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Immigration Glossary




The J-1 nonimmigrant visa is designated for aliens that qualify as “exchange visitors”.  To qualify as an exchange visitor, an alien must be sponsored by a J-1 sponsor program to teach, study, receive training or demonstrate special skills.  The sponsor must receive accreditation through the U.S. State Department’s Exchange Visitor Program in order to confer J-1 status on the alien beneficiary.

J-1 non-immigrant Visa or Exchange Visitor Program was first implemented in 1961 as part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. The motivation behind this act was to promote the understanding of other cultures by the people of the United States and likewise the understanding of the America culture by people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. The U.S. Department of State plays the primary role in administering the J-1 exchange visitor program.
For more information on J-1 please visit our J-1 web page.

J-1 Waiver

Certain classes of J-1 "Exchange Visitor" are subject to the 2-year “foreign residency requirement” under INA § 212(e). An alien is subject to the 2-year foreign residency requirement if: 1) the J-1 program is financed by the U.S. government or the government of the alien’s home country; 2) the home country of the alien has a short supply of people with skills that the alien has; or 3) the alien receives medical training as an intern or resident.  If subject to this requirement, the alien must return to his/her home country or country of last permanent residency for a cumulative total period of two (2) years after completion of the J-1 status.  During the two year period, the alien may still travel to the United States, but until the two year home residency requirement is fulfilled, the alien is barred from doing the following:

  1. Changing status while in the U.S. to the nonimmigrant H Temporary Worker or L Intracompany Transferee categories;
  2. Adjusting status while in the U.S. to immigrant visa/ Lawful Permanent Resident status
  3. Receiving an immigration visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate; or
  4. Receiving an H Temporary Worker, L Intracompany Transferee, or K Fiancé visa.

However, if an alien is subject to the two year home residency requirement, but is unable to meet that requirement, then the alien may apply for a recommendation from the Department of State, Waiver Review Division that the USCIS grant a waiver to the requirement to the alien.  Five bases exist under U.S. immigration law to receive such a waiver.  They include:

  1. A No Objection Statement from the government of the alien’s home country;
  2. A Request by a Interested U.S. Federal Government Agency;
  3. Persecution in the alien’s home country;
  4. Exceptional Hardship imposed on a U.S. citizen (or lawful permanent resident) spouse or child of an exchange visitor due to the exchange visitor’s prolonged absence;
  5. A request by a designated State Public Health Department or its equivalent (Conrad State 30 Program).

The foreign residency requirement may be waived based on several bases. For details of J-1 Waiver, please click J-1 Waiver


J-2 visa status is a derivative visa status given to the spouses or minor children under the age of 21 of a J-1 principal beneficiary, whom accompany or follow to join the J-1 principal beneficiary.

The spouse and/or minor children in J-2 status may not work in the U.S., unless they have filed a Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and USCIS has subsequently approved said application.
However, derivative beneficiaries in J-2 status may study in the U.S. without being required to apply for an F-1 Student visa or change to F-1 status.

For more information about J-2 visa and status, please click J-1 & J-2 FAQ

Joint sponsors (I-864)

Certain family-based immigration beneficiaries and employment-based immigration beneficiaries are required by law to submit an Affidavit of Support (I-864) by the petitioner to file for an adjustment of status or consular processing (please refer to Affidavit of Support for more details). A Joint sponsor refers to someone who is willing to take on the legal responsibility to support the immigration beneficiary in conjunction with the petitioner.  Joint sponsors are used in situations where the petitioning sponsor does not meet the requirement of having an income at least 125% more than the current federal poverty guideline for a household of their size.  A joint sponsor must meet all the same requirements as the petitioner, except that the joint sponsor does not need to be related to the beneficiary. The joint sponsor (and his/her household) must reach the 125% income requirement alone. The petitioner cannot combine his/her income with that of the joint sponsor to meet the income requirement.

(Updated 10/02/2012 by NT)


K Visa

The K-Visa categories are for a U.S. citizen’s alien fiancé/fiancée and their accompanying children (K1 and K2 Visas), or for a U.S. citizen’s alien spouse and accompanying children (K3 and K4 Visas). The K-1 visa allows the US citizen’s fiancée to come to the US to marry the US citizen. The K-3 visa was created to allow the alien spouse to come to the US and live with their spouse in the United States. The K-1 Visa is intended for the foreign fiancé/fiancée of a U.S. Citizen and the K-2 Visa is intended for any children that may want to accompany the foreign fiancé/fiancée. For more information on the K visa, please click here.



