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Immigration Glossary



I-9 Compliance

Under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), an employer can be fined and otherwise sanctioned for knowingly hiring an unauthorized alien or unknowingly hiring an undocumented alien if a reasonable person would believe the employee was illegally employed. To avoid penalties, an employer must complete the I-9 form within 3 days of employment and keep it on file for each employee. I-9s should be kept on file for three years, or one year after employment ends, whichever is longer. If someone provides information and documents that, on their face, appear valid and consistent, the employer has satisfied the rule's requirements. An employer should probe the applicant further only if the documents are either obviously forged, the information provided does not match with the employee, or you have other evidence that leads you to ask more questions. At the same time, IRCA's anti-discrimination provisions also prohibit employers from discriminating against certain protected individuals (including permanent residents, temporary residents, special agricultural workers, refugees, and asylees) with respect to hiring, discharging, and recruiting. Employers must avoid document abuse, or discriminating against an employee and asking the employee for more documents than necessary or different documents to prove employment eligibility. For details of I-9 compliance, please click Employer Compliance.


When an alien is admitted to a U.S. school, the school will issue the alien student a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System(SEVIS) Form I-20. If the alien is physically outside the U.S., he or she will need to take the SEVIS Form I-20 to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over his or her place of permanent residence to apply for a student visa (F-1 visa). When the alien is already in the U.S. in another non-immigrant status, he or she may change his or her nonimmigrant status to F-1 status by submitting the SEVIS Form I-20 and other required documents to the USCIS service center that has jurisdiction over his/her application. For details of F-1 visa and status, please click F-1 Visa and Status.


When a nonimmigrant alien holding valid passport and/or U.S. visa passes USCIS inspection at an entry port, an I-94 card will be issued to give the alien a legal nonimmigrant status in the U.S. For most nonimmigrant statuses, the authorized period of stay in the U.S. will be shown on the I-94. For F and J status, the authorized period of stay is duration of status. For more information, please see “Duration of Status.”


I-130 is a USCIS form used by a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States to establish the relationship to certain alien relatives who wish to immigrate to the United States. This category is also known as family based immigration. For details of family-based immigration, please click Family-Sponsored Immigration Petitions.


I-131 is a USCIS form used to apply for a Travel Document, reentry permit, refugee travel document or advance parole. For more information about advanced parole, please click Advance Parole.


I-134 is a form filed with USCIS promising to support an alien entering the United States as nonimmigrant and that the alien will not become a public charge. For more information about promise to support and public charge, please click Receipt of Certain Public Benefits will NOT Render Alien a “Public Charge.”


I-140 is a USCIS form used to petition for an alien worker to become a permanent resident in the United States. This category is also known as employment-based immigration. For details of employment-based immigration, please click Employment-Based Immigration.


I-485 is a USCIS form filed by certain aliens for the purposes of application to register permanent residence or adjust status. For details of adjustment of status, please click Adjustment of Status.


I-600 is an immigration form used to classify an alien orphan who has either been, or will be, adopted by a U.S. citizen as an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen to allow the child to enter the U.S. The petition is filed by the U.S. citizen who is adopting the child. A petitioner residing in the U.S. should file with the Local Office with jurisdiction over the petitioner's place of residence. A petitioner residing outside the U.S. should consult the nearest American consulate or embassy. For more information about adoption and immigration, please click U.S. Based Adoption.For requirements of I-600 form, please click Adoption of Foreign-Born Orphans.


I-765 is an immigration form also known as Application for Employment Authorization. Certain aliens who are temporarily in the United States may file a Form I-765 to request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Other aliens who are authorized to work in the United States without restrictions should also use this form to apply for a document evidencing such authorization. For details of EAD, please click What is an Employment Authorization Document?


I-797 is a USCIS notice, often used to confer a CIS Approval Notice. Strictly speaking, however, I-797 can be a Receipt Notice, a Request for Evidence (RFE), or an Approval Notice.


I-824 is a USCIS form used to request a duplicate approval notice, to request approval notice to another U.S. Consulate, and to request notice to a U.S. Consulate for derivative visas for family members. For details of Consulate Processing, please click Consular Processing.


I-864, also known as affidavit of support, is a CIS form filed to show that an intending immigrant has adequate means of financial support and is not likely to become a public charge. For more information about affidavit of support and public charge, please click Receipt of Certain Public Benefits will NOT Render Alien a “Public Charge.”


iCERT Visa Portal System is an online system for electronically filing Labor Condition Applications (LCA) or ETA-9089 Applications for Permanent Employment Certification in the PERM process.

Illegal Stay

A non-immigrant alien may enter and stay in the U.S. legally for a designated purpose with a limited time if he or she is admitted by the USCIS. A non-immigrant alien will stay illegally in the U.S. if he or she enters the U.S. without CIS admission, or he or she remains in the U.S. after his or her non-immigrant status expires. For more information about illegal stay in the U.S., please see the difference between a visa and status as well as “Entry Without Inspection.”

Illegitimate children

Illegitimate children refer to those who are born out-of-wedlock and fail to be legitimated. There are several methods for legitimation of an out-of-wedlock born child, such as subsequent marriage of natural parents, judicial decree, or formal recognition of paternity or open/notorious acknowledgement of paternity. There are also some requirements with respect to legitimation: (1) Action to legitimate child under the law of child’s residence or domicile, or under the law of the father’s residence or domicile; (2) child must be under 18 at time of legitimation; (3) legal custody with father at time of legitimation; and (4) paternity establishment. Please see Definition of a Child.

