Common Immigration Terms


The person who is not a citizen of the United States


For immigration purposes you are considered a child if you are under 21 and not married. You can have your own child and still legally be considered a child, but you cannot be married

“A”(like the letter A) Number

you will be given something called an “A Number” that will be used to identify you as you go through the immigration system. You will need to know this number until you get citizenship. You can find this number on your immigration documents. It has nine digits and begins with the letter “A.” For example, A 123-456-789.

A picture of an adorable blue cartoon pit bull named Scrappy.

SCRAPPY TIP: TIP: Everyone has their own A Number and it is very important to know your A Number. Take a picture of it and store it on your phone or somewhere safe if it is hard for you to remember.

Immigration attorney/lawyer

When you are in immigration court, you have the right to an attorney, but the government does not have to pay for one. There are resources to get an attorney for free. If you have an attorney, they represent you in your immigration case. Your attorney will tell you your options to stay in the United States and what your rights are. Your attorney’s job is to work for you and fight for your rights in your immigration case.  Information that you share with your attorney is confidential, meaning that they cannot share it with others unless you agree to share the information


Documents that show you can be in the United States legally or are working on getting lawful presence or lawful status.

Adjustment of Status

A non-citizen gets a green card/ becomes an LPR.

Lawful Permanent Resident

This is also known as a “green card holder.” This is a permanent status and generally you may qualify to apply for citizenship after 5 years or when you become 18 years old. Having a green card helps you access more public benefits because you are “qualified” under certain federal laws. You can also use your LPR status to petition for certain other family members to get status through yours.

Unaccompanied Child

If you came to the United States without mom or dad, even if you came with other relatives, or if you were in an immigrant children’s shelter through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), you may be entitled to special protections under the law.

Deportation or removal proceedings

See EOIR (below).


The person who is filing for the immigration benefits (this will usually be you)

Derivative or beneficiary

These are people like parents, brothers or sisters, or your children, that could benefit from your immigration status by getting a green card or work permit as well.  Talk to your immigration attorney about this.


United States Citizenship & Immigration Service.  This is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that handles all affirmative processing of immigration petitions.


Executive Office of Immigration Review; government agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ) that handles immigration court cases, which are defensive processing. Immigration court is also known as “removal proceedings” or “deportation proceedings.”




Immigration & Customs Enforcement.  This is the agency under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that handles immigration check-in appointments, custody, detention, and deportation for all adults and family units. ICE also employs the government attorneys at immigration court.


Office of Refugee Resettlement.  This is the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that is responsible for initial custody and placement decisions for unaccompanied children (UC).


Department of Homeland Security. Most immigration agencies, with some exceptions, fall under the authority of DHS.


Department of Justice.  Immigration court is operated under the authority of the DOJ.

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