list of common immigration terms explained
USA Visa

List of US Immigration Terms, Acronyms with Explanation

Non-Immigrant in the USA will run into several immigration terms that you may not understand.

Here is a list of standard US immigration terms you will come across as an F1, H1B & H4 Visa holders.

F1 Visa

  1. Form I-20: This document must be filled out by those who want F-1 status (or M-1, which is for vocational students) to attend school in the US The form certifies that you have met the requirements of admittance to a particular university or school, will pursue a full course of study and have shown that you can afford to live and study in the US It has a period of validity. When time runs out, you can no longer stay in the country. (Example Form I-20 and OPT Visa)
  2. F1 Visa: The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant, full-time student visa that allows foreigners to pursue an education in the United States.
  3. F-2 Visa: F2 visa is for spouses and children of an F1 student visa holders.
  4. J-1 Visa: Anyone coming to the US under the educational or cultural exchange is eligible for this visa, including researchers, exchange students, dancers, and performers.
  5. CPT (Curricular Practical Training): An F1 student can get a curricular practical training program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. Curricular practical training is defined to be alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers.  Students who have received one year or more of full time curricular practical training are ineligible for OPT.
  6. OPT (Optional Practical Training): is a period during which undergraduate and graduate students with F-1 status who have completed or have been pursuing their degrees for more than nine months are permitted by the USCIS to work up to one year on a student visa without needing to acquire a work H-1B visa towards getting a practical training to complement their field of studies.
  7. STEM OPT Extension: Certain students will be eligible to receive a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT in addition to an initial 12 months OPT.
  8. CBP: U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  9. Port of Entry: The first point of entry into the USA via Land, Air or Sea.

H1B/L1 Visa Terms

  1. H1B Visa:  The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa. It allows US employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations temporarily. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker can apply for a change of status (COS) to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to an application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or must leave the US.
  2. H4 Visa: H4 visa is for spouses and children of H1B visa holders. One cannot work while on H4 Visa.
  3. L-1 Visa: With this non-immigrant visa, a US entity can request the transfer of a person from a non-U.S. entity. For example, IBM could transfer a vice-president from one of its European offices to New York.
  4. L2 Visa: Dependents of L1 visa holders get L-2. One can work under L-2 Visa, unlike H4 or F2.
  5. Labor condition application (LCA): Form ETA 9035/9035E is a document that a prospective H-1B employer files with ETA when it seeks to employ non-immigrant workers at a specific job occupation in an area of intended employment for not more than three years. In this document, the employer attests to standards to which it will adhere.
  6. Form I-29: Petitioners use this form to file on behalf of a non-immigrant worker to come to the United States temporarily to perform services or labor, or to receive training, as an H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1 or R-1 non-immigrant worker. Petitioners may also use this form to request an extension of stay in or change of status to E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B1 or TN, or one of the above classifications for an alien.
  7. Form I-797: USCIS uses numerous types of Form I-797 to communicate with applicants/petitioners or convey an immigration benefit. Form I-797 is NOT a form you can fill out. I797A vs I-797B vs I797C
  8. Form I-539: If you like to change or extend your visa status, Form I-539 must be submitted to USCIS. For example H1B to H4, H1B to F1, L2 to H-4
  9. Consular Processing: (in terms of H-1B Visa) Once you are the beneficiary of an approved H-1B Visa petition, and you are in the USA. To change the status to H-1B, you may apply at a US Department of State consulate abroad for a visa to come to the United States and be admitted as in H-1B Status. This pathway is referred to as consular processing. Other option is Change of Status.

Green Card

  1. Green Card: Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR), this gives you official immigrant status in the US.
  2. PERM Labor Certification (LC): This is the first step in the Green card process. It involves your employer proving they cannot find a US worker for the job.
  3. Employment Authorization Document (EAD): A card given by USCIS, this is usually valid for one year. EAD is proof that non-immigrant is able to work in the US.
  4. PWR – Prewaling Wage Rate
  5. Employment-Based Green card Categories: EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, and EB-5
  6. Family-Sponsored: IR, F1, F2A, F2B, F3, F4,

General Immigration Terms

  1. Non-immigrant Status: When people are coming to the US for a temporary stay, they are given this status on entry. If persons with non-immigrant status fail to comply with the rules and regulations of this status, they could lose the right to US benefits and become deportable.
  2. Petition: Referred to application.  Example H1B visa petition.
  3. COS: Change of Status; Example F1 to H1B; L1B to H1B, H1B to F1
  4. B-1 Visa: When foreigners come to the US for conferences or meetings, they are entering with this visa. People with this status can also do some work, but the kind of work is very limited.
  5. B-2 Visa: This is a tourist visa. If you want your friends and family to visit you in the USA, they have to apply for B2 visa. Sometimes this visa is used for medical treatments.
  6. 221(g): Some applicants are ineligible to receive a US visa under section 221(g); due to failure to provide some information or document(s) and visa can be issued only after further processing of your documents and information.  Examples of  221(g) F1 Visa experiences.
  7. 214(b): Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a non-immigrant status. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the US at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.
  8. Request for Evidence (RFE) : A request for evidence is made by USCIS when an application (like H1B, OPT, etc) is lacking required documentation/evidence (initial evidence) or the adjucating USCIS officer needs additional evidence to determine an applicant’s eligibility.

Travelers can be denied entry into the USA at the Port of Entry. CBP officer determines the options

  • Removed  (comes with a ban)
  • Voluntary Withdrawl (I-275 form is issued)
  • Deferred to Immigration Judge

Options depend on the seriousness of the crime (or violation). CBP officers would pick an option at the Port of Entry.

If you find any missing terms that have to be added to the above list, leave a comment below.

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  1. Sir I have applied visa on 28 the of this month if I get visa..I should travel to us by 4rt Jan,2016 ..because my classes or commence on this day..if I go late will ther be any immigration prblm for me..

  2. Hi! I'm planning to study law in the U.S and I'll be having my LSAT exams on Feb. 13 here in the Philippines. I just wonder, do I still need to take the GRE exams as part of my requirements to satisfy the consulate at the U.S embassy? I've done research on the schools I plan to attend and they do not require GRE as well as the TOEFL but most of the articles I read, the consulate ask for a TOEFL score. What should I do?

    Thank you

  3. Hai! I do have a friend of mine who is a green card holder in USA and she invited me to USA. So when we went to meet a consultant he said that there are 90% chance for visa getting rejected because me and my husband are Post graduates and we have a fresh passport. So how should i process to get a visa to visit USA.


    1. That is really true Vaijayanthi,they reject most
      invitations.But the fact that you are even married will increase
      your chance of being issued a visa with a B2 class.My advice is
      that you apply for a tourist visa-B2,show them ties you have if any
      like work,bonds,land,other assets you have and you will sail
      through.I always tell people the strongest tie you can ever show to
      the consulate is you marriage.Best of luck.

  4. My F 1 visa is expired after I obtained the undergraduate degree. I am now pursuing the M. Ed in Biology Education. I have a valid I – 20, for the Masters, but no F 1 stamp , for me and my dependents. Can I obtained a new OPT without an F – 1 stamp for my depenents and myself. I am concern about my status.

  5. with due respict sir . i have also immigrant petition F4 sister or brother apply 25 JUNE 2003 .can you tell me my immigrant petition status . july 22 2009 approval notice sent to my sister usa adress . i am frome pakistan . my uscis recipt number wac 0319952414 . nvc number isl 2009741031 .

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