 


A diplomatic office in a foreign country. The U.S. has embassies in many countries throughout the world. The main embassy is typically in a large city, and there may be several smaller consulates in other important towns and cities. Both consulates and embassies offer a wide range of immigration services.  


Written communication, usually by email or letters, between two or more people or organizations. USCIS sometimes uses the term to refer to the forms and letters sent in by applicants, and/or notices, receipts, or approvals it sends out. 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 

A U.S. government agency within the Department of Homeland Security. CBP officials protect the U.S. border, enforce customs and immigration regulations, and inspect new arrivals before admitting them to the U.S. 

Cut-off Date 

Refers to the final action date for the Department of State Visa Bulletin. 

Date for Filing 

The date listed in the Department of State Visa Bulletin indicating when certain green card applicants can file their application, even if their final action date has not yet been reached. USCIS will then provide a subsequent update on which dates applicants should use. 

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) 

A program introduced in 2012 by President Obama to allow undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to lawfully live, study and work without fear of deportation. Efforts to phase out the program and deport many Dreamers are currently the focus of legal proceedings.  


The official decision in which USCIS notifies a petitioner and/or applicant that their request for an immigration benefit cannot be granted.  

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 

The U.S. government agency that handles domestic security, including most immigration functions. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Custom Border Patrol (CBP) are both a part of the DHS. 

Department of Justice (DOJ) 

The U.S. government agency that handles criminal justice and law enforcement. Immigration courts and some immigration appeals are administered by the DOJ. 

Department of State (DOS) 

The U.S. government agency that handles foreign affairs and diplomacy. It operates U.S. consulates and embassies around the world. 

Dependent Visa  

A visa classification offered to spouses and unmarried children 21 years old or younger to allow them to travel and stay in the U.S. with a principal work visa holder spouse or parent. For example, an H-1B visa holder can have their H-4 dependent spouse and children accompany them.  


A person is considered “derivative” if their immigration status depends on the status of their spouse or parent. For instance, the child of a green card holder is often eligible for a green card of their own. The person receiving a benefit in this way is called a “derivative beneficiary,” and the visa or other benefit they receive is sometimes called a “derivative benefit” or “derivative classification.” 


In adjudicating matters, immigration officials are sometimes required to make specific rulings; in others, they have broad powers to use their own judgment to decide whether to approve or deny an immigration benefit. 


For immigration and tax purposes, domicile typically refers not just to your house or apartment, but also to your country of residence. This is often referred to as “country of domicile” or being “domiciled in” a specific country.  

Dual Intent 

To have dual intent is to use a temporary or nonimmigrant visa while simultaneously planning to immigrate permanently to the U.S. Some temporary visas do not allow dual intent, and applying for a green card while in that status may impact their immigration status. A few visas, such as the H-1B and L-1 visas, do allow for dual intent. 


In the immigration context, many forms and documents must be submitted in duplicate form (such as providing an additional photocopy of an original document).  

Duration of Status 

Designated as “D/S” on a temporary visitor’s I-94 record (in the admit-until date section) when they are admitted to the U.S. This allows the foreign national to remain in the U.S. for as long as they maintain their current immigration status. Student visa holders can often remain in the U.S. until they complete their educational program but lose their status once they are no longer enrolled in school. 

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) 

An online tool used by people traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) to request authorization to come to the U.S., for business or pleasure, for a period of 90 days or less without having to apply for an actual visa stamp. 


A diplomatic office, usually in a foreign country’s capital city, headed by an ambassador. In many countries, the U.S. also maintains smaller diplomatic offices called consulates in important towns and cities. Both consulates and embassies offer a wide range of immigration services. 


To leave one’s home country to live permanently in a new country. This word is sometimes confused with “immigrate,” which means to move permanently to a new country.  

Employment Authorization 

Refers to the legal right to work in the U.S.U.S. Citizens and green card holders automatically have employment authorization. However, foreign nationals depending on their visa classification may work incident to their status or if eligible, must request a work permit called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Employment authorization can be restricted to a specified employer, or they can allow a person to work for any employer during their time in the U.S. 

Employment-Based Green Card 

A green card obtained in one of several employment-based (EB) categories. Employer-sponsored green cards, investor green cards and green cards for immigrants with exceptional skills and abilities are all considered employment green cards.  


