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Glossary of Common U.S. Immigration Terminology

With so many articles about immigration events in the U.S., it’s hard to keep track of what the acronyms stand for and mean.  We’ve compiled a handy glossary of most-used terms in immigration.

AOS Adjustment of Status – refers to a procedure where an individual who has been admitted to the U.S. as a nonimmigrant, refugee or parolee changes his/her status to a lawful permanent resident.
BIA Board of Immigration Appeals falls under the Executive Office for Immigration Review.  It reviews the decisions of Immigration Courts and some decisions by USCIS.  The BIA also administers a Recognition and Accreditation for certain organizations in the U.S. who wish to provide legal immigration services to the public.
CMS Case Management Software – refers to software that allows organizations to manage their legal cases, including client data, case processing, reports, and contact information in one central system.
CBP U.S. Customs & Border Protection – a federal agency in charge of securing the U.S. borders from items and individuals that bring harm to the U.S.
CIR Comprehensive Immigration Reform – reform of U.S. immigration laws that will involve all aspects of immigration (high-skilled workers, agricultural workers, undocumented individuals, investors, family sponsored relatives, diversity lottery, physicians, artists, criminal conduct, etc.).
DACA Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – a program implemented by USCIS that allows individuals who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 to remain in the country and apply for work authorization.  Other eligibility requirements apply.
DHS U.S. Department of Homeland Security – the federal agency in charge of securing the U.S. from multiple threats.  It oversees the USCIS, CBP, ICE and four other federal agencies.
DOL U.S. Department of Labor – a federal agency that administers labor issues in the U.S., including which workers may be certified to permanent work in the U.S.
DOS U.S. Department of State – a federal agency that administers the visa quotas for each category of nonimmigrants and immigrants that seek to enter the U.S. each year.
DREAM Act Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors was a legislation proposed in 2001 that did not pass Congress.  Multiple version of the DREAM Act have been drafted since, targeting relief for young individuals who came to the U.S.
ECIC ICE Employment Compliance Inspection Center – created in 2011 and located in Crystal City, Virginia, houses multiple ICE auditors focused on auditing Forms I-9.
ELIS Electronic Immigration System – USCIS’ new online account-based system allowing individuals to submit certain applications/petitions via the internet.
EOIR Executive Office for Immigration Review – a division within the U.S. Department of Justice that conducts Immigration Court proceedings, appellate review by the Board of Immigration Appeals and administrative hearings by OCAHO.
E-Verify E-Verify System – federally created online system that is a companion to the Form I-9, allowing employers to input data from the Form I-9 into the E-Verify system to verify a worker’s work eligibility against federal databases.
FDNS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate – created in 2004 to investigate individuals or organizations who file immigration benefits but pose a threat to national security, public safety or the integrity to the immigration system in the U.S.
FOIA Freedom of Information Act – a law passed in 1966 that allows the public to disclose full or partial documents previously undisclosed by various federal government agencies.
Greencard Common term refers to Permanent Resident Card Form I-551 that is issued to all individuals in the U.S. who have received lawful permanent resident status.  Historically, the card used to be green.
I-9 Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form – a form administered by USCIS which requires employers to complete for every new hire to verify the new worker’s identity and work authorization in the U.S.
I-94 Arrival and Departure Record Form I-94 – a document that was formerly issued to all arriving nonimmigrant travelers to the U.S.  This document is being phased in as an electronically issued document to various air, sea and land ports of entry.
ICE U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement – a federal agency in charge of investigating violations of U.S. immigration laws.
IMMACT 1990 Immigration Act of 1990 – increased quotas on immigration to the U.S. and other revisions to the various immigration laws.
IIRAIRA Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 – a subsequent amendment of existing immigration laws that introduced and imposed the 10 and 3 year bars against certain individuals in the U.S.
INA Immigration and Nationality Act – the U.S. legislation on immigration matters, first passed in 1952 and amended in 1965.  Subsequent other pieces of legislation have been passed that amend the INA.
INS Immigration and Naturalization Service – was previously an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice.  It was disbanded in 2003 and replaced with USCIS, ICE and CBP, newly created agencies that now fall under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
IRCA Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 – passed on November 6, 1986 aimed at deterring and controlling illegal immigration to the U.S.
LPR Lawful Permanent Resident – sometimes also known as legal permanent resident – refers to an individual’s status that allows him or her to permanent live and work in the U.S.
M&C Branch Monitoring and Compliance Branch of the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service monitors how employers use the E-Verify System to “detect, deter, and reduce misuse, abuse, and fraud” in the system.
Notario Common term for an individual who practices law but is not an attorney and who lacks authorization from the government.  In immigration, selecting which forms to fill out and advising what to put on forms constitutes the practice of law.
OCAHO Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer – holds hearings on three types of immigration-related discrimination cases by employers.
OSC Office of Special Counsel (within the Justice Department Civil Rights Division) – a federal agency in charge of investigating and filing complaints against employers for alleged immigration-related discrimination.
Priority Date Individuals applying for an immigrant visa must wait their turn “in line” for their petition to be reviewed.  The priority date is the date when the petition was submitted to the relevant federal agency.
Startup Visa Act Legislation proposed in 2011 that did not pass Congress that aimed to allow smaller entrepreneurs in the U.S. to stay for a temporary period of time to start up their companies under a newly created visa category (EB-6).
USCIS U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service – a federal agency in charge of administering immigration benefits to U.S. applicants and petitioners.
Visa Foreign individuals who enter the U.S. must first obtain a visa in order to come to the U.S.  The U.S. Department of State administers visas to foreign applicants.
TPS Temporary Protected Status – a legislative status issued by USCIS to individuals who arrive in the U.S. on a temporary basis as a result of dangerous conditions in their home country.