The L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa which allows companies to relocate foreign qualified employees to its US subsidiary or parent company. The qualified employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the company for at least one year out of the last three years. The US company must be a parent company, child company, or sister company to the foreign company. The L-1 visa is a good way for small or start-up overseas companies to expand their business and services to the United States. This is advantageous to smaller companies because it allows for the transfer of a highly proficient manager or executive who has direct knowledge of operations, allowing the setup of a new branch in compliance with the goals and objectives of the company’s main office. There are two different types of L-1 visas: L1-A for Multinational Managers and Executives and L1-B for Employees with Specialized Knowledge. All L visas (including L-2) are dual intent visas. For more information on L-1, please visit our L-1 web page.


L-1A visas are non-immigrant visas designed for intra-company executive transferees coming to work in the United States. The L-1A visa holders must have been employed in an executive or managerial capacity for the foreign company at an overseas location continuously for at least one year out of the past three years. In addition, the L-1A visa allows a company which does not currently have a U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States in order to establish one. L-1A visa is granted initially for one year for a new company in the US or three years for a US company with more than one year in existence, with extensions available in two-year increments, with a total stay not to exceed seven years. The L1-A non-immigrant visa is dual intent and thus a good path towards immigration with the comparable EB-1C immigrant visa. For more information on L-1A, please visit our L-1 web page.


L-1B is a non-immigrant visa designed for professional employees with specialized knowledge. An example of specialized knowledge personnel would be an individual who possesses proprietary knowledge about a company's product and who travels to the U.S. to impart his or her specialized knowledge to new U.S. employees. In addition, companies who currently do not have an office in the United States can use the L-1B visa to send over an employee with specialized knowledge to help establish one. An L-1B visa is issued initially for three years with one two-year extension for a maximum of five years stay. L-1B is a dual intent visa, meaning that the alien may apply for a green card without any preconceived intent issues arising. For more information on L-1B, please visit our L-1 web page.


L-2 visas are issued to the L-1 holder’s spouse and unmarried children under twenty-one years of age that wish to accompany them to the United States. Holders of L-2 visas are considered to be the dependent of L-1 holders, as their duration of valid stay is the same as that of the L-1 holder. The L-2 visa is also dual intent, as are L-1A and L-1B. L-2 spouses are permitted to attend school and/or work either part time or full time legally on their status. In order to work, an L-2 spouse must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD. For more information on EADS, click here).An L-2 child, however, is not allowed to obtain an EAD. Just as an L-1 visa is a dual intent visa, L-2s may also apply for other non-immigrant statuses such as H-1, F-1, B-1, B-2, L-1. They are also eligible to apply for immigrant visas. For more information please click here.

Labor Certification

Obtaining a labor certification is a pre-requisite for a U.S. employer to file an immigration petition for an alien employee in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories (except for situations where a National Interest Waiver is being sought). The sponsoring employer must file the labor certification with the Department of Labor. The DOL must certify to the USCIS both that there are not sufficient U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to accept the job at the prevailing wage for that occupation in the area of intended employment, and that employment of the foreign worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. For more information, please visit our PERM Labor Certification page.

Last Action Rule

Last action rule refers to an informal, general rule followed by the USCIS in immigration practice, where the last action of the USCIS is deemed to govern a petitioner’s status. This means the “last action” in a sequence of immigration events. It is especially important for aliens to understand the last action rule as it pertains to their case, especially if they are submitting two petitions at the same time or within a short period of time. For example, a petitioner is currently in H-1B status and submitted a petition to transfer their H-1B status (not yet expired) to H-4 on February 30, 2012. While their H-4 was pending, they found a new job and the new employer filed an H-1B petition for them on May 4th, 2012. At the current time, both petitioners are pending and the alien is worried that their prior H-4 petition will affect their newer H-1B petition. The last action rule in this case would govern that whether their H-4 petition affects their H-1B petition depends on what the last action of the USCIS was. For more information on this example and the last action rule, please visit our last action rule web page.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)

Any person not a citizen of the United States who resides in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. Also known as "Permanent Resident Alien," "Resident Alien Permit Holder," and "Green Card Holder." It is possible to lose LPR status under extreme circumstances.  For ways to become a LPR, please click visit our web page on obtaining a green card.


LCA stands for Labor Condition Application, which is a document filed with the US Department of Labor as a part of an H-1B petition. An LCA is a document that contains a series of attestations including, among others, an agreement to pay H-1B employees at least the "prevailing wage" for the offered position. For more information about LCAs and the H-1B visa program, please visit our H-1B visa web page.

