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P visas (Athletes, Artists, Entertainers)
P visa is used for alien athletes, artists and entertainers, as well as their spouses and children. P visas are also available in each category to persons considered to be an “essential support alien.” An “essential support alien” is defined as “a highly skilled, essential person” who is necessary for the “successful performance of services by the P-1, P-2, or P-3 alien.” P visa classifications are as follows:
Parole is a temporary status that allows aliens to physically enter the United States although those aliens are not yet considered to have been legally admitted to the U.S. Parole status is indicated by a stamp placed on an alien’s Form I-94 by a CBP inspecting officer at a U.S. port of entry. Along with the status itself, the stamp will also indicate the purpose of the paroled status and the date the alien’s parole status expires.
Parole status is granted for any one of six reasons. Those reasons are as follows:
A partnership is created when two or more persons associate to carry on a business for profit. Based on the liability to its partners, there are several types of partnerships set forth by state law, including general partnership, limited partnership and limited liability partnership. Please refer to LP & LLP.
A passport is the document issued by a holder’s country of citizenship, which certifies the identity and citizenship of the holder for the purposes of international travel. A passport is one of the most identity evidencing documents in any immigration petition/application or nonimmigrant visa petition/application. All passport pages with stamps, visas and an I-94 card should be kept properly as records.
Permanent Resident Cards
The permanent resident card is more commonly known by the colloquialism “Green Card”. A Green Card is evidence of lawful permanent resident status in the United States, allowing its holder to live and work anywhere in the U.S., leave and re-enter the U.S. at any time, and the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process. For ways to obtain a Green Card, please see our article Obtaining a Green Card.
Known as Green Card holders or U.S. LPRs, U.S. permanent residents are granted the privileges of living and working permanently in the United States, the ability to leave and reenter the country at any time and the opportunity to become a full U.S. citizen by way of the naturalization process. Permanent resident status is usually obtained through the family-based immigration or employment-based immigration process although special programs, such as the visa lottery program, exist for aliens that meet specific qualifications.
Generally, an alien entering the U.S. cannot have a “preconceived intent” to enter the country for any purpose other than the one for which they were issued a visa. For practical purposes, the USCIS has adopted the Department of State’s (DOS) 30/60-day rule, as laid out by the DOS’ Foreign Affairs Manual (9 FAM 40.63 N4.7), to evaluate cases where non-immigrant visa holders apply for either a change of status (COS) or adjustment of status (AOS), or fail to maintain status (AFM 40.6 §212(a)(6). The 30/60-day rule is not part of statute or regulation, and is thus only a guideline used by USCIS to ascertain whether “preconceived intent” exists when they adjudicate COS and AOS cases. The 30/60-day rule, as applied by USCIS, treats COS or AOS applications in the following manner based on when the COS or AOS application was made:
USCIS provides a premium processing service to certain employment-based petitions or applications with an extra fee of $1,225. Under this service, they promise to process the case within 15 calendar days, which means the USCIS will issue an approval notice, a denial notice, a notice of intent to deny, a request for evidence, or open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation within the 15 calendar day period after the receipt of the Request for Premium Processing Service (Form I-907). If the USCIS fails to process the application in 15 calendar days, they will refund the $1,225 premium processing fee. A petitioner or applicant can submit Form I-907 concurrently with the petition or application, or during the case pending period. Please refer to Premium Processing Service.
A Panel Physician is a medically trained, licensed and experienced doctor practicing overseas who is appointed by the local U.S. embassy or consulate. These medical professionals receive U.S. immigration-focused training in order to provide examinations as required by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to aliens seeking admission into the United States. For medical examinations given in the U.S., please see "Civil Surgeon."
MPORTANT: medical examinations given overseas will not be recognized if they are given by a doctor who is not appointed by the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy; please be sure that your medical exam is being given by a Panel Physician or your results and documents will be invalid.
A parolee is an alien who is allowed physically into the United States in parole status. See our glossary entry on parole status for more information.