In the immigration context, issues may be escalated when they need special attention. These issues may be moved ahead in line for faster processing or review by an immigration officer or manager. 


A web-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9 to records from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment authorization.  


In the immigration context, “exclusion” typically refers to a foreign national being denied entry into the U.S. through a removal procedure. 


Under immigration law, certain cases can be expedited, meaning that a decision is reached more quickly than the normal processing time. 


Most visas carry an “expiration date” that indicates the latest date by which the visas can be used to request entry into the U.S. It is possible to have an expired visa without losing one’s immigration status. Your visa’s expiration date is the last date that you can use the visa to travel to the U.S., but once admitted to the U.S. you will receive a D/S mark or admit-until date that tells you how long you are allowed to remain in the country. 

Extension of Status  

The act of renewing a non-immigrant status to extend the visa holder’s length of stay in the current status. For instance, H-1B visas can be renewed for up to three years at a time for a maximum of six years (some exceptions may apply).  

Field Office 

A regional USCIS office that provides services for individuals residing in that district.  

Filing Fee 

A payment made to the U.S. government agency when submitting certain immigration petitions or visa applications. In some cases, the fees can be waived if the applicant is experiencing financial hardship. 

Final Action Date 

Also called a cut-off date, this reflects the length of the waiting period for visa numbers in certain oversubscribed green card categories. Applicants must wait until their priority date is before the final action date before submitting their green card application.  

Foreign National 

Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen. Green card holders and stateless individuals are both considered foreign nationals. 

F Visa 

A widely used visa category for students. F-1 visas are for full-time students; F-2 visas are for their dependents; and F-3 visas are for Mexican or Canadian nationals who reside in their home country but commute to the U.S. to study. F-1 visa holders are typically eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT), allowing them to work for U.S. employers during their studies. Students can also be eligible for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). 

Government Fees Costs  

The costs associated with visa applications that are paid to government agencies such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Department of State (DOS).  

Green Card 

The physical card issued to permanent residents of the U.S., who are often referred to as green card holders. The green card is also referred to as a Permanent Residence Card (PRC), an immigrant visa, or (when acquired through marriage) a spousal visa. 

H-1B Visa 

A visa used by employers to sponsor skilled foreign workers for specialty occupations. The H-1B visa is one of the few dual intent visas, allowing holders to apply for green cards after coming to the country with an H-1B visa. 

Home Residence Requirement (HRR) 

A requirement that a J-visa holder return to their home country and remain there for two years before seeking a nonimmigrant visa or green card. The HRR can be waived in some circumstances. 

I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) 

A form used to establish a family relationship between a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and a person seeking green card status. The first step in a marriage green card application.  

I-485 (“Application for Adjustment of Status”) 

A form used to apply for a green card from inside the U.S., either alongside a Form I-130 or once an I-130 petition has been approved and a visa number has become available.  

I-797 (“Notice of Action”) 

A formal communication sent by USCIS to applicants or petitioners. The I-797 can be used to notify you that a requested immigration benefit has been approved or denied, to confirm receipt of payment, to schedule or reschedule appointments and interviews, or to request additional evidence in connection with an application. 

I-94 (“Arrival/Departure Record”) 

Sometimes called the I-94 travel record, this document tracks the arrivals and departures of visitors to the U.S. It can be used to prove lawful entry and current status. You may be issued a paper I-94 when you enter the U.S., but I-94 records are mostly now managed digitally. You can check your online I-94 record and travel history on the CBP website. 

Immediate Relative 

Immediate relatives are defined as spouses of U.S. citizens, children (aged under 21 years old and unmarried) of U.S. citizens and parents of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old).  

Immigrant Status  

A term that describes individuals living in the U.S. permanently. Most work visa holders have nonimmigrant status, which denotes the temporary nature of their stay in the U.S., while green card holders have immigrant status.  


To immigrate is to move permanently to another country. It is often confused with “emigrate,” which means to move permanently away from a country. You emigrate from one country in order to immigrate to another. 

Immigration Benefit 

Any visa, status or other right or ability that a foreign national requests from the U.S. government. Green cards, temporary visas and employment authorizations are all immigration benefits. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 

The U.S. law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing immigration law and identifying and deporting unlawful immigrants. Part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 

Federal legislation, passed in 1952, that serves as the legal framework for the current U.S. immigration system.  

