YWCA of Tulsa
immigrant and refugee services

Terms & Definitions

Immigration Terms

Beneficiary: A foreign national who is sponsored by a relative or a business, or has self-petitioned for an immigration benefit. A “principal beneficiary” is a foreign national who is named on an immigrant or nonimmigrant petition or application. A “derivative beneficiary” is an immediate family member of the principal beneficiary who may be eligible to receive the same immigration status as the principal beneficiary based on their family relationship.

Citizen: A person who owes allegiance to a nation state and is entitled to its protection and to exercise rights of membership, such as voting. Under U.S. law, citizens include persons born in the United States or its territories, certain persons born abroad to a U.S. citizen, and non-citizens who become citizens through naturalization

Country of Origin: The country an immigrant migrates from or a refugee flees from.

DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program granting certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and meet several guidelines deferred action and work authorization for a period of two years. Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time. Deferred action does not provide lawful status.

Deferred action: A type of prosecutorial discretion that allows an individual to remain in the U.S. for a set period of time, unless the deferred action is terminated for some reason. Deferred action is determined on a case-by-case basis and only establishes lawful presence. It does not provide immigration status or benefits of any kind. DACA is one type of deferred action.

Discretion: USCIS’ ability to decide the outcome of a request by weighing positive and negative factors in the applicant’s case, based on the facts and circumstances the applicant describes in the benefit application.

Duration of Status (D/S): Notation on certain nonimmigrant Forms I-94 indicating that a person, such as an F-1 nonimmigrant student, is authorized to remain in the United States as long as they maintain a valid status.

Employment Authorization Document (EAD): A card issued by USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) that proves that the holder is authorized to work in the United States.

English Language Learner (ELL): a person who is learning the English language in addition to their native language; can refer to any learners of English as a foreign or second language, but more often the term is used to refer to learners of English as a second language in mainstream schools where English is the language of instruction

Free case: a refugee case designated for resettlement that has no family ties or anchors already in the U.S.

Green Card: an informal name for the Permanent Resident card (see below).

Immigrant: A person who moves to a live in a country other than their country of origin.

Inadmissibility: Not being allowed to lawfully enter the U.S. or obtain a visa abroad based on acts or conduct that is listed as an inadmissibility ground in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Lawful permanent resident (LPR): Any person not a citizen of the U.S. who is living here under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. Also known as “permanent resident alien,” “resident alien permit holder,” and “Green Card holder.”

Limited English Proficiency (LEP): Difficulty speaking, reading, writing, or understanding English, particularly if English is not an individual’s primary language.

Nonimmigrant: A foreign national who is admitted to the U.S. for a specific temporary period of time with clear conditions on their stay. There are a large variety of nonimmigrant categories, and each exists for a specific purpose and has specific terms and conditions. Some classifications include visitors for business and for pleasure, students, temporary workers and trainees, exchange visitors, fiancé(e)s of U.S., citizens, intracompany transferees, and religious workers. Most nonimmigrants can be accompanied or joined by spouses and unmarried minor (or dependent) children.

Parole: The discretionary decision that allows inadmissible foreign nationals to leave an inspection facility freely so that, although they are not admitted to the U.S., they are permitted to be physically present in the U.S. Parole is granted on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. Parole is not an “admission” or “entry.” The paroled foreign national is treated as an applicant for admission. 

Permanent resident card: Identification indicating a person is authorized to live and work in the United States of America on a permanent basis; informally referred to as a “green card.”

Prosecutorial discretion: The legal authority to choose whether or not to take action against an individual for committing an offense.

Removal: The expulsion of an alien from the U.S. based on grounds of inadmissibility or deportability.

Temporary protected status (TPS): DHS may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. Conditions include: ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war), an environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

Undocumented Immigrant: A person who has entered a country without legal inspection or whose immigration authorization has expired.


Refugee Terms

Affidavit of Relation (AOR): A form filled out by the anchor to try to reunify family and friends. (Only a few countries participate in reunifications programs at any given time.)

Anchor: The person who requests a refugee be resettled in their area by submitting an AOR.

Asylee: A person who leaves his or her country of origin and applies for protection after arriving in another country. An asylee must prove tha they have a well-founded fear of persecution (see Refugee).

Case Manager: A person employed by a nonprofit or resettlement agency to work with refugees.

Country of First Asylum: The first country a refugee flees into and files for protection or asylum.

Health Screening: Every refugee resettled in the U.S. must have a health screening within the first 30 days.

International Organization for Migration (IOM): An organization that provides travel loans to refugees.

Internally Displaced People (IDP): People who flee but remain within their country’s borders.

Principal Applicant (PA): The person under whom a case is officially listed.

Reception and Placement (R&P): Housing (rent, deposit, furnishings, supplies) clothing, case management, job development and financial assistance for the first 30 days; up to $900 per person.

Refugee: A person who has fled his or her home country and crossed a national border. Refugees have suffered past persecution or have a well-founded fear of future persecution in his or her country of origin based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA): Federally-funded cash assistance program available for up to eight months post-arrival for eligible clients.

Repatriation: When a refugee voluntarily returns to his or her country of origin.

Secondary Migrant: A refugee who moves from his/her original resettlement site to another state.

United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): International agency that leads and coordinates international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. 

U.S. tie: Formerly known as “anchor”, a family member or friend in the United States who can provide assistance to a refugee during the resettlement process.


Government Agencies

Department of Homeland Security (DHS): Department of the executive branch of the U.S. government charged with homeland security. This includes securing and managing the border, enforcing and administering immigration laws.

Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR): Federal agency in the Department of Health & Human Services that provides policies and programs for refugees.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): A federal agency in DHS that oversees lawful immigration to the United States. Its functions include granting employment authorization to eligible foreign nationals, issuing documentation of foreign national employment authorization, maintaining Forms I-9, and administering the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): An agency of DHS that is responsible for securing the homeland by preventing the illegal entry of people and goods while facilitating legitimate travel and trade. Immigration inspectors determine the admission, length of stay and conditions of stay at a port of entry. The information on a nonimmigrant visa only relates to when an individual may apply for entry into the U.S. DHS immigration inspectors will record the terms of your admission on your Arrival/Departure Record (I-94 white or I-94W green) and in your passport.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): The principal investigative arm of DHS, ICE’s primary mission is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration.