Glossary, A-I

A File

Numerically controlled case files on individual aliens or non-citizens maintained by federal immigration agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (and formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) to administer and enforce various immigration laws and related statutes and regulations. Each individual is assigned a number, called an A-number, from a series that currently has the letter A plus eight or nine-digits and is unique to that individual throughout his or her immigration processing.


An Alien Documentation Identification and Telecommunications (ADIT) stamp is a stamp added to an individual's passport or I-94 (Arrival -Departure Record) as proof of "temporary" permanent residency status, also called a “temporary I-551 stamp.”

Adjustment of Status

Procedure allowing certain non-citizens already in the United States to apply for permanent resident status. Among those eligible to apply are refugees, asylees and Cuban parolees. These individuals may apply after one year in the United States.

Affidavit of Relationship (AOR)

Sworn statement filed by an eligible family member in the United States that allows the relative overseas to apply for the U.S. refugee program.


Any person not a citizen or national of the United States.


A special immigration status created by Public Law 100-202 (12/22/87). The law provides for the admission of certain Vietnamese born after January 1, 1962, and before January 1, 1976, and fathered by a U.S. citizen. Spouses, children, parents or guardians may also be admitted. These individuals are eligible for the same services as refugees.


A refugee’s relative in the United States who is eligible to file an AOR.


See Affidavit of Relationship.

Application Support Centers (ASC)

Certain USCIS offices that fingerprint applicants for immigration benefits. Some applications require an FBI fingerprint background check before USCIS can decide eligibility.


See Application Support Center.


The legal agreement of a voluntary resettlement agency to sponsor a refugee. This agreement is signed by a designated voluntary agency official and submitted to the USCIS overseas. A copy of the agreement is included in the refugee’s travel documents for presentation at the port of entry in the United States. Refugees sometimes use a copy of the agreement with photographs to board airlines before receiving photo identification in the United States.


A non-citizen in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country, because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. The basis for the claim for protection must be the individual’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Persons granted asylum may apply to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year in the United States. Asylees are eligible for refugee program benefits and services.


A foreign individual who has a petition filed on his or her behalf by a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or employer to receive an immigration benefit.


See Board of Immigration Appeals.

Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

The Board of Immigration Appeals is the highest
administrative court for immigration cases. Decisions of the Board, under the Department of Justice rather than the Department of Homeland Security, are subject to judicial review by the Federal courts. Most appeals are decided by a review of the record rather than oral arguments.


See Customs and Border Patrol.


A native or naturalized citizen of a country.

Civil Surgeon

A medical doctor practicing in the U.S. who is certified by USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service) to provide examinations as required by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and USCIS. For medical examinations given overseas, please see Panel Physician.

Cuban/Haitian Entrant

A status accorded (1) Cubans who entered illegally or were paroled into the United States between April 15, 1980, and October 10, 1980; and (2) Haitians who entered illegally or were paroled into the country before January 1, 1981. Subsequently, those Cubans or Haitians who were (1) paroled, (2) applied for asylum, or (3) placed in removal/deportation proceedings, as described under provisions of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980, are referred to as “Cuban/Haitian Entrants” and eligible for the same public services as refugees.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Under the Department of Homeland Security, CBP is the bureau charged with securing the country’s borders, as well as screening all imports and exports.


See Department of Children and Families.

Deferred Inspection

See Parole.

Department of Children and Families (DCF)

The state agency administering delivery of social services in Florida, including services to refugee populations. See the Office of Refugee Services.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

The federal agency charged with protecting the internal security of the United States and its borders, as well as providing services to persons seeking to travel to or live in the United States. Three functions formerly part of the Immigration and Naturalization Service have been combined with other functions to become U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

Deportable Alien

An alien in and admitted to the United States subject to any grounds of removal specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act. This includes any alien (foreigner) illegally in the United States, even if the individual entered the country by fraud or misrepresentation or entered legally but subsequently violated the terms of his or her immigration classification or status.


The formal removal of a foreign individual from the United States when the individual has been found removable for violating the immigration laws. Prior to April 1997 deportation and exclusion were separate removal procedures. Now called removal, non-citizens in and admitted to the United States may be subject to removal based on deportability by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


Individuals to whom eligibility for an immigration status is conveyed by a spouse or parent. In the case of citizens, derivative status is conveyed to children through the naturalization of parents or to foreign-born children adopted by U.S. citizen parents under certain conditions.