Immigration Law 

Any legislation, regulation or legal precedent that determines how immigration is administered and enforced. The term can also refer more generally to the field of legal practice that covers immigration issues; for instance, an attorney can specialize in immigration law. 

Immigration Status 

The legal category under which someone is present in the U.S. While someone is maintaining their immigration status in the U.S., they are subject to various rules, responsibilities, and benefits associated with that status. Immigration status and visa are different things; your visa is the specific document (such as an F-1 student visa) placed in your passport that you use to travel to the U.S., while your status is the category under which you present in the U.S.  (such as being in F-1 status as a student enrolled in a qualifying degree program). There is no such thing as “visa status” under U.S. immigration law. 


The quality of not being admissible. For immigration purposes, someone found inadmissible is barred from or ineligible for entrance to the U.S., or from receiving a visa, often because of their conduct or circumstances. 

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The U.S. government agency that collects taxes from individuals and businesses. 


An in-person meeting for the purposes of obtaining and confirming information. Many visas and other immigration benefits, including green cards and naturalization, may require the applicant to attend an interview. 

J Visa 

A non-immigrant visa for students, academics and cultural exchange visitors.  J visas may carry a home residence requirement preventing the holder from obtaining other immigration statuses, including green cards, until they have left the U.S. and spent two years in their home country or had the home residence requirement waived. 

Joint Sponsor 

A person other than the primary sponsor who agrees to support a green card applicant financially. A joint sponsor can be used when the primary sponsor doesn’t have the financial means to support the applicant and their household.  


The geographical area or court system within which a particular part of the government exercises its authority. In the context of immigration, “jurisdiction” generally refers to the specific court that has the power and authority to make decisions on a given matter. For example, the U.S. federal court system has jurisdiction over most immigration cases within the U.S. 

K-1 Visa 

A fiancé(e) visa that allows a foreign national to travel to the U.S. for the purpose of marriage to a U.S. citizen. The holder must marry within 90 days of arriving in the U.S. and can then adjust their status to receive a green card. The fiancé(e)’s dependents can be issued K-2 visas providing equivalent benefits.  

Labor Certification 

The process through which an employer proves that no U.S. workers are qualified for a given job. In order to sponsor a foreign national for an employment-based green card, it may be necessary to first obtain labor certification. 

Lawful Permanent Residence 

The status assigned to people who are allowed to live and work indefinitely in the U.S. Also referred to as having permanent residence, being a resident alien or simply having a green card. 

L-1 Visa 

A nonimmigrant visa that allows multinational companies to transfer foreign workers to their offices in the U.S. The L-1 visa allows for dual intent, and it can be used as a path to a green card. 

Marriage-based Green Card 

A green card obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. This green card is also called a marriage green card or a spouse green card.  

Medical Waiver 

Special waiver allowing an immigrant to be admitted into the U.S., or be issued a visa or other immigration benefit, despite having a medical condition that would ordinarily disqualify them.  

Motion to Reopen or Reconsider 

A request that a government body, such as a USCIS appeals office, reconsider an adverse decision. In some immigration situations, there is no formal right of appeal. 

M-1 Visa 

A student visa is used for the purpose of receiving education or training at a vocational school or technical college. 

National Visa Center 

A facility, run by the DOS, that processes visa applications and sends green card application packets to the appropriate embassies and consulates around the world for consular processing.  


A person’s country of citizenship, whether by birth or by naturalization. 


The process of gaining U.S. citizenship. Green card holders are generally eligible to naturalize after three to five years as permanent residents.  

Naturalized Citizen 

Anyone who gained U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process. Naturalized citizens have the same rights and duties as people who have been U.S. citizens from birth. 


A foreign national who is admitted to the U.S. for a specific and temporary period of time. Nonimmigrant visa categories include H, L, O, P, J, F and TN.  

Oath of Allegiance 

The oath, administered as part of a naturalization ceremony, in which a new citizen pledges to support the U.S. and the Constitution, and renounces their allegiance to any other governments or nations.  

O-1 Visa 

The O-1 Visa is for people who show extraordinary ability in fields such as the sciences, the arts, education, business or athletics. 

