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Immigration Glossary



F-1 Visa

F-1 non-immigrants are foreign students pursuing a full-time course of study in accredited colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, academia high schools, private elementary schools, other academic institutions, or in language training programs in the United States. An F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by a United States Consulate abroad to an alien coming to the United States to pursue full-time in a program which culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate. F-1 visa holders are also given a 60 day grace period to make travel arrangements to leave the United States or to apply for an adjustment of status. Generally, the US consular officer has complete discretion concerning F-1 visas. F-1 visa applicants are required to show non-immigrant intent and strong ties to their home countries to reinforce non-immigrant intent. For details of F visa and status, please click F-1 Visa and Status.


F-2 is a nonimmigrant dependent visa or status given to F-1 student’s spouse or minor children. Aliens under the F-2 status are not allowed to work in the U.S. but can change to another nonimmigrant status or adjust to permanent residency. For more information about F-2 visa and status, please click F-1 Visa and Status.

False Statements

False statements can affect various immigration and non-immigration procedures, and be punishable with various penalties. For example, under the Senate’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, there are new and stricter penalties for false statements in passports. Applicants who make false statements in Form G-639 (Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Request), for example, are subject to criminal penalties (Pub. L. 93-579.99 Stat. [5 U.S.C. 552a(i)(3)]).

Family Unity Program

The Family Unity Program is intended to provide a transition for the spouse and unmarried children of legalized alien holding temporary or permanent residence to family-sponsored second preference immigrant status. A person must meet certain requirement to qualify for “family unity,” and be eligible for an Application for Family Unity Benefits (Form I-817). The same form can also be used to file an extension of the Family Unity Program benefits.

Family-Based Immigration Petition

Family-based immigration petitions include those immigrant petitions for permanent residency based on an alien’s family relationship with a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident. Under United States immigration law, a sponsor’s status (U.S. citizens and green card holders) determines which relatives or soon-to-be relatives are eligible to receive immigration benefits. All family-based permanent residence petitions require submission of a USCIS form I-130. For details of family-based immigration petitions, please click Family-Sponsored Immigration Petitions for more information.

Farm Workers

Agricultural works can qualify for an H-2A visa. According to USCIS, the H-2A program “allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers not are able, willing, qualified, or available. H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to aliens seeking to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States on a temporary basis.” A U.S. employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker on a prospective worker’s behalf and show that the employment of H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers. Certain qualifications must be met to receive H-2A nonimmigrant classification. Please see “H-2A” for more information.

Fashion Models

Fashion Models can qualify for an H-1B3 Fashion Model visa for “services as a fashion model of distinguished merit or ability.” Under USCIS regulations, eligibility for the H-1B3 visa requires the position/services to be of prominence. Prospective employers must file an approved LCA with the FORM I-129. See H-1B Visa for more information.


The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) the principal investigative arm of the United States Department of Justice. With offices located in all 50 states and 60 foreign countries, the FBI works to prevent the US from violent crime, corruption and terrorist attacks. The FBI runs the National Name Check Program (NNCP), of which the USCIS is the largest customer. The mission of the NNCP is to disseminate information from the FBI’s files for the purpose of screening those applying for immigration benefits. The FBI also maintains the fingerprint records required for USCIS background checks.

Federal Authority to Regulate Immigration

The Supreme Court has traditionally recognized the primacy of Federal law in matters related to aliens and immigration. Recently, the US Department of Justice, as plaintiffs, filed the case of The United States of America v. The State of Arizona (2010). Therein the US Department of Justice stated that “the Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country." Three of four provisions brought before the United States Supreme Court were nullified for operating in areas solely controlled by federal policy  or interfered with federal enforcement efforts.

Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)

An employer’s FEIN number is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number and is used to identify a business entity. Generally, businesses need a FEIN, a free service offered by the Internal Revenue Service. Regarding aliens, an H-1B visa and PERM certification petitions require the verification of an employer’s FEIN number to ensure the employer is a bona fide business entity.