See Department of Homeland Security.


A category of immigrants from underrepresented countries or countries adversely affected by certain amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This program is subject to annually adjusted limits and procedures for submitting applications.

Docket Control

The USCIS mechanism for tracking the case status of potentially removable non-citizens.


See Employment Authorization Document.

Employer Sanctions

Provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 prohibits employers from hiring, recruiting, or referring for a fee non-citizens known to be unauthorized to work in the United States. Violators of the law are subject to a series of civil fines for violations or criminal penalties when there is a pattern or practice of violations.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

The biometric identification card issued by USCIS to individuals authorized to work under the criteria of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Two versions are currently accepted, the I-688B and the I-766. The card shows the immigration status under which a non-citizen is authorized to work, as well as issuance and expiration dates of the card, which may renewable annually for a fee. Some cards are issued with a longer validity period, based on status and fees.


See Executive Office of Immigration Review.


Exclusion is the formal term for denial of an individual’s entry into the United States. Before 1997, the decision was made by an immigration judge after a hearing. Since April 1997, excluding a non-citizen because they are inadmissible under provisions in the immigration laws may be decided administratively in an expedited removal process or in removal proceedings before an immigration judge.

Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) combines the administrative immigration hearing courts overseen by Immigration Judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA or Board). Established under the Department of Justice in 1983 independent of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the agency is charged with enforcement of Federal immigration laws.

Files Control Office

A USCIS field office, either at the district or sub district level, where alien case files are maintained and controlled.

First Asylum

A country where refugees first find a place of safety when they flee from persecution.

Fiscal Year

For the federal government, the fiscal year is the twelve-month period beginning October 1 and ending September 30.


See Freedom of Information Act.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Freedom of Information Act of 1966 protects the
rights of the public to information on the operation of government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, and governs what information the government must provide to individual requests.

Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)

Public Law 105-277 (Act of October 21,
1998), which provided that certain Haitian nationals could adjust their status to permanent resident. To be eligible, Haitians must have been in the United States on December 31, 1995, and remained physically present, must be admissible under immigration law, and must have: (1) filed for asylum before December 31, 1995; (2) been paroled into the United States before December 31, 1995; or (3) been a child (unmarried and under 21) at the time of arrival and on December 31, 1995. Certain Haitian dependents were also eligible.

Homeland Security

See Department of Homeland Security.


See Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act.


See Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Immediate Relatives

Certain immigrants who because of their close relationship to U.S. citizens
are exempt from the numerical limitations imposed on immigration to the United States. Immediate relatives are: spouses of citizens, children (under 21 years of age and unmarried) of citizens, and parents of citizens 21 years of age or older.


The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) broadly defines an immigrant as any alien in the United States except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrant categories. An illegal alien who entered the United States without inspection, for example, would be strictly defined as an immigrant under the INA but is not a permanent resident alien. See Permanent Resident Alien.

Immigration Act of 1990

Public Law 101-649 (Act of November 29, 1990), which 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)

Bureau within Department of Homeland Security responsible for identifying and shutting down vulnerabilities in U.S. border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.

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 non-citizens.

Immigration Judge

An attorney appointed by the Attorney General to act as an administrative judge within the Executive Office for Immigration Review under the Department of Justice. They are qualified to conduct specified classes of proceedings, including removal proceedings.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)

Public Law 99-603 (Act of 11/6/86), which was passed in order to control and deter illegal immigration to the United States. It allowed legalization of undocumented aliens who had been continuously unlawfully present since 1982 and legalization of certain agricultural workers. The law also established sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers and increased enforcement at U.S. borders.


See Immigration and Nationality Act.


An alien seeking admission at a port of entry who does not meet the criteria in the INA for admission. The person may be placed in removal proceedings or, under certain circumstances, allowed to withdraw his or her application for admission.

Internally Displaced Person (IDP)

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) flee their homes for the same reasons as refugees, but remain within their own country and are thus subject to the laws of that state.


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is an international organization that provides advice and services to governments and migrants to manage migration flows. IOM facilitates the travel of all refugees resettled to the United States, as well as medical and orientation services for refugees before they arrive.


See Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.