Optional Practical Training (OPT) 

A period of employment granted to F-1 student visa holders during or after their studies. Students who complete STEM degrees can extend their OPT period, making STEM programs a valuable pathway to employment in the U.S. as students pursue the H-1B visa, green cards or other more permanent solutions to live and work in the U.S. 


To overstay means to remain in the U.S. beyond the admit-until date listed on one’s I-94 record. Overstaying can cause serious problems for future visa applications, including leading to the visa holder being barred from returning to the U.S. for up to 10 years.  


The temporary right to enter or remain in the U.S. Parole can be used to allow a person who is otherwise inadmissible to enter or remain in the U.S., perhaps to receive medical treatment or to present evidence in a criminal proceeding, or as part of the advance parole or parole in place programs. 

Parole in Place 

A discretionary program allowing humanitarian parole to people who are already inside the United States. This can allow the paroled family members to gain green cards through adjustment of status without first leaving the country.  


Establishes that an employer wants to sponsor a foreign national h for a temporary work visa.  


Refers to an employer sponsoring a foreign national for work authorization.  

Physical Presence 

To be in a particular place or country (in contrast with residence, which simply requires that one makes one’s home there). To qualify for U.S. citizenship, a green card holder must spend three to five years continuously resident in the U.S. and must be physically present in the U.S. for at least half of that time. 

Premium Processing  

Expedited adjudication process for an extra fee requiring USCIS to act within 15 business days of receiving a petition for certain visas or parts of the green card application process.  

Prevailing Wage  

The prevailing wage rate is defined as the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment.  

Processing Time 

The time that it takes the U.S. government to consider an application and approve an immigration benefit.


A region, administrative area or district within a country. 

Port of Entry 

A port of entry (POE) is a place where one may lawfully enter the U.S. International airports are usually ports of entry, as are road and rail crossings on a land border, and major seaports. 

Priority Date 

The priority date is your place in the line of people waiting for green cards to become available, as shown in the monthly visa bulletin. You can find your priority date on the I-797 form USCIS sent when your I-130 or I-140 petition was approved.  

Public Charge Rule  

A rule permitting the U.S. government to deny immigration benefits to people who have used, or who are deemed likely to use, certain kinds of public assistance.  

Receipt Notice 

Proof provided for having received a document, payment, or other item. In the immigration context, USCIS will mail a “receipt notice” as proof they successfully received a certain document or payment. This notice will include your receipt number or case number, which is used to track your application. See also I-797. 

Reciprocity Fee 

The “visa issuance fee.” When a foreign government charges a fee for U.S. citizens to obtain certain visas, the U.S. will charge a reciprocal fee for citizens of that country. You can view the reciprocity schedule for a breakdown of current reciprocity fees (if any) for the visa you’re applying for, the number of entries allowed into the U.S. on that visa, maximum visa validity, and detailed information on what supporting documents you need to include in your visa application. 

Re-entry Permit 

Used by green card holders to travel abroad for more than one year but less than two years without being presumed to have abandoned their U.S. residence. A green card holder can request a Re-entry Permit before leaving the U.S. to document their intention to return and to remain a U.S. resident.  


A person who has escaped persecution, conflict or natural disaster in their home country and now seeks protection or shelter in another country. A refugee present in the U.S., or one who requests protection at a U.S. port of entry, is referred to as an asylee. 


A formal rule established by a government agency or similar authority. Along with legislation, regulations relating to immigration are an important part of immigration law and determine how the U.S. provides immigration benefits and enforces its existing laws.  


A finding by USCIS that an immigration filing cannot be accepted because it is incomplete. A rejection does not mean that the applicant doesn’t qualify for a particular immigration benefit. Instead, it means they haven’t submitted their application correctly.  


The expulsion of someone from the U.S. because the U.S. government has determined that they are inadmissible. People subject to removal are typically transported back to their home country. 


The place where someone lives and makes their home. The word “residence” can refer to a specific house or apartment, but for immigration and tax purposes, it typically refers to the country where a person has made their primary and permanent home. 

Resident Alien 

Any non-U.S. citizen who resides in the U.S. The term includes green card holders, but for tax purposes, many other non-citizens are considered resident aliens.  