Immediate Relatives

For immigration law purposes, immediate relatives refer to parents, spouses and children who are unmarried and under 21 years of age. Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions, unlike other close family members of U.S. citizens and/or permanent residents. Namely, immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen can apply for the permanent resident status without any waiting time. Other close family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are divided into several groups called "preferences". Each Preference is given a numerical quota per year to limit the number of immigrants admitted into the United States. For detailed information on immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, please click Family-Sponsored Immigration Petitions.

Immigrant Investor Pilot Program

The Immigrant Investor Pilot Program was created by Section 610 of Public Law 102-395 (October 6, 1992), and was extended through September 30, 2012. EB-5 requirements for an investor under the Pilot Program are essentially the same as those in the basic EB-5 investor program, except the Pilot Program provides for investments that are affiliated with an economic unit known as a “Regional Center.” These investments allow for a less restrictive job creation requirement, based upon the creation of “indirect” and “direct” jobs. For more information, please see EB-5.

Immigrant visas

An immigrant visa is a document issued by a U.S. consular officer abroad that allows you to travel to the United States and apply for admission as a legal permanent resident (LPR).

Immigration Act of 1990

Public Law 101-649 (Act of November 29, 1990) increased the limits on legal immigration to the United States, revised all grounds for exclusion and deportation, authorized temporary protected status to aliens of designated countries, revised and established new nonimmigrant admission categories, revised and extended the Visa Waiver Pilot Program, and revised naturalization authority and requirements.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the second largest investigative agency in the federal government. Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries.

Immigration and Nationality Act

The Act (INA), which, along with other immigration laws, treaties, and conventions of the United States, relates to the immigration, temporary admission, naturalization, and removal of aliens.

Immigration Attorney

In the United States, immigration attorneys are attorneys who practice immigration law. Attorneys at Zhang &Associates, LLP are experienced immigration attorneys. For more information about Z&A’s attorneys, please see Z&A Attorneys.

Immigration Judge

An immigration judge is an attorney appointed by the Attorney General to act as an administrative judge within the Executive Office for Immigration Review. They are qualified to conduct specified classes of proceedings, including removal proceedings. For more information about immigration judge, seeAsylum and Withholding of Removal.

Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986

Public Laws 99-639 (Act of 11/10/86), known as the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986, were passed in order to deter immigration-related marriage fraud. Its major provision stipulates that aliens deriving their immigrant status based on a marriage of less than two years are conditional immigrants. To remove their conditional status, the immigrants must apply at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office during the 90-day period before their second-year anniversary of receiving conditional status. If the aliens cannot show that the marriage through which the status was obtained was and is a valid one, their conditional immigrant status may be terminated and they may become deportable.

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986

Public Law 99-603 (Act of 11/6/86), or the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, was passed in order to control and deter illegal immigration to the United States. Its major provisions stipulate legalization of undocumented aliens who had been continuously unlawfully present since 1982, legalization of certain agricultural workers, sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, and increased enforcement at U.S. borders.

Inadmissibility Ground

INA §212(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(1) specify the grounds under which persons are ineligible for visas or admission into the United States. These grounds include health-related grounds, crime and related grounds, security and related grounds, public charges, labor certification and qualifications for certain immigrants, illegal entrants and immigration violators, documentation requirements, ineligibility for citizenship, aliens previously removed, and other miscellaneous grounds for inadmissibility.


An alien is considered inadmissible at a port of entry if he or she does not meet the criteria in the Immigration and Nationality Act for admission. The alien may be placed in removal proceedings or, under certain circumstances, allowed to withdraw his or her application for admission.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors include “individual entities that carry on independent business [orare under]contract to do a piece of work according to their own means and method, and are subject to control only as to results.” Indicia of independence include: (1) who supplies tools/materials; (2) whether services are available to the public; (3) whether work is done for other clients; (4) whether there is an opportunity for profit or loss as a result of the labor; (5) whether there is an investment in the facilities for work; and (6) who determines order, sequence, and time work is done.


INS stands for Immigration and Naturalization Service. INS no longer exists and has been replaced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For more information about USCIS, please click USCIS.

When an alien arrives at a port of entry, he or she must go through the inspection process. An inspector will question the alien and examine his or her documentation. In order to enter the U.S. legally, an alien must be inspected and either admitted or paroled. For more information about admission in nonimmigrant status, please click Non-immigrant Visa. For details of admission in immigrant status, please click Immigrant Petition.

Interested Government Agency Request (IGA)

Certain classes of J-1 "Exchange Visitor" require that the alien return to his/her home country or country of last permanent residency for a period of two (2) years after completion of the J-1 status. An interested government agency (IGA) may request that the U.S. State Department waive the Foreign Residency Requirement. Both the U.S. State Department and the USCIS must agree to grant the waiver. For information about how to obtain an IGA waiver, please click Agencies that can serve as IGAs.


Intracompany Transferees can apply for L-1 classification. Intracompany transferees must have been employed for at least one continuous year out of the last three by an international firm or corporation, and seek to enter the United States temporarily in order to continue to work for the same employer, or a subsidiary or affiliate, in a capacity that is primarily managerial, executive, or involves specialized knowledge. An L-1 alien’s accompanying spouse and minor unmarried children may apply for L-2 classification which allows them to work in the United States. For further information, please see L-1 and L-2 visas.


Generally, there are two visa categories that are directly related to investors: E-2 nonimmigrant visas for treaty investors and EB-5 immigration petitions for immigrant investors. For more information, please see EB-2 Treaty Investors and EB-5 Immigrant Investors.


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