Glossary of Common Immigration Terms

Adjustment of Status: The legal process by which someone obtains a green card while in the United States.
Aggravated Felonies: Refers to a broad categories of crimes specifically defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) as aggravated felonies regardless of how they are classified under State or Federal Law, that have serious immigration consequences (usually including deportation and lengthy bar from returning to the US).
Asylum: The process by which someone fleeing harm can obtain protection when making the request in the United States (as opposed to refugees, who go through the entire process abroad).
BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals): Appellate level court for the immigration system, housed within the US Department of Justice. Only hears appeals of immigration court decisions in removal (deportation) proceedings and certain denials of immigration applications (usually based on family relationship sponsorship). Also oversees the Recognition and Accreditation Process for non-lawyers.
Consular Processing: Legal Process by which someone obtains a green card when they are living abroad.
Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude: Certain types of crimes requiring a depraved state of mind and which can have serious immigration consequence. Whether a particular conviction qualifies as a CIMT depends on a fact-specific and sophisticated legal analysis.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals): Program announced by President Obama in 2012 that allows individuals brought to the United States as children to request a protection from deportation and work authorization. A policy change that would have expanded eligibility for the program is currently subject to a preliminary injunction and is on hold.
DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents): Program created by President Obama in 2014 that would allow parents of US Citizen and green card holding children to apply for a temporary protection from deportation and work authorization. The program is currently subject to a preliminary injunction and is on hold.
Deportation: The mechanism by which someone who was previously admitted into the United States is now kicked out. The term was combined with “Exclusion” (when a person is refused admission to the US) in 1996 and the correct legal term for someone forced to leave the United States is now “Removal”.
Diversity Visa (also Green Card Lottery): A lottery for green cards available every year to individuals of countries who have low immigration rates to the United States. Restrictions apply.
EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review): The agency within the US Department of Justice that oversees all administrative judicial processes relating to immigration.
EWI (Entry Without Inspection): An entry that does not go through a border entry checkpoint.
Green Card: The card that acts as evidence of someone’s status as a lawful permanent resident.
Green Card Lottery : See “Diversity Visa”
Illegal Entry : See “EWI (Entry Without Inspection)
Immigrant: A person who is coming to the United States with the intention of permanently settling here.
Immigrant Service Providers: A person, organization, or corporation who provides services to immigrants for a fee but is not authorized to provide legal services, as defined in NY General Business Law § 28-C
Immigration Courts: Administrative courts within the US Department of Justice that oversee and adjudicate removal proceedings against non-US Citizens.
Inadmissibility: Grounds by which a person may be refused admission into the United States, either at time of travel to the United States (upon arrival), or when they are applying for a green card from within the United States (adjustment of status).
Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR): A person who can live and work indefinitely in the United States with no restrictions. Permanent Resident status allows for travel outside to the United States and can lead to US Citizenship. However, LPRs are also subject to grounds of deportation and can lose his or her status in some instances.   Most commonly referred to as “green card holders.”
Non-Immigrant: A person who travels to the United States without having an intent to permanently settle here.
Notarios: Colloquial term referring to non-lawyers/non-BIA Accredited Representatives who deceive immigrants into believing they can provide legal assistance and often file fraudulent applications, give wrong advice, or take money but perform no services in exchange.
Recognition & Accreditation: The process by which a not-for-profit organization and their staff can provide legal services to immigrants for no or low fees even if they are not attorneys.
Removal Proceedings: Proceedings held before the Executive Office for Immigration Review to determine whether a person can remain in the United States or must be removed.
Undocumented Immigrant: A non-US Citizen present in the United States without immigration status.
VAWA (Violence Against Women Act): Law enacted in 1994 that created many new immigration recourses for victims of domestic violence (regardless of gender), including U visas for victims of crime, self-petitions for green cards and more.