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Immigration into America: Visa Glossary

A number

Refers to the permanent file number assigned in sequence by the USCIS to an alien. This number is used to identify the alien on their Work Permit, Green Card, Naturalisation Certificate and all correspondence and applications filed with the USCIS.


Occurs when an USCIS officer makes a decision as the whether to grant or deny an application.

Adjustment of status

Process where one changes their residency status in America from temporary residency to permanent residency.


Any type of document written by the applicant or by a third party in support of the applicant and signed in front of a notary public.

Affidavit of support

Important form required in a family-based adjustment case in which the petitioner agrees to reimburse the government if the person being adjusted requires federal benefits within 10 years of adjustment or the person naturalises.


One who is not a permanent resident but is present in America on a Non-immigrant Visa, is out of status, or entered without inspection.

American citizen

Someone born in the U.S., someone born outside the U.S. to a U.S. citizen parent, or one who has naturalised or obtained a certificate of citizenship.

Application Support Center (ASC)

The facility that takes fingerprints of applicants.

Approval notice

A notice from a service center stating a petition is approved.


The alien who will receive the immigration benefit from the filing of a petition on his or her behalf by either a family member who is an American citizen, or Green Card holder, or by a company making an appropriate job offer.

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

A separate office within the Executive Office of Immigration Review that administers appeals from the Immigration Court.

Certificate of citizenship

Document given in place of a Naturalisation Certificate to those born abroad to American citizens, adopted by American citizens, or children whose parents naturalised. Normally given to those who qualify for citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident.

Change of status

An application made on Form I-539 by one in America to change from one non-immigrant status to another.

Conditional resident

One who has obtained conditional permanent residence through marriage to an American citizen (where the marriage is less than 2 years old at the time of adjustment) or through a qualifying investment.


Office run by the U.S. Department of State and is a sub-office in a larger foreign country of the main embassy office. It is responsible for the issuance of immigrant and non-immigrant visas to aliens for entry into America. May also make determinations on American citizenship.

Cut-off date

The date on the Department of State's monthly visa chart that makes people whose priority date is before it is eligible to apply for permanent residence.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Newly formed department responsible for government functions related to security. The former INS has been split into the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is responsible for administering immigration services, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is responsible for immigration enforcement within America.

Department of Labor (DOL)

Through its oversight of Labor certification process, it is responsible for providing determinations as to the availability of qualified American workers for positions offered in many of the employment-based categories.

Department of State

Runs the embassies and consulates, which decide on Immigrant and Non-immigrant Visa applications.


This occurs when a person is physically taken by a DHS Deportation officer to his or her native country, usually because either a deportation order or a removal order from the immigration court exists.

Diversity visa

A Green Card lottery run by the Department of State where 100,000 people will be notified they will be allowed to adjust status. However, only 50,000 visas are available each year.


The main office for the American government located in a friendly foreign country.

Employment authorisation document

A photo identification card issued by the USCIS that evidence's the holder's authorisation to work in America and obtain a social security number.

Extension of status

Where one applies for another term of status on the same Non-immigrant Visa.

Extraordinary ability

A level of expertise indicating the individual is one of a very small percentage who have risen to the top of their field of endeavor.

Fingerprint clearance

Required fingerprint check against FBI computer records prior to adjustment of status.

Green card holder

See lawful permanent resident.

Green card stamp

Refers to the temporary stamp placed by a USCIS officer into a person's passport signifying his or her adjustment of status.

Immediate relative

Spouse, parent, or child (under the age of 21) of an American citizen. However, adopted children must have been adopted before the age of 16 and stepchildren before the age of 18.

Immigrant visa

Used when applying for permanent residence at an embassy or consulate.


Someone who has become a lawful permanent resident.

Labor certification

An approved labor certification is a requirement for some employment-based visa petitions. The labour certification requires the employer to test the US job market to determine where there there are any US workers willing or bale to fill the position.


Process whereby a Green Card holder becomes an American citizen.

Non-immigrant visa

Any visa type that permits the visa holder to stay in American for a temporary period for a specific process.


The American citizen or legal permanent resident or American corporation filing on behalf of an alien beneficiary for either an Immigrant or Non-immigrant Visa.

Preference visa category

A family member other than an immediate relative and whose petition therefore requires a waiting period between the filing and application for adjustment.

Principal applicant

The lead applicant in an adjustment or asylum application.

Principal beneficiary

The main beneficiary of a visa petition, as opposed to a derivative beneficiary such as a minor child who obtains status through the principal.

Priority date (date of filing)

The date used to determine when a beneficiary of a visa petition is able to apply for adjustment of status.

Resident alien

A permanent resident or someone on an extended Non-immigrant Visa, but not a Tourist Visa.


An individual or company who is filing a petition on behalf of his or her relative or employee, or a joint sponsor who is filing an affidavit of support.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Agency that comprises the benefits side of the former INS. It is part of the Department of Homeland Security.


Used by itself, it refers to one of the Non-immigrant Temporary Visas.

Visa waiver

Entry into America without a visa from a number of countries who hold visa agreements with America.