PERM stands for Program Electronic Review Management. It is the system used to obtain labor certification and is the first step in obtaining some categories of employment-based immigrant visas. The employment-based preference categories that require PERM labor certification are EB-2, other than those obtained through a National Interest Waiver, and EB-3. A petitioning employer must obtain approved labor certification from the Department of Labor (DOL) before they may file an immigrant petition on behalf of a prospective alien employee with USCIS. The DOL must certify to the USCIS that there are not sufficient U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the job opportunity in the area of the alien’s intended employment and that the employment of the alien will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions.
To sum up what is required of petitioning employers in order to obtain PERM labor certification, the employer must conduct a series of recruitment activities to test the labor market before filing the application. If sufficient, able, qualified, and willing U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident applicants are not found, then the employer may submit a PERM labor certification application. For more detailed information on PERM, please click here to see our section on the subject.
Usually a petition is a formal request or the act of submitting the formal request filed by a person or a company on behalf of an alien. The most common nonimmigrant petition is the H petition for nonimmigrant workers filed on Form I-129. The most common immigrant petitions are the I-130 for family-based and the I-140 for employment-based petitions. In the EB-1(a) Alien of Extraordinary Ability and EB-2 National Interest Waiver categories, an alien may file a petition on his/her own behalf. For details on the H-1B petition, please click H-1B Visa. For details of family-based immigrant petitions, please click Family-Sponsored Immigration Petitions. For details on employment-based petitions, please click Employment-Based Immigration. For details on EB-1(a) petitions, please click Alien of Extraordinary Ability (EB-1(a)). For details on the National Interest Waiver, please click National Interest Waiver (NIW).
The petitioner is the person or organization filing a formal request or petition on behalf of an alien beneficiary. For more information about the petitioner and beneficiary in immigration petition, please click Immigration Petition. For more information about the petitioner and beneficiary for H-1B petitions, please click H-1B Visa
Port of Entry
Any location in the United States or its territories that is designated as a point of entry for aliens and U.S. citizens. All district and file control offices are also considered ports, since they become locations of entry for aliens adjusting to immigrant status.
Portability Rule applies to H-1B nonimmigrant petitions as well as employment-based immigrant petitions. First, H-1B portability allows certain current H-1B workers to begin work for the new employer upon filing the petition, rather than waiting for approval. Second, it also allows current H-1B workers to extend their H-1B status beyond 6 years if the I-140 or I-485 is pending and one started the employment-based immigration petitions a year prior. Third, it allows the USCIS to approve the I-485 for a new employer if the job is similar and the I-485 has been pending for at least 180 days. For details on the portability rule, please click The Impact of Employment-Based Adjustment of Status Filing on H-1 or L-1 Status
The pre-inspection process is a process by which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers make decisions abroad regarding the admissibility of passengers into the U.S. The inspection of accompanying goods, baggage, and/or passenger vehicles takes place upon arrival in the U.S. Aliens are also required to submit a Form I-94 Arrival Departure Record upon their arrival in the U.S.
Preference System (Immigration Act of 1990)
The “Preference System” is a method of allocating the limited number of immigrant visas based on different categories. There have been nine immigration preference categories since fiscal year 1992 by which the family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant visas are distributed. The family-sponsored preferences are: 1) unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 2) spouses, children, and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent resident aliens; 3) married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; 4) brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens. The employment-based preferences are: 1) priority workers (persons of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers); 2) professionals with advanced degrees or aliens with exceptional ability; 3) skilled workers, professionals (without advanced degrees), and needed unskilled workers; 4) special immigrants; and 5) employment creation immigrants (investors).
The prevailing wage is the average hourly wage, benefits, and overtime paid to those employed in a certain occupation within a specific geographical area. The prevailing wage has been determined by the National Prevailing Wage Center since January 2010. The NPWC collects data on occupations throughout the whole U.S. and stores this data in the publicly accessible OES database. The NPWC determines the prevailing wage by matching the offered position with a geographic region and a “skill level” related to the education, experience and level of supervision required by the position. For details on how prevailing wages affect H-1 alien workers, please click H-1B Visa. For details of prevailing wages for Labor Certification or RIR, please click PERM Labor Certification.