Fiancé/ée of U.S. Citizen

A fiancé or fiancée is a nonimmigrant alien coming to the United States to conclude a valid marriage with a U.S. citizen within ninety days after entry. Fiancé/ées of U.S. citizens must be free to marry and any previous marriages must have been legally terminated. The sponsor (U.S. citizen) must fill out Form I-129F in order to begin the process for the K-1 fiancé/ée visa. For details of K visas and status, please click K-1/K-2 Visa Information.

Fiancé/ée Visa

Also known as a K-1 visa, the fiancé/ée visa is issued to a U.S. citizen’s fiancé or fiancée who is outside the U.S. Petitioners must be United States citizens and intend on marrying his or her fiancé/fiancée within 90 days of his or her entrance into the United States. The minor children of such fiancé or fiancée who will accompany the couple into the U.S. may apply for a K-2 visa. For details of K visas and status, please click K-1/K-2 Visa Information .

Field Offices

Field offices are found worldwide in some districts that serve a portion of the district’s jurisdiction. A Field Office, headed by a Field Office Director, provides many services and enforcement functions and hold interviews for non-asylum cases. Their locations are determined, in part, to increase convenience to USCIS’ customers and prefer that those interested in their services make appointments in order to reduce waiting times.

Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution protects against the abuse of government authority in a legal procedure. Regarding immigration, the Fifth Amendment has been cited in various immigration cases heard before the US Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals, in particular regarding the Fifth Amendment right to “due process” and protection against self-incrimination. For example, in its Interim Decision #3487, the Board of Immigration Appeals referred to the United States Courts of Appeals recognition that a respondent has a Fifth Amendment due process right to a fair immigration hearing.


Use of weapons in the course of other crimes may indicate moral turpitude, which may result in inadmissibility or deportation. However, just carrying a concealed weapon will not be deemed involvement in an action of moral turpitude. For more information, please see Unlawful Activities and the entry on “Moral Turpitude.”

Fiscal Year

Currently, the fiscal year is the twelve-month period beginning October 1 and ending September 30 of the following year. Historically, until 1831 and from 1843-49, the twelve-month period ending September 30 of the respective year; from 1832-42 and 1850-67, ending December 31 of the respective year; from 1868-1976, ending June 30 of the respective year. The transition quarter (TQ) for 1976 covers the three-month period, July-September 1976.

Following to Join

“Following to join” is a process that allows the spouse and children of permanent residentto receive a permanent resident status. There are several requirements to qualify for the “following to join” process:

  • The principal applicant must have obtained a permanent resident status through a preference category (family or employment based) or diversity lottery
  • The petitioner married and/or had children before becoming a permanent resident and the relationship is intact at the time of his or her spouse or children’s filing for adjustment of status or consular processing. The relationship also needs to be in existence when the I-485 is adjudicated by the USCIS or the immigrant visa is adjudicated by the U.S. Consular Offices.
  • The spouse and children are qualified as derivative beneficiaries of the principal applicant, they can file I-485 adjustment of status or consular processing based on “following-to-join,” rather than through family-based immigration petitions.

The derivative immigration benefits from the “following to join” will enable them to receive permanent residency quickly since it avoids the slower filing of a Form I-130 under the second preference of family-based immigration.

Foreign Degrees

Foreign degrees have to be evaluated and found to be the equivalent of a degree granted by an accredited institution in the United States to meet specific USCIS degree requirements. Proof of advanced degrees is important when filing for certain immigration benefit categories, such as EB-1 and EB-2. USCIS looks to the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE) created by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) as one resource to determine the validity of foreign credentials.

Foreign Government Official

A Foreign Government Official is a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States who has been accredited by a foreign government to function as an ambassador, public minister, career diplomatic or consular officer, other accredited official, or an attendant, servant or personal employee of an accredited official, and all above aliens’ spouses and unmarried minor or dependent children. Foreign Government Officials are eligible for the C-3 visa and A-1 and A-2 visas.

Foreign Information Media Representative

As a nonimmigrant class of admission, an alien coming temporarily to the United States as a bona fide representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media and the alien’s spouse and unmarried minor (or dependent) children. Those eligible may apply for the I non-immigrant visa. Please see our article on the I Visa for more information.

