The Ultimate Guide to Green Card Terminology

April 4, 2024

Navigating the complex landscape of U.S. immigration law can often feel overwhelming for immigrants and their families. With dozens of policies and procedures to stay informed about and hundreds of foreign words and acronyms to learn, it can be discouraging for even the most hopeful immigrant. 

At Salmón & Haas Immigration Attorneys, we understand these challenges and are here to guide you every step of the way. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide to understanding green card terminology. Read on to learn the most common terms you’ll encounter on your journey to permanent residency.

Green Card Terminology From A to Z

A - Adjustment of Status: This process allows you to apply for lawful permanent resident status (a Green Card) without having to leave the U.S. It’s ideal for individuals who are already in the U.S. on a temporary visa and want to obtain a green card either through employment, family sponsorship, or other means.

B - Biometrics: As part of the application process, you’ll need to provide biometrics, which include fingerprints, a photo, and a signature. This information is used for identity verification and background checks, often for your naturalization application or certain visas.

C - Conditional Resident: Some green cards are issued on a conditional basis, typically to spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and are valid for two years. To continue living in the U.S., you must apply to remove the conditions on your residence.

D - Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery: The Diversity Visa “Green Card Lottery” is an annual program that allocates green cards to individuals from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. Participation in the lottery is free and done online.

E - Employment Authorization Document (EAD): A document that grants a non-citizen permission to work in the U.S. for a specific time period. Often, green card applicants may apply for an EAD while waiting for their application to be processed.

F - Family-Based Immigration: One of the primary categories for obtaining a green card, allowing U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor close family members for immigration.

G - Green Card: Officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, it allows you to live and work permanently in the U.S. It’s proof of your status as a lawful permanent resident.

H - Hardship Waiver: A Hardship Waiver is an important form of relief available to some applicants who would otherwise be inadmissible to the United States. If you have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent who would experience extreme hardship if you were not allowed to live in the U.S., you might be eligible for this waiver. It's a way to show that your absence would cause more than the usual level of distress, considering factors like family ties, health issues, and financial stability.

I - Immigrant Visa: A visa for individuals intending to live permanently in the U.S. Unlike temporary visas, it leads to green card status upon entering the U.S.

J - Job Offer: Many employment-based green card categories require a valid job offer from a U.S. employer. The employer often needs to demonstrate that no suitable U.S. worker is available for the position.

K - K-Visas: K-Visas are a group of visas for the fiancé(e)s (K-1) and spouses (K-3) of U.S. citizens, allowing them to enter the U.S. temporarily until they can adjust their status to permanent residents.

L - Legal Permanent Resident (LPR): Another term for a green card holder. As an LPR, you have the right to live and work permanently in the U.S. but must maintain your status and follow U.S. laws.

M - Medical Examination: A required part of the green card application process, performed by a designated physician, to ensure you don’t have any health-related grounds of inadmissibility.

N - Naturalization: The process by which a green card holder becomes a U.S. citizen after meeting requirements related to residency, good moral character, and knowledge of U.S. history and government.

O - Out-of-Status: This refers to individuals who have violated the terms of their visa or permit to stay in the U.S., potentially affecting their eligibility for future visas or green cards.

P - Priority Date: The date your green card application is officially filed or your sponsorship petition is received. It determines your place in line for a visa, which is critical for categories with annual limits.

Q - Quota System: The U.S. limits the number of immigrants from each country each year. This system impacts the availability of visas and wait times, particularly for countries with high demand.

R - Refugee: Individuals granted asylum or refugee status have fled their home country due to persecution or fear of persecution on grounds such as race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

S - Sponsorship: Most green card applications require a sponsor, either a family member or employer, who petitions on your behalf. The sponsor must meet certain income requirements to ensure you won’t rely on government assistance.

T - Temporary Protected Status (TPS): This status can be granted to nationals of certain countries experiencing problems that make it difficult or unsafe for their nationals to be deported there. TPS is a temporary benefit that does not lead directly to a green card but does not prevent one from applying for nonimmigrant status or a green card.

U - USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services): USCIS is the federal agency responsible for processing immigration and naturalization applications and establishing policies related to immigration.

V - Visa Bulletin: Published monthly by the U.S. Department of State, it shows which green card applications can move forward, based on priority dates, visa categories, and per-country limits.

W - Waiver of Inadmissibility: This legal provision allows individuals who are otherwise ineligible for a green card (due to certain violations or conditions) to apply for a waiver, potentially clearing the way for their application.

X - eXpatriation: The process of renouncing one's citizenship. While not directly related to green cards, understanding the implications of expatriation is essential for emigrates who want to move to the United States.

Y - Yearly Limits: The U.S. government sets annual limits on the number of green cards issued in certain categories, affecting wait times, especially for countries with high demand.

Z - Zero Tolerance Policy: Refers to stricter enforcement policies aimed at preventing illegal immigration. While the term is more commonly associated with border enforcement, understanding its implications is crucial for all immigrants.

Don’t Go It Alone: Get Expert Guidance On Your Green Card Journey

Embarking on your journey toward permanent residency can be both an exciting and daunting endeavor. However, the complexities of U.S. immigration law, coupled with all the complex terminology that comes with it, can make the process seem overwhelming. But you don't have to do it alone! At Salmón & Haas Immigration Attorneys, we are more than just legal advisors; we can be your partners in realizing your American dream.

Our dedicated team of experienced immigration attorneys understands the nuances of green card processes and the importance of clear, precise action in achieving successful outcomes. We're here to provide personalized guidance, from deciphering intricate green card terminology to preparing and filing your application with precision and care. 

Together, we can help navigate the complexities of the green card process while ensuring you feel confident, informed, and ready to take the next step toward your future in the United States. 

Your dream is within reach—contact us today to make it a reality!

Let Us Help You Win Your Case Today

Immigration law can be complex, but we always stay on top of the latest developments. If you have questions about immigration law or your immigration case, contact us today to set up a free initial consultation.

Schedule Your Free Consultation

Hablamos Español
Disclaimer: By submitting this form you agree to the collection of your personal data pursuant to our privacy policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.