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Immigration Terms

  • Asylum: A protection granted to foreign nationals who remain in the U.S. for the purpose of U.S. protection from fear of persecution from the national’s home country based on race, religion, nationality, social affiliation or political opinion.
  • Biometrics: The process of identifying a person by unique biological features, such as fingerprints or eye scans.
  • Citizen: A person born or naturalized in the U.S. and subject to its jurisdiction. Citizenship affords the person all of the benefits and protections of the Constitution.
  • Green Card: The official immigration document of lawful, permanent residency status in the U.S.
  • Illegal Alien: A person from another country who is in the U.S. without proper authority. This status may be due to no documentation upon entry or staying over a visa’s or passport’s authorized time frame.
  • Naturalization: The process by which a foreign citizen or national acquires U.S. citizenship by fulfilling legal requirements, including continuous U.S. residence and presence.
  • Nonimmigrant: A foreign national seeking to enter the U.S. for a specific purpose and a temporary period of time.
  • Passport: A travel document that is recognized internationally and verifies the nationality and the identity of its bearer. The State Department grants, issues and verifies passports.
  • Refugee: An alien who enters the U.S. because of his or her home country’s persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social affiliation or political opinion.
  • Temporary Protected Status: An immigration status granted to aliens in the U.S. who temporarily cannot safely return to their home country because of violence, a natural disaster or another unusual condition.
  • Visa: An authorization for a foreign national to enter the U.S. either temporarily under a nonimmigrant visa or permanently under an immigrant visa. The State Department manages the visa process.

Last update: Sept. 25, 2008

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