Legalized Aliens

Legalized Aliens are certain illegal aliens who were granted amnesty and thus became eligible to apply for temporary resident status under the legalization provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. To be eligible, aliens must have continuously resided in the United States in an unlawful status since January 1, 1982and have entered the United States either 1) illegally before January 1, 1982, or 2) as temporary visitors before January 1, 1982, with their authorized stay expiring before that date or with the Government’s knowledge of their unlawful status before that date. Legalization consists of two stages--temporary and then permanent residency. In order to adjust to permanent status aliens must have had continuous residence in the United States, be admissible as an immigrant, and demonstrate at least a minimal understanding and knowledge of the English language and U.S. history and government. Once these special legalized aliens become permanent residents there was no legal difference between them and any other permanent resident.

Legal Stay

A non-immigrant alien may stay in the U.S. legally during their authorized period of stay if he or she obtains a valid visa through the USCIS and is allowed to enter the country at a U.S border or port of entry. However, an alien’s non-immigrant status in the U.S. remains valid only for the duration of the authorized stay specified by their visa program and that is detailed on their I-94.  . Therefore, if an alien stays beyond that date their non-immigrant status expires and they are no longer of legal status. To continue to stay legally in the U.S., an alien must either leave the U.S. or apply for an extension, change or adjustment of status (if applicable) before their authorized stay expires.  For more information about legal stay, please follow this link.


“Lottery” refers to the Green Card Lottery (also known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa program). It is a congressionally mandated program where participants who meet the strict eligibility requirements enter into a random, computer generated drawing which yields 50,000 immigrant visas annually. In order to be eligible for the Green Card Lottery the alien must be from a qualifying country that has not sent more than 50,000 immigrants in the past five years. Those who are selected are granted U.S. legal permanent residency. Every individual entering the lottery must either have received a high school degree (or its equivalent) or have two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years’ training or experience.  For more information please visit the Department of State green card lottery website.


M Visa (Vocational Student)

The M-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa for vocational students. The student applying for an M-1 visa must first be accepted to an educational institution in the United States that has been approved by the USCIS to accept international students. An M-1 student can legally work on-campus on a part-time basis and work off-campus on an assignment related to the field of study, if permitted by the USCIS through Optional Practical Training (OPT). An M-1 will only grant the visa holder one year and a thirty-day grace period stay in US. The M-1 holder must register a full course of study to maintain the M-1 status. The M-1 visa holder’s spouse and/or minor children may accompany them on an M-2 visa. Additionally, the M-3 visa is specifically available to Canadian or Mexican national vocational commuter students.

Maintenance of status

In order to maintain valid legal immigrant or non-immigrant status, it is vital to pay attention to the following:

  1. Be sure to pay attention to the specific authorized period of stay indicated on your I-194 card. Before the expiration of your current status, be sure to timely file a change or extension of status if applicable or leave the United States.
  2. Pay attention to the underlying requirements for each specific visa program, such as authorized employment for you specific visa type, especially B-1/B-2, F-1/F-2, and H-4.
  3. Do not engage in any illegal activity that would jeopardize your legal status in the United States, in order to avoid deportation proceedings.

Managers (Multinational)

A multinational manager refers to managers that qualify for an L-1 non-immigrant visa or an EB-1C immigrant visa. For more information on the L-1 non-immigrant visa, please visit our L-1 web page.For more information on the EB-1C immigrant visa, please visit ourEB-1C page.One can qualify for an L-1 or EB-1C visa for a multinational transferee if he or she can meet the requirements for Multinational Manager as described below:

  1. Managing the organization, department, subdivision, function or component;
  2. Supervising and controlling the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees, or managing an essential function n within the organization or department or subdivision of the organization;
  3. The authority to hire and fire or recommend personnel actions (if other employees directly supervised), or manages an essential function within the organization or department or subdivision of the organization; and
  4. Exercising direction over day-to-day operations of the activity or function.

Mandamus, jurisdiction

Under 28 U.S.C. §1361, if certain requirements are met, mandamus action can be used to compel an officer or employee of DHS or another government agency to perform a nondiscretionary duty owed a party. This can occur when the USCIS is delaying the adjudication of a case, mostly in the adjustment of status context. These requirements are as follows:

  1. The claim is clear and certain;
  2. The duty owed is ministerial and so plainly prescribed as to be free from double; and
  3. There is no other adequate remedy available.


Marriage can have a very important effect on immigration proceedings, as a beneficiary may be eligible to receive immigration benefits through their spouse. Marriage is a subject matter of the laws of the state or country where the marriage was entered into, and federal law will usually recognize them. However, according to The Defense of Marriage Act, U.S. Congress clarifies that the word "marriage" means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife and the word "spouse" refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife. Thus the law does not accept gay or lesbian marriages as legal for immigration purposes. For more information on the topic of marriage and immigration, please refer to ourweb page.

