Important Terms Related to Immigration and Naturalization

The following terms are commonly used in immigration and naturalization proceedings:

  • Asylum: Legal protection granted to foreign nationals in the United States who have experienced or will face persecution in their home country based on race, religion, nationality, social affiliation or political opinion, allowing them to remain in the United States.
  • Biometrics: The process of identifying a person by unique biological features, such as fingerprints or eye scans.
  • Citizenship: Legal status that confers all of the benefits and protections of the Constitution. A person may be born a citizen or may obtain citizenship through the naturalization process.
  • Green Card: The official immigration document granting a foreign national lawful and permanent residency status in the U.S.
  • Illegal Alien: A person from another country who is in the U.S. without a valid visa or any other proper authority. A person who stays in the United States after the expiration of a visa or passport will be considered an illegal alien, as will someone who entered the country without proper documentation.
  • Naturalization: The process by which a foreign national acquires U.S. citizenship. The process involves the fulfillment of specific requirements, including continuous U.S. residence and certain knowledge-based tests.
  • Nonimmigrant: A foreign national seeking to enter the U.S. for a specific purpose and a limited period of time. Customarily, a non-immigrant will be issued a temporary visa.
  • Passport: A travel document that is recognized internationally and verifies the nationality and the identity of its bearer. Passports are granted, monitored, and verified by the U.S. State Department.
  • 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. Customarily, a refugee will seek asylum in the United States.
  • 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: A legal document that allows 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.

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