Immigration Glossary

A# or 'A' Number - Alien Registration number. An A# is issued to all aliens applying for permanent residence

ACWIA - American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998

Adjustment of Status - The change from nonimmigrant to Lawful Permanent Resident

Advance Parole - Document required to leave the U.S. while adjustment to lawful permanent resident is pending

Affidavit of Support - Signed and notarized document which makes sponsor financially responsible for the beneficiary.

AILA - American Immigration Lawyers Association

AOS - Adjustment of Status (the process to become a Green Card Holder / Permanent Resident)

Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) - Card stamped by INS when you arrive, shows how long you can stay in the United States. It is a small white card.

ASC - Application Support Center

BCIS - Stands for "Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services." This name is no longer used. The current name is "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services" or USCIS.

BIA - Board of Immigrant Appeals

Change of Status - The switch from one visa type for another.

CIS - "Citizenship and Immigration Services" -- shorter version of BCIS or USCIS.

CSC - California Service Center

DHS - Department of Homeland Security

DOL - Department of Labor

DOS - Department of State

E Visa - Visa for investors and traders.

EB-1 - Employment-based immigration category for aliens of extraordinary ability.

EB-2 - Employment-based immigration category for aliens with advanced degrees or exceptional ability.

EB-3 - Employment-based immigration category for aliens with bachelor's degrees. Most immigrants become residents through this category.

EOIR - Executive Office of Immigration Review

F-1 - Student Visa.

FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation

Green Card - Document showing lawful permanent residence.

H-1B - Visa for temporary skilled workers.

H-1B Cap - Annual limit on number of H-1B visas issued (Currently 195,000).

H-4 - visa for family members of H-1B visa holder.

INA - Immigration and Nationality Act

INS - Stands for "Immigration and Naturalization Service." This was the immigration processing and enforcement bureau before the Department of Homeland Security was created. The current immigration processing and enforcement bureau is called the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. The USCIS is a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

IRS - Internal Revenue Service

ISD - Immigrant Services Division

J-1 - Visa for doctors and researcher- usually tied to some sort of research grant or exchange program.

L Visa - Visa for employees transferred from foreign office to U.S. office

Labor Condition Application (LCA) - Document indicating the prevailing wage in an area

Labor Certification - involved process through which the U.S. Department of Labor gives authorization for an alien to immigrate.

MSC - Formerly the "Missouri Service Center" but now called the "National Benefits Center" or NBC.

NBC - National Benefits Center (formerly the "Missouri Service Center").

National Interest Waiver (NIW) - Immigrant visa for outstanding aliens who are in the top of their field.

NSC - Nebraska Service Center

NPRM - Notice of Proposed Rule Making

O-1 Visa - Visa for highly acclaimed individual with extraordinary ability in the Sciences, Education, Business, or Athletics.

O-2 Visa - Visa for those accompanying or assisting the O-1 visa holder

OPP - Office of Policy and Programs

P-1 Visa - Visa for entertainers and athletes

P-2 Visa - Visa for those accompanying or assisting the P-1 visa holder, as well as entertainers and athletes admitted through a reciprocal exchange program and their staff.

Practical Training - One year work authorization for F-1 students who have terminated studies

Priority Date - Date assigned to aliens for processing of green card. The INS will not process an immigrant petition until the date is current.

RFE - Request for Evidence. This is a letter the INS uses to request additional information on a pending case.

SSA - Social Security Administration

TN Visa - Visa for temporary workers authorized under schedule 2 of NAFTA

TSC (two acronyms) - Texas Service Center OR Terrorist Screening Center

US-VISIT - The United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program. A border entry/exit system for travelers to the U.S. using biometric identifiers.

USCIS - Stands for "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services." The current immigration benefits processing and enforcement entity of the United States.

VSC - Vermont Service Center

VWP - Visa Waiver Program. Allows visitors to the U.S. from certain countries to enter the U.S. using only a passport [the visa requirement waived]. The Visa Waiver Program includes the following 27 countries: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and The United Kingdom (for citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man). For further information about the Visa Waiver Program, see the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at

Work Authorization Card - Document which authorizes employment. Obtained through concurrently with or after an adjustment of status is filed. It may be renewed at one year intervals while the application for permanent residency is pending.