Marriage Fraud

The USCIS takes very seriously aliens entering into marriages for fraudulent immigration purposes. Sham marriages entered in solely for immigration purposes will not be considered valid by the USICS. If an alien married within 2 years prior to obtaining LPR status and the marriage is judicially annulled or terminated within 2 years subsequent to LPR entry, the marriage is presumed to be fraudulent and the alien will be subject to deportation. To rebut this presumption, the burden of proof is on the alien. For more information, please visit ourmarriage and immigration web page.

Medical Waiver

A medical waiver permits an immigration applicant to be allowed into, or remain in the United States despite having a health condition identified as grounds of inadmissibility. Medical exams are required during consular processing and the adjustment of status process. An alien may be considered inadmissible if they have a communicable disease of public health significance, fail to show proof of required vaccinations, have a mental or physical disorder with associated harmful behavior, or drug abuse or addiction. For more information on medical grounds of inadmissibility, please click here.Terms and conditions can be applied to a medical waiver on a case by case basis. To file a medical waiver, the immigrant must file form I-601 (Application for Waiver for Grounds of Inadmissibility) with the required fee.

Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

Metropolitan statistical area as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget refers to a geographical region, which typically centers around a single large city that wields substantial influence over the region. The U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies may use it for statistical purposes. This concept might be encountered in an immigration context while dealing with prevailing wage issues for H-1B visas. For more information on H-1B, please click here.


A migrant is a person who leaves his/her country of origin to seek residence in another country. This could those seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.


As it relates to immigration law, a minor is regarded as an unmarried person under the age of 21 years old.

Money Laundering

Money laundering refers to the process of concealing the source of illegally obtained money, which is regulated under 18 U.S.C. §1956-1957. It is a crime involving moral turpitude, which may result in inadmissibility.

Moral Turpitude Crimes

Please also refer to “Crimes of Moral Turpitude.” Under U.S. immigration law, an alien or a lawful permanent resident who was convicted of a crime of moral turpitude on which a sentence of one year or longer may be imposed is barred from admission into the United States. There is no exact definition of a crime of moral turpitude, but it is often related to moral issues. They may include a broad range of crimes, including prostitution, theft, aggravated assault, sexual offenses, child abuse, aggravated driving while under the influence of drug or alcohol, illegal use of a credit card, stealing cellular air time, larceny, malicious trespass, willful tax evasion, possession of stolen mail, counterfeiting, and perjury.  Because of the broad implication of crimes of moral turpitude most crimes will fall under this category. Basically, any act which by itself considered morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong or evil by its nature will render such an act a crime of moral turpitude even without statutory prohibition. For more information about crimes of moral turpitude and their impact on immigration, please click here..

Motion to Re-Open

If the USCIS denies an immigration petition the beneficiary has 30 after the decision days to file a Motion to Re-Open if they wish to. A motion to re-open must be based on new facts, evidence, or a change in law or policy that beneficiary believes makes the original ruling incorrect. The alien must file Form I-290B (Notice of Appeal or Motion) to inform USCIS of their motion to reopen. Consideration of a motion is a two stage process: the first stage is a determination of whether or not the case should be reopened and the second stage (if the case is reopened) is the rendering of a new decision.

Motion to Reconsider

If the USCIS denies an immigration petition the beneficiary has 30 days after the decision to file a motion to reconsider if they wish to. A motion to reconsider is used when the beneficiary believes that the decision was based on an incorrect application of the law or policy. The alien must file Form I-290B (Notice of Appeal or Motion) to inform USCIS of their motion to reconsider. Consideration of a motion is a two stage process: the first stage is a determination of whether or not the case should be reconsidered and the second stage (if it is determined to warrant reconsideration) is the rendering of a new decision.

Multinational Manager or Executive

Multinational Manager or Executive refers to individuals who meet the qualifications for a manager or executive as defined for the non-immigrant L-1 visa categories or the immigrant EB-1C category. For information on managers, see “Manager (Multinational)” and for information on executives see “Executive” Or “Multinational Executive.” For more information on L-1 visas please visit our L-1 web page. For more information on the EB-1C visa, please visit our EB-1C page.

Multinational Executive

A multinational executive refers to individuals who meet the qualifications for an executive as defined for the non-immigrant L-1 visa category or the immigrant EB-1C category. An executive generally refers to an individual who has the ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight and directs the management of a business or organization or a major component of the operation. Executives have several options when petitioning to gain admission into the United States. The EB-1(c) category allows international companies to transfer overseas high level managers or executives to their U.S. entities to take a permanent high level managerial or executive position. The L-1A visa allows for intra-company executive transferees to work in the United States if they meet certain requirements. Please note that the L-1A visa allows a company which does not currently have a U.S. office to send an executive or manager to the United States in order to establish one. For more information on L-1 visas please visit our L-1 web page. For more information on the EB-1C visa, please visit our EB-1C page.


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