The alien who applies for, or on whose behalf an application is submitted for, nonimmigrant or immigrant status, and who receives the benefits of that petition directly. Other aliens may derive lawful status under immigration law or regulations from the principal alien’s status, most often in the case of dependents such as spouses and/or minor children.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) limits the number of immigrant visas made available annually to those seeking lawful permanent resident status.
An unlimited number of visas are made available to “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens. An immediate relative, in this context, is defined as a parent, spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21.
Immigrant visas for the various preference categories, on the other hand, are limited in number. Thus, some preference category visas may not always be available. Each year, family-based preference visas are limited to 226,000 and employment-based visas are limited to 140,000. Additional limits are also placed on the percentage of total immigrant visas allotted to any country in a given year.
As the number of applications for many visa categories is higher the number of visas available, a “visa queue”, or waiting list, forms. The Department of State distributes visa numbers according to preference category and a given applicant’s priority date. The priority date is used to determine an individual’s place in the visa queue. When the priority date becomes current, the individual will be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa.
The priority date for family-based immigrant visa applications and employment-based applications is determined by the following means:
For more information about how priority dates play a role in family-based immigration, please click Family-Sponsored Immigration Petitions.
Priority Date for Labor Certification
In Labor Certification processing, the priority date is the date that a Labor Certification is filed with the State Workforce Commission or the date that an immigration petition is filed, whichever comes first. The purpose of a Priority Date is to identify when the alien may apply for an Adjustment of Status or may apply for an immigrant visa if outside the U.S. Each month, the State Department's Visa office publishes a table of cutoff dates. The alien may apply for an Adjustment of Status (I-485) provided his/her immigration petition is approved and the alien's priority date is within the established cutoff date for his/her category. For more information about priority date and LC, please click Priority Date.
A proxy marriage is a marriage where the parties were not physically in the presence of each other. A proxy marriage is generally not accepted under immigration law unless it is subsequently consummated. However, a party of an unconsummated proxy marriage may enjoy immigration benefits as a fiancé if the opposite party is a U.S. citizen, such as qualifying for K-1 visa status. For more information on types of marriage that are not accepted for the purposes of immigration law, please see our article Unacceptable Marriages in Immigration Law.
Q visas (Cultural Exchange Program)
For the purpose of providing practical training and employment, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of other countries with the United States, the Q visa is used for visitors enrolled in international cultural exchange programs designated by the USCIS. The Q visa requires a qualified U.S. sponsor. The initial period of stay for a Q visa will be up to 15 months, and the Q visa holder will be given an additional 30 day grace period to leave the US when the authorized stay period expires. Please note that there are no dependent benefits for Q visas. Spouse and children of Q visa holders have to qualify under a visa classification separately if they want to enter the U.S. Please click here for a more detailed discussion of Q visas.
(Updated 10/02/2012 by NT)
R Visas (Religious Workers)
An R-1 is a foreign national who is coming to the United States temporarily to be employed as a minister or similar religious position by a non-profit religious organization or an organization affiliated with a religious denomination. Employment must be at least part-time (averaging at least 20 hours a week). The initial period of stay of an R-1 visa is up to 30 months and an extension of up to another30 months may be granted. The total stay in the US in R-1 status cannot exceed 60 months. The spouse and children of R-1 visa holders are eligible to apply for R-2 visa as dependents.
A number assigned to immigration applications or petitions by the USCIS. Applicants or petitioners may check their case status online or by phone using the receipt number.
U.S. lawful permanent residents or conditional permanent residents who wish to remain outside the United States for more than one year, but less than two years, may apply for a re-entry permit. Without a re-entry permit a lawful permanent resident may lose status if they: 1) are outside of the US for 1 year or more; or 2) take up residency in another country. For more information about re-entry permit, click Re-Entry Permit
A refugee is any person who is outside his or her country of nationality, not firmly resettled in any country, and is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. People with no nationality must generally be outside their country of last habitual residence to qualify as a refugee. Refugees are subject to ceilings by geographic area set annually by the President in consultation with Congress and are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States.
