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Immigration Definitions

Navigating the waters of immigration law can be complex if you do not speak the language. That is why we put together a detailed list of some of the most commonly used terms to help you understand processes and procedures.

The lawful entry of the alien into the United States after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer. 8 USC Chapter 12, § 1101(a)(13)(A).

An opinion from the Department regarding the interpretation or application of law or regulation related to a specific case. 9 FAM 102.3-1(U)(f).

Any person not a citizen or national of the United States. 8 USC Chapter 12, § 1101 (a)(3).

Dates established by the Department to indicate the availability and authorization for issuance of immigrant numbers. 9 FAM 102.3-1(U)(h).

  • A formal judgment of guilt of the alien entered by a court or, if adjudication of guilt has been withheld, where-

(i) a judge or jury has found the alien guilty or the alien has entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or has admitted sufficient facts to warrant a finding of guilt, and

(ii) the judge has ordered some form of punishment, penalty, or restraint on the alien’s liberty to be imposed. 8 USC Chapter 12, § 1101 (a)(48)(A).

Generally, full-time employment consists of 35 to 40 hours of work a week.  The controlling principle, however, is what is prevailing for the occupation.  Airline pilots, for example, may work considerably less than 40 hours a week, but this would probably be considered full-time employment. 9 FAM 302.1-5(B)(11)(U).

This refers to a traveler’s lawful record of admission. If you want to check your travel to and from the U.S. (dates of arrival and departure), you may do so here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. There are some ports-of-entry that still issue a physical I-94 card.

Not permitted by law to enter or remain in the United States. For certain grounds of inadmissibility, a waiver may be obtained, and the applicant may thereafter enter the U.S.

The conferring of nationality of a state upon a person after birth, by any means whatsoever. 8 USC Chapter 12, § 1101(a)(23).

A foreign born person (alien) who is coming to the United States temporarily for a particular purpose but does not remain permanently. 9 FAM 102.3-14(U)(d).

A visa properly issued to an alien as an eligible nonimmigrant by a competent officer as provided in this chapter. 8 USC Chapter 12, § 1101(a)(26).

Constitutes the fact of being in a place at a given moment.  This is a factual state or condition. “Physical presence” differs from “residence” in that “residence” is the particular location of a person’s general abode, whereas “physical presence” is the particular location of the person at the given time.  Thus, although the alien’s general abode may be located in one place, the alien may be physically present in another. 9 FAM 403.2-4(B)(1).

Port or place designated by DHS at which an alien may apply to DHS for admission into the United States, be inspected, and have his or her eligibility for entry into the United States determined. 9 FAM 102.3-16(U)(b).

The primary individual on a case who submits an application or petition for an immigration benefit. 9 FAM 102.3-16(U)(d).

The place of general abode; the place of general abode of a person means his principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. 8 USC Chapter 12, § 1101(a)(33).

The INA requires that visa validity periods, numbers of admissions, and visa fees be reciprocal, or based on each country’s treatment of similar classes of U.S. visitors to its territory.  The reciprocity schedule found here provides the visa validity periods, numbers of admissions, and visa fees for each country and each visa class. 9 FAM 102.3-18(U)(e).

The time in which an applicant may make application to an immigration officer at a port of entry for admittance into the United States.  It has no bearing on the length of time for which the alien may be admitted. 9 FAM 102.3-22(U)(c).

The monthly Visa Bulletin serves as a guide for issuing visas at U.S. consulates and embassies. USCIS also uses this guide to determine whether an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status may be accepted for filing and receive final adjudication. USCIS Policy Manual, Volume 7, Part A, Chapter 6.

A program that allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the U.S. for business or tourism (without a visa) for 90 days. See the following link for a list of Visa Waiver Program Countries: https://www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-program-requirements.

A person who acquired U.S. citizenship at birth or upon naturalization as provided by law and who has not subsequently lost such citizenship. 22 CFR § 51.1.

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