Terminology

  • Child Citizenship Act of 2000. A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) child under the age of 18 may automatically become a U.S. citizen if his/her parent is a U.S. citizen or becomes a U.S. citizen. The child must reside in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.
  • Employment Authorization. A non-citizen needs employment authorization from the federal government in order to work legally in the United States. Employment authorization may be proven through a card or visa. For legal permanent residents it is permanent although the card may have an expiration date. For others, it may be temporary and renewable.
  • Green Card. A resident alien card (also known as a green card, although it is not green) is evidence of lawful permanent residency. It may have an expiration date but the status, including employment authorization, is permanent.
  • Immigrant. A non-citizen who intends to live permanently in the U.S.
  • Immigrant Consultant, Notary Public (Notario Publico or Notarios). These are persons who are not lawyers and CANNOT give legal advice. Before going to a notario, consult with a community organization that provides free or low-cost service. See the agency list at the end of this section. A Notary Public is licensed by the state to administer an oath or witness a statement and is not qualified to give immigration advice.
  • Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). A person who has a "green card" and may live permanently in the U.S. An LPR may work in the U.S. and may serve in the military and pay taxes, but cannot vote. An LPR may be deported for certain criminal convictions or other serious problems. An LPR may become a U.S. citizen through naturalization.
  • Lawyer/Attorney. A person who is permitted to give legal advice. This person has studied law, has a law degree and is licensed by the state to practice law.
  • Naturalization. Naturalization is the process of applying for U.S citizenship. Usually, a person must have been an LPR for five years in order to apply for naturalization. A person who is an LPR and is married to a U.S. citizen may apply for citizenship in three years.
  • Non-Immigrant. A non-citizen who is permitted to enter the U.S. for a specific limited period of time, and is given a temporary visa (e.g., students, tourists, diplomats) with an expiration date. Some non-immigrants are granted employer authorization.
  • Undocumented. A non-citizen who entered the U.S. without legal immigration status or who stayed after the period they were authorized to be here. An undocumented person does not have employment authorization (cannot work lawfully) and may be deported if discovered by CIS. He/she is not eligible for financial aid for college, but may be eligible for private scholarships.
  • U.S. Citizen. A person born in the United States or a person who naturalized. A U.S. citizen may not be deported, may petition to immigrate family members more easily and quickly than an LPR, and may vote in elections.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency of the U.S. government principally dealing with enforcing immigration laws in the United States. Prior to March of 2003, the USCIS was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). It is also sometimes referred to simply as CIS.
  • Visa. A document or stamp placed in a person's passport issued by a U.S. consulate to a non-citizen to allow that person to enter the U.S. Visas are either non-immigrant or immigrant.