Immigration Terminology, Part II

Posted on: May 21st, 2013
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This is the second in a series of articles on immigration terminology.  This article will cover terms and ideas that expand upon the basic vocabulary of an immigration attorney.

Alien Labor Certification

Certification by the U.S. Department of Labor that there is an insufficient number of U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and immediately available at the place of proposed employment.  The certification also provides that employment of the alien seeking certification will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.

Alien Registration Receipt Card

The official name used in immigration law for a green card.


Sworn statements that employers must make to the U.S. Department of Labor before being able to bring foreign workers to the United States.  These statements may be that the employer is trying to hire more Americans, or simply be that foreign workers will be paid the same as U.S. workers.

Diversity Visa (the “green card lottery”)

Generic name given to the immigrant visa lottery program established by the Immigration Act of 1990 that makes available up to 50,000 immigrant visas per federal fiscal year to persons from low-admission states and low-admission regions.  The Diversity USA (DV) program is administered by the U.S. Department of State, which established the rules for the lottery and tracks the available visa numbers.

I-94 card

A card given to all nonimmigrants when they enter the U.S to serve as evidence that a nonimmigrant has entered the country legally.  Before the I-94 card is handed out, it is stamped with a date indicating how long the nonimmigrant may stay for that trip.  It is this date, not the expiration date of the visa, that controls how long a nonimmigrant can remain in the U.S.  Each time a nonimmigrant legally enters the U.S., he or she receives a new I-94 card with a new date.


Potential immigrants who are disqualified from obtaining visas or green cards because they are judged by the U.S. government to be in some way undesirable are called inadmissible (formerly “excludable”).  Most of these individuals are inadmissible because they have criminal records, certain health problems, commit certain criminal acts, are thought to be subversive, or are unable to support themselves financially.


Under certain circumstances, a person may be allowed to enter the U.S. for humanitarian purposes, even when he or she does not meet the technical visa requirements.  Those who are allowed to come to the U.S. without a visa in this manner are granted parole, and are known as parolees.  Advance Parole may be granted to a person who is already in the U.S. but needs to leave temporarily, and return without a visa.  This is the most common when someone has a green card application in process and must leave the U.S. for an emergency or on business.

Permanent Resident

A permanent resident is a non-U.S. citizen who has been given permission to live permanently in the U.S.  If you acquire permanent residence, you will be issued a green card; therefore, the terms permanent resident and green card holder are synonymous.  As a permanent resident, you may travel as much as you like, but your place of residence must be in the U.S. and you must keep that resident on a permanent basis.

Priority Date

The date on which you first entered the immigration application process is called the Priority Date.  Since only a limited number of green cards are issued each year, you must wait your turn behind the others who have filed ahead of you.  Your Priority Date marks your place in the waiting line.  Each month the U.S. Department of State makes green cards available to all those who applied on or before a certain priority date.  You can get a green card only when your date comes up on the DOS list.


Certain categories of qualified green card applicants are allowed into the U.S. in unlimited numbers.  Certain other categories are restricted by a quota.  Approximately 400,000 green cards can be issued each year under the quota, with no more than 25,000 going to applicants from any one country.  If there are more green card applicants than there are green cards allocated under the quota each year, a backlog is created and applicants must wait their turns.  It is because of the quota that it can often take years to get a green card.

Removal Proceedings

Removal (formerly “deportation”) Proceedings are carried on before a special immigration judge to decide whether or not an immigrant will be allowed to enter or remain in the country.  While a person typically cannot be expelled without first going through a removal hearing, someone arriving at the border or a port of entry can be forced to leave without a hearing or ever seeing a judge.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

A temporary protected status is for persons already in the U.S. who came from certain countries experiencing conditions of war or natural disasters.  TPS allows someone to live and work in the U.S. for a period of not less than six months or no more than 18 months, but it does not lead to a green card.  TPS is presently available to persons from Burundi, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Honduras, Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, and Montserrat.

Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows foreign nationals from certain countries to be admitted to the U.S. under limited conditions and for a limited time without obtaining a visa.  The VWP permits nationals from designated countries to apply for admission to the United States for ninety (90) days or less as nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining a nonimmigrant visa.  The following countries are presently participants in this program: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and The United Kingdom.