Refugee Travel Document
A “Refugee Travel Document” is issued by the U.S. government and can be used by a refugee or asylee to travel abroad. Refugee travel documents are valid for up to 1 year and are similar in appearance and function to a passport. It is recommended that a refugee travel document be applied for 60 days before the planned travel abroad. It is best to apply before traveling but a USCIS office abroad may, at its own discretion, accept an application for refugee travel documentation if the alien has been outside of the US for less than 1 year. For more information about refugee or aslyee, please click Asylum and Withholding of Removal.
Regional Offices, also known as Service Centers, are the physical locations that receive, process, and adjudicate certain mailed and e-filed USCIS applications. There are currently 4 service centers and each service center generally has jurisdiction over a certain region of the United States. The Vermont, Texas, Nebraska, and California Service Centers manage applications for the Northeast, Southeast, Central, and Western Regions respectively. USCIS form instructions will list the appropriate Service Center to mail applications. Service Centers are not staffed to receive walk-in applications or inquiries.
For EB-5 immigrant investor visas, a regional center is one of the investing methods the investor can choose. The Immigrant Investor Pilot Program provides the legal basis for these regional centers to attract EB-5 investments. A regional center, defined by USCIS is “any economic unit, public or private, engaged in the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation and increased domestic capital investment.” An alien can invest in an established regional investment center rather than starting an investment plan from scratch. In some cases this is a less stressful path to permanent residency through investment. The regional center has to be approved by USCIS to set up for EB-5 purposes and offer some benefits for EB-5 investors. Nowadays, there are hundreds of regional centers in the US and more are in the process of being established. Please refer to EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program Visa for more details about EB-5s and regional centers.
Aliens who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 1972, are of good moral character,are not inadmissible, and are not deportable as a terrorist are eligible to adjust to legal permanent resident status under the registry provision. Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 amended the date, aliens had to have been in the country continuously since June 30, 1948 to qualify.
Reinstatement refers to the process of revalidating a legal document. Reinstatement is most common with students with F-1 status (as well as some M-1 cases). For instance, regarding an I-20, if the student falls out of status due to reasons such as failure to register full courses or obtain a new I-20 when changing programs/degrees as required the student may be able to get a reinstated I-20 if he/she and can satisfy certain requirements of reinstatement. Examples of requirements for reinstatement are: currently being enrolled or planning to enroll for a full-time course load; proving that the violation of status was beyond the student’s control; proving that student did not engage in unauthorized work while out of status; not being out of status for more than 5 months; and not having a record of repeated willful violations of status.
Relief from Removal
There are several forms of relief from removal, including voluntary departure, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, asylum, withholding of removal, protection under CAT, certain waivers of removability or inadmissibility, motions to reopen or reconsider, stay of removal, administrative appeal, and judicial reviewand others.
DOJ Website: Forms of Relief From Removal
Removal is the expulsion of an alien from the United States. This expulsion may be based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability. Asylum is a basic relief for removal.
There are several grounds under which an alien may be placed in removal proceedings. Some examples are: alien was inadmissible at time of entry into the United States; alien was convicted of criminal offenses (moral turpitude, controlled substances, and some firearms violations); alien failed to register or falsified immigration documents; alien is a security threat (terrorism or espionage/sabotage); alien has become a public charge within 5 years of entrance into the US; and alien is an unlawful voter.
If an adjustment of status applicant fails to appear for a scheduled interview, his/her application will be deemed abandoned. Therefore, if the applicant has to miss a scheduled interview, the applicant or his/her attorney should file a request for rescheduling the interview prior to the date and time of the scheduled interview. It is up to the USCIS officer to determine if there is a good cause to reschedule the interview. This good cause usually involves an alien not being able to show up to an interview because of circumstances beyond the individual’s control.
If a naturalization applicant has to miss their interview, he/she should write the office where the interview is to be conducted as soon as possible and ask to have their interview rescheduled. Rescheduling an interview may add several months to the naturalization process. If the applicant misses the scheduled interview without notifying USCIS within 30 days the USCIS will “administratively close” the case and notify the applicant at his/her last address of record. If the applicant fails to contact USCIS to schedule a new interview within 1 year after the case is closed, USCIS will deny the application without further notification.