To go back to a previous state. In immigration, the term “retrogression” is when somebody’s place in line for a green card moves backward instead of forward, leaving the applicant with a longer wait. This can occur when demand for visas outpaces the government’s ability to process applications, or when only a limited number of visas are issued in a given category each year. 

Returning Resident 

A green card holder who has traveled abroad and who is now returning to the U.S. If they have been abroad for more than one year, the green card holder will need a returning resident visa. 

Request for Evidence (RFE) 

A notice issued by USCIS asking an applicant to provide additional information or evidence in support of their application.  


To cancel, reverse or take something back. For instance, the government can revoke a visa if the visa holder is no longer eligible. 

Service Center 

A USCIS office that only handles applications submitted by mail or through electronic means. Service centers don’t offer any in-person immigration services. 


To file a petition requesting immigration benefits on behalf of another person. Someone who sponsors another person, such as a U.S. citizen who requests a green card for their spouse, is referred to as that person’s sponsor. 

Spousal Visa 

A green card obtained through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. 


A marking placed in someone’s passport to allow them to enter the U.S. as part of a certain category such as a student or temporary worker. 


A form or application filed on its own (alone) and not together with another form or application. 


A condition or a state of being. For immigration purposes, “status” can refer to the condition or progress of a specific immigration case, such as whether an application has been received or adjudicated. It can also refer to a person’s immigration status.  


An acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Some student visa holders who complete degrees in STEM subjects are eligible to remain and work in the U.S. for longer than students in other disciplines.  

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) 

A database maintained by the DHS to track student visa holders. 

Student Visa 

One of several visa categories used for education. The main student visas are the F, J and M visas. 

Supporting Documents 

Documents submitted as evidence in support of a petition, application or request for an immigration benefit. Depending on your situation, your documents could include financial records, employment contracts, police reports, marriage certificate, birth certificates and other similar records.  

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) 

A program that allows people from certain countries hit by conflict, civil disorder or natural disaster to live and work in the U.S.  

TN Visa  

The TN Visa is a special visa reserved for citizens of Canada and Mexico and is subject to the rules and regulations of the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA).  

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 

The agency that oversees lawful immigration to the U.S. Part of the DHS, this agency handles visa applications, green card applications and naturalization. It also provides many other immigration services. 


A visa gives someone permission to apply to enter the U.S. When a visa is approved, a stamp is printed in the visa holder’s passport. Note that a person’s “visa” is different from their “status.” 

Visa Bulletin 

The visa bulletin is a monthly update from the DOS recording the waiting period for different categories of family preference and employment preference green cards.  

Visa Number 

Every U.S. visa has an identifying serial number printed in red ink on the lower-right hand corner of the visa.  

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) 

A program allowing people from 38 countries to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days without requiring a visa. Travelers must request authorization in advance using the ESTA system. 


To forgo or overlook a requirement or fee. It is often possible to request a “waiver” of filing fees for some immigration forms if the applicant is facing financial hardship. Some immigration requirements, such as the medical requirements for immigration or the penalties for overstaying on a visa, can also be waived in certain circumstances.  


To voluntarily retract a petition or application for an immigration benefit. This can sometimes be a useful strategy if there are serious problems with your application that need to be resolved before you can proceed.  

Work Permit 

A document, also called an Employment Authorization Document, that grants a foreign national the right to work in the U.S. Obtaining a work permit is one way for qualifying foreign nationals who are in the U.S. to legally gain employment. To apply for a work permit, you must complete and submit Form I-765 (the “Application for Employment Authorization Document”).  

We hope you have enjoyed this U.S. immigration glossary resource. Understanding basic immigration terminology will help employers and their sponsored employee population prepare for the immigration process, but you’ll also need an experienced immigration services provider to help navigate the complexities of the immigration process. Contact us to learn more about how Envoy Global and boost your immigration program.

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Envoy is pleased to provide you with this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Anne Walsh and Joy Ang, Partners, at Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., a U.S. law firm who provides services through the Envoy Platform (the “U.S. Law Firm”).      

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Envoy is not a law firm, and does not provide legal advice. If you would like guidance on how this information may impact your particular situation and you are a client of the U.S. Law Firm, consult your attorney. If you are not a client of the U.S. Law Firm working with Envoy, consult another qualified professional. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship with the U.S. Law Firm.