Foreign Medical Graduates

Foreign medical graduates or “international medical graduates” are generally not eligible for H-2B, H-3 or TN, 9 FAM 41.53 N.4.2-7. However, medical students may qualify for H-3 if the student will engage in employment as an extern during medical school vacation, 9 FAM 41.53 N.20. If certain other requirements are met, foreign medical graduates may file adjustment of status even if they fail to maintain their legal status in the US. Foreign medical graduates can also waive the Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement in order to alleviate some of the health care shortages in the Unites States.

Foreign State of Chargeability

Foreign State of Chargeability is the independent country to which an immigrant entering under the preference system is accredited. No more than 7 percent of the family-sponsored and employment-based visas may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year. No one dependency of any independent country may receive more than 2 percent of the family-sponsored and employment-based visas issued. Since these limits are based on visa issuance rather than entries into the United States and immigrant visas are valid for 6 months, there is not total correspondence between these two occurrences. Chargeability is usually determined by country of birth. Exceptions are made to prevent the separation of family members when the limitation for the country of birth has been met. For more information, please see Preference System.


USCIS forms start with  a letter such as “I,G, N, or AR” such as the I-129 petition for nonimmigrant worker, AR-11 for a change of address, I-130 immigration petition for alien relatives, I-140 immigration petition for alien workers, N-300 application to file a declaration of intention, I-485 application for adjustment of status, I-539 application for change of status, etc. Petitioners or applicants need to finish required forms according to the instructions and submit them with other supporting documents and filing fees to finish their petition or application. Please see our Forms page for more information.

Fraud and Misrepresentation

Aliens who have fraudulently or willfully misrepresented a material fact and seek to procure or have sought to procure or have procured a visa, other documentation, or entry into the United States or other benefit provided under the Act are inadmissible and cannot gain entry into the United States. They may also be subject to criminal charges. INA §212(a)(6)(C)(i), 8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(6)(C)(i). See also 22 C.F.R. §40.63, 9FAM 40.63 N.1-10; AFM at 40.6.2(c).

Free Trade Agreement

For the purposes of immigration law, free trade agreements between the US and other countries create specific visas for such countries’ citizens. Some examples include the AUSFTA, which created E-3 visas for Australians, and the NAFTA, which created TN visas for citizens of Canada and Mexico. These facilitated classes of nonimmigrant admission are meant for temporary visitors to the United States and do not require those visitors to obtain nonimmigrant visas.

Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures, and grants nine exemptions to the statute. It was originally enacted by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 as 5 U.S.C. § 552 and went into effect the following year. The FOIA allows U.S. Citizens to request copies of documents and records and also allows applicants seeking immigration benefits to obtain copies of his or her filing papers. For instructions on how to make a FOIA request, please click here.

Frivolous Filings

Frivolous filings are filings in front of the Immigration Court which, due to their lack of legal merit, have little or no chance of being approved. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act §240(b)(6), the Attorney General shall, by regulation, (A) define in a proceeding before an immigration judge or before an appellate administrative body under this title, frivolous behavior for which attorneys may be sanctioned; (B) specify the circumstances under which an administrative appeal of a decision or ruling will be considered frivolous and will be summarily dismissed, and (C) impose appropriate sanctions in the case of frivolous behavior. A judge or USCIS officer can deem a case as frivolous if he or she decides that the claims are not credible or have no legal basis if any of the material elements are found to be deliberately fabricated. For example: an undergraduate student with a high GPA applying for an EB-1(a) visa would be found to have a frivolous filing since the student does not have an advanced degree and, as such, has not reached the top of their field of endeavor despite excellent grades. In this case, since the applicant cannot establish a record of extraordinary ability and high esteem in his or her academic field, a judge can deem the filing as having little to no chance of being approved and it will be considered a frivolous filing.