USCIS Website: Request for Rescheduling an Interview Memo
If a legal permanent resident (LPR), within five(5) years after his/her adjustment of status approval, is found to have notbeen eligible for such adjustment of status, his/her permanent residency will be rescinded. A USCIS “Notice of Intent to Rescind” must be served to the alien within 5 years of receiving LPR status. However, once a notice is served rescission action may go beyond the 5 year anniversary of LPR status. If a person has become a US citizen based upon a wrongfully approved adjustment of status, which was therefore rescinded subsequently, his/her naturalization may be revoked on the ground of concealment of material facts or willful misrepresentation. Rescission applies only to events that occurred on or before receiving permanent resident status.
Residency refers to a person’s status, under which the person is allowed to reside within a country of which he/she is not a citizen. As we know, US green card holders, or permanent residents, are those people who have permanent residency in the United States. However, compared to citizenship, residency or even permanent residency is not a completely stable status and might be subject to cancellation or revocation under certain circumstances. Among them, residing out of the United States for a long period of time without any travel documents is a common situation which may result in cancellation of permanent residency. Please refer to Maintaining Legal Permanent Resident Status for more details.
Any Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) who has been outside the United States and is returning to the U.S.If outside of the U.S. for more than 180 days, must apply for readmission to the U.S. If outside of the U.S. for more than one year and is returning to his or her permanent residence in the United States, usually must have a re-entry documentation from USCIS or an immigrant visa from the Department of State. An LPR who has been outside of the US for more than two years (the limit of a re-entry permit) may still qualify as a returning resident if he/she qualifies for a Returning Resident Visa (SB-1) by showing that the alien never planned on giving up permanent residency in the US and the protracted stay outside of the US was due to circumstances beyond his/her control.
A foreign national who has a valid non-immigrant status can usually revalidate his or her expired visa automatically when returning from a visit of 30 days or less to Canada or Mexico. The expired visa will be extended to the date of application for readmission. F-1 and J-1 status holders (and their accompanying spouses/children) may also return within 30 days from one of the islands adjacent to the United States (other than Cuba) to automatically revalidate a visa. To qualify an alien must have a valid I-94, I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, or Form IAP-66, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status depending on the alien’s status. An alien will not be eligible for automatic revalidation if, while in Canada, Mexico, or non-Cuban adjacent islands he/she applied for a new visa.
There are grounds for some approved immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions to be revoked under certain conditions. For example, an H-1B petition can be automatically revoked if the petitioner goes out of business, files a written withdrawal of the petition, or stated untrue facts in the petition for a temporary labor certification. An H-1B petition can also be revoked if the beneficiary is no longer employed or receiving training stipulated in the petition.
In another example, an approved I-140 employment-based petition or self-petition can also be revoked under the grounds similar to H-1B revocation. Some grounds for I-140 approval revocation are: death of petitioner, invalidation of labor certification, written notice of withdrawal by the petitioner, and termination of the petitioning employer’s business.
RFE stands for "Request for Evidence.” Sometimes the USCIS finds that a petition initially filed has met the basic requirements of the immigration laws, but is not convinced that the alien has fully met the burden to prove eligibility for the benefit sought. In such cases they will typically send a "Request for Evidence" seeking certain forms of evidence that the USCIS finds lacking. If the USCIS is convinced upon additionally filed evidence, the case will be approved. Failure to file additional evidence within a certain period of time or failure to convince the USCIS upon filing additional evidence will lead to a denial of the case. For more information about RFE, please click Frequently Asked Questions about NIW.
RIR stands for “Reduction in Recruitment”. It was the fast track version of the Labor Certification process. A U.S. employer would petition for an RIR if the employer had, during a period of at least six (6) months, attempted to fill the position with reasonable efforts and had failed to find qualified U.S. workers. In essence, the employer was stating that the Labor Certification process was not necessary since the employer had already tested the labor market without success. If the State Workforce Commission found that the evidence provided supported that the job recruitment campaign was continuous and a good faith effort was made to fill the position, the State supervised job recruitment campaign was waived and the case was recommended to the Department of Labor (DOL) for expedited review. This is no longer the case since the PERM Labor Certification system has been in place for over 7 years.