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Immigration-Related Terms

Asylum: in the immigration context, safe haven provided to an individual who has a reasonable fear of persecution on account of race, religion, political opinion, national origin, or membership in a particular social group.  An individual must ordinarily be present in the United States to apply for asylum there.

B-1 visa: a visitor’s visa for business.  These visas are available for up to six months for persons entering the United States to conduct business affairs such as: consulting with clients, meeting with business associates or attending professional, scientific or religious conventions.  B-1 visitors are allowed to receive money for expenses in the U.S., but they cannot be paid a salary by an employer in this country.

B-2 visa: a visitor’s visa for pleasure.  These visas are available for a stay of up to six months for persons entering the United States for reasons of leisure or pleasure such as: tourism, amusement, visiting friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, or activities of a social or service nature.  The B-2 visa can also be used by a non-spousal partner (including a same-sex partner) of the holder of certain other visas to visit them in the United States.

Consular processing: the issuance of visas through foreign-based U.S. consulates.

Employment-based immigrant visa: a visa allowing indefinite or permanent stay in the United States based on employment.  The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a yearly minimum of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas divided into five preference categories. They may require a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor,and may require filing a petition with theBureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (previously INS).

Family-based visa: a visa allowing for the immigration of a foreigner to the United States based on relationship to a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.

F-1 visa: a visa available to full-time students who are admitted to an academic or language training program.  Applicants must provide proof of the financial support needed for educational and living expenses, must retain a residence outside the U.S., and cannot work more than twenty hours a week at an on-campus job or spend more than one year of practical training after completion of courses.  The U.S. government may issue additional employment authorization to students if severe unforeseen economic hardships arise after coming to the U.S.

Green card: a visa for permanent residence in the United States.  This visa was once issued on green paper.

H-1B visa: a visa available to “specialty occupation workers,” including fashion models or professionals who hold a license necessary to practice their profession in the U.S.

Hybrid visa: a non-immigrant visa with a path to permanent residency as part of its terms.  Examples include the fiancé(e) or K visa.

Immigrant: an individual who enters the United States with authorization from the government to remain on a permanent basis.

Immigrant intent: the motivation of a person who is present in the United States on a temporary basis, but intends to remain beyond the legally authorized validity of the visa.

Immigrant visa: authorization from the United States government to remain in the U.S. on an indefinite or permanent basis.

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA): also known as the McCarran-Walter Act, the 1952 INA collected and codified many existing provisions and organized the structure of immigration law. Before the INA, a variety of statutes governed immigration but were not organized in one location. Amended many times over the years, the Act remains the basic body of immigration law. It established family reunification as a central goal of U.S. immigration policy.

J-visa: a visa available to trainees, students, professors, research scholars, non-academic specialists, foreign physicians, au pairs, and summer students in travel/work programs.  Some visa recipients must return to the country of their last residence for two years after their visa expires before obtaining any subsequent visas.

K-1 visa: a visa available to the fiancé(e) of a United States citizen.  K-visa holders must marry within ninety days after admission to the United States.  K-2 visas are available to K-1 visa holders’ minor children.

K-3 visa: a visa available to persons who have a valid marriage to a U.S. citizen and who have filed for, but not yet received, permanent residence in the United States.

Naturalization: the process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred on a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Requirements for administrative naturalization include showing:

  • a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
  • an ability to read, write, and speak English;
  • a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
  • good moral character;
  • attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution;
  • favorable disposition toward the United States.

Non-immigrant: a person who is authorized to remain in the United States on a temporary basis only.

Non-immigrant visa: permission by the government to remain in the United States for a termed or temporary period.

Removal proceedings: process by which the government formally ends a person’s access to the United States.  Part of the process includes returning an individual to his or her native country.

Undocumented immigrant: a person who is present in the United States without proper authorization.

Other Terms

Biological sex: the biological classification of bodies as male or female, based on factors including external sex organs, internal sexual and reproductive organs, hormones, and chromosomes.

Bisexual: a person who is attracted to both sexes.

Gay: a synonym for homosexual. Sometimes used to describe only males who are attracted primarily to other males.

Gender: the social and cultural codes used to distinguish between what a society considers “masculine” or “feminine” conduct.

Gender divergent: a term used to refer to a person who does not conform either to expectations for their assigned sex or to the binary nature of male and female gender assignments.

Gender expression: the external characteristics and behaviors which societies define as “masculine” or “feminine”—including such attributes as dress, appearance, mannerisms, speech patterns, and social behavior and interactions.

Gender identity: a person's internal, deeply felt sense of being male or female, or something other than or in between male and female.

Heterosexual: a person attracted primarily to people of the opposite sex.

HIV: human immunodeficiency virus, the virus which causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

HIV-positive: a term used for a person who has tested positive for antibodies to the HIV virus, indicating exposure to the virus.

Homosexual: a person attracted primarily to people of the same sex.

Lesbian: a female attracted primarily to other females.

LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender; an inclusive term for groups and identities sometimes also associated together as “sexual minorities.”

Queer: often used as a slur in English to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, the term “queer” has been reclaimed by many people in the U.S. and other countries as an expression of pride in one's sexual orientation and gender identity.

Same-sex: term often used to describe the relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual and sometimes transgender people.

Serostatus: a positive or negative reaction to a test on one’s blood serum for signs of disease or of antibodies to disease—often used to describe whether one has tested positive for antibodies to HIV.

Sexual orientation: the way in which a person's sexual and emotional desires are directed. The term categorizes according to the sex of the object of desire—that is, it describes whether a person is attracted primarily toward people of the same or opposite sex or to both.

Transgender: one whose inner gender identity or outward gender expression differs from the physical characteristics of their body at birth. Female-to-male (FTM) transgender people were born with female bodies but have a predominantly male gender identity; male-to-female (MTF) transgender people were born with male bodies but have a predominantly female gender identity.

Transsexual: one who has undergone surgery and hormone therapies (processes sometimes called “sex reassignment surgery”) to make his/her physical sex correspond more closely to his/her internal gender identity.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>May 2006