G Visa (International Organizations)

G visa statuses is afforded to representatives of international organizations, their immediate relatives, and their qualifying personal employees. The consular officer will determine eligibility for the visa. The purpose of intended travel to the U.S. must be to pursue official duties.The various categories of G visas include:

G-1: Permanent mission members of a recognized government to a designated international organization are eligible for a G-1 visa.
G-2: Representatives of a recognized government traveling to the U.S. temporarily to attend meetings of a designated international organization are eligible for G-2 visas.
G-3: Representatives of non-recognized or non-member governments are eligible for G-3 visas.
G-4: Individuals who are proceeding to the U.S. to take up an appointment at a designated international organization, including the United Nations, are eligible for G-4 visas.
G-5: Personal employees, attendants, domestic workers, or servants of individuals who hold a valid G-1 through G-4

See the listing of designated International Organizations by going to section 41.24 Exhibit I in the 9 FAM. Please note that U.S. visa law indicates that if a visa applicant is entitled to a G visa as a principal (primary) or dependent, he or she must receive a G visa. The exceptions to this rule are extremely limited. Applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for an Employee of International Organization G visa under immigration law.  An interview at an embassy or consular office abroad is required for most visa applicants.  An interview is not required for those applying for G-1 through G-4 visas; however, a consular officer can request an interview.  Personal employees, attendants, and servants of G visa holders, are required to be interviewed.  Additionally, they will be fingerprinted as part of the interview process.  The various documents required for a successful G visa application include:

  1. an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160
  2. an application for A, G, and NATO Visa, Form DS-1648
  3. a diplomatic note
  4. a passport valid for travel to the United States
  5. one photograph
  6. copy of both the visa and I-94 (both front and back) for the principal visa holder

An applicant for G-5 visa status must also present an employment contract that must include specific items.  See the State Department article regarding G visas for more information.  The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. The purpose of your intended travel to the U.S. must be pursuant to official duties. 

General Naturalization Provisions

The General Naturalization Provisions are the basic requirements for naturalization that every applicant must meet, unless a member of a special class. The General Naturalization Provisions require an applicant:

  1. be a lawful permanent resident;
  2. be at least 18 years of age and a lawful permanent resident with five years of continuous residence in the United States;
  3. have been physically present in the country for half that period (30 months);
  4. establish good moral character for at least that period;
  5. be able to speak, read, write, and understand the English language;
  6. show attachment to the principles of the Constitution of the United States
  7. have knowledge of the US Government and US history;
  8. be willing and able to take the Oath of Allegiance

Spouses of US citizens can qualify for naturalization, if they meet the following qualifications as specified by INA §319(a):

  1. Have been a permanent resident (green card holder) for at least 3 years
  2. Have been living in martial union with the same US citizen spouse during such time
  3. Meet all other eligibility requirements specified by the General Naturalization Provisions

Spouses of US citizens employed abroad are considered a special class of naturalization applicant.  They may qualify for naturalization regardless of their time as permanent residents.  For a more detailed discussion of the general naturalization requirements, click here. For a list and discussion of special classes of naturalization applicants, click here.

Good Moral Character

A demonstration of good moral character and attachment to the United States Constitution is one of the General Naturalization Provisions necessary to become a naturalized US citizen.  For the complete list of general naturalization provisions, please refer to the glossary entry above, or click here for a more detailed explanation. Failure to show good moral character may cause denial of naturalization. An alien may fail to meet the Good Moral Character provision in the following circumstances:

  1. Involvement in prostitution, alien smuggling, and most criminal activity, particularly those that involve imprisonment for six months or more
  2. Aliens who have committed adultery in a notorious and open manner as in a case where the adultery has led to the destruction of the marriage
  3. Failure to properly comply with IRS laws regarding taxes
  4. Failure to register with the Selective Services when the alien is required to do so.
  5. Aliens who have committed and have been convicted of one or more crimes involving moral turpitude
  6. Aliens who have committed and have been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 or more years
  7. Aliens who have been committed and have been convicted of 2 or more offenses for which the total sentence imposed was 5 years or more
  8. Aliens who have been confined to a penal institution during the statutory period, as a result of a conviction, for an aggregate period of 180 days or more
  9. Aliens who have committed and have been convicted of two or more gambling offenses
  10. Aliens who have earned their principal income from illegal gambling
  11. Aliens who have been habitual drunkards
  12. Aliens who have practiced polygamy
  13. Aliens who have willfully failed or refused to support dependents
  14. Aliens who have given false testimony, under oath, in order to receive under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Green Card

A Green Card is an evidence of lawful permanent resident, 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.  Several ways exist to obtain a green card or become a permanent resident.  A green card can be obtained through family, work, making significant investments, or qualifying under one of the special immigrant classifications.  For a further discussion of the various means to obtain a green card, please click Obtaining a Green Card.


H visas

Under INA §101 (15)(H), H visas are used for an alien who is coming temporarily to the United States to perform services in a specialty occupation or as a fashion model (H-1B); registered nurse (H-1C); agricultural or nonagricultural temporary worker (H-2A/H-2B); or as a trainee (H-3). Among these, only H-1 visa holder can have dual intent. Please see “Fashion Models” for more information.


H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa. It is designed to allow U.S. employers to recruit and employ foreign professionals in specialty occupations to work in the USA for a specified period of time. The employer in an H-1B application process is the petitioner while the alien is the beneficiary. The alien must possess at least a bachelor's degree or an acceptable foreign alternative. Usually an H-1B visa is suitable for engineers, professors, researchers, software programmers and other foreign professionals, who normally can work for a total of 6 years in the U.S. in H-1B status. For more information on the H-1B visa, please visit our H-1B Visa web page.

H-1B Seventh Year Extension

The H-1B visa is temporary in nature and may be approved initially for a period of up to three years. It may be renewed for up to another three years. Thus, the usual duration of an H-1B worker's stay in the United States can reach a maximum of 6 years. However, Section 11030A of the "21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act" permits foreign nationals that have their labor certification applications pending in lengthy agency backlogs to extend their H-1B status beyond the 6th year limitation previously imposed on it. According to this section, if 365 days have elapsed since the filing of a labor certification applications or an immigrant visa petition on behalf of foreign national in the 6th year of his/her H-1B status, the foreign national's H-1B status may be extended in one-year increments until such time as a final decision is made with regard to the application or petition mentioned above. For more information about H-1B seventh year extension, please click H-1B Seventh Year Extension.


H-4 visas are issued to the H-1 holder's spouse and unmarried children under twenty-one years of age. Holders of H-4 visas are considered to be dependents of H-1B visa holders. In H-4 status, spouses and children under twenty-one years of age may be entitled to enter and remain in the United States for the duration of the H-1 holder's authorized stay. The duration of their stay is limited to and equal to that of the H-1B visa holder. H-4 holders are permitted to attend school on either a part-time or full-time basis. H-4 holders are not permitted to work, however, unless otherwise authorized by the USCIS. For more details of H-4 visas and status, please click H-4 Visa.

Hague Convention on Protection of Children

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (or Hague Adoption Convention) is an international convention dealing with international adoption, child laundering, and child trafficking. It was concluded on 29 May 1993 and entered into force on 1 May 1995. The main objectives of the Convention are:

  • to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights as recognized in international law;
  • to establish a system of co-operation amongst Contracting States to ensure that those safeguards are respected and thereby prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children;
  • to secure the recognition in Contracting States of adoptions made in accordance with the Convention.

As of January July 2011, this Convention has been ratified by 885 countries. Haiti, Nepal and The Russian Federation are signatories, but have not ratified.

Health-related inadmissibility grounds

INA §212(a)(1)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(1)(A) specify health-related grounds under which a person is ineligible for visas or admission. In general, any alien (1) who is determined to have a communicable disease of public health significance; (2) who has failed to present documentation of having received vaccination against vaccine-preventable diseases; (3) who is determined (I) to have a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others, or (II) to have had a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder, which behavior has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others and which behavior is likely to recur or to lead to other harmful behavior; (4) who is determined to be a drug abuser or addict, is inadmissible. However, there are some waivers for specific situations under INA § 212(g).


Hooyou, also known as Hooyou net, is the name of Zhang &Associates (Z&A) website. Z&A is a professional group of experienced immigration attorneys specializing in U.S. immigration laws. For more information about Hooyou, please visit our website.


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