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Key Immigration Concepts and Terms

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  • Immigration Law for Employers – An Overview
  • Key Immigration Concepts and Terms
  • PERM Process
  • Classes of Employment-Based Visas
  • Applying for Temporary Worker Visas
  • Types of Temporary Worker Visas
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Immigration Law
  • Immigration Law for Employers Resource Links
  • Immigration, Employer Focus Contact Form

Key Immigration Concepts and Terms

There are a few key immigration law concepts and terms that an employer should be familiar with. Understanding these terms can help employers interpret and implement immigration policies. Contact WHGC, P.L.C. in Newport Beach, California, to speak with an experienced immigration attorney about your business’s immigration concerns and needs.


The Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 USCA § 1101(a)(3), defines an alien as a foreign-born person who is not a citizen or national of the United States. This may include:

  • Persons seeking admission to the U.S.
  • Persons admitted temporarily as nonimmigrants
  • Persons admitted permanently as immigrants
  • Undocumented persons who are in the country illegally

Once an alien is admitted to the U.S., they gain certain constitutional protections. Most resident aliens are eligible for U.S. citizenship after five years of residence. To become U.S. citizens, they may complete the naturalization process.

Immigrant vs. Nonimmigrant

An alien may be either an immigrant or a nonimmigrant. Immigrants are those aliens who have been admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents. They may remain in the country permanently, unless they commit an act that would lead to deportation. Aliens can become lawful permanent residents through employment, family ties, investment in a new commercial enterprise or as asylees or refugees.

In contrast, nonimmigrants are persons who are admitted to the U.S. temporarily for a particular purpose, such as education, temporary work, business and travel. Once the time allowed for their visit ends, nonimmigrants must leave the country and return home.


A visa is a permit to apply for entry into the United States. Visas can be designated as immigrant or nonimmigrant depending on the visa holder’s purpose for entry. By obtaining a visa, a person is not guaranteed entry into the U.S. Rather, a visa merely allows a foreign national to travel to a U.S. port of entry, where it will be determined whether the foreign national will be permitted to enter the country and how long he or she will be allowed to remain.

Green Card

A foreign-born person who is not a citizen or national of the United States but whom has legal resident status must have an Alien Registration Card (I-551 identification card), also known as a green card. The Alien Registration Card serves as proof of the immigrant’s identity and confirms his or her status as a legal permanent resident.

PERM Process

PERM is the acronym for the Department of Labor’s revised labor certification process for employers wishing to sponsor foreign nationals for full-time, permanent employment. In effect since March 2005, the PERM process condensed the previous certification process into a streamlined system requiring only one form (ETA Form 9089). Employers seeking certification must still comply with prevailing technical requirements and new PERM regulations, including pre-filing recruitment reports and standard prevailing wage assessments, that are outlined in Title 20, Part 656 of the Code of Federal Registrar (CFR).

Temporary Work Visas

Work visas allow foreign nationals with specialized skills and/or knowledge to work in the United States. Prior to sponsoring a foreign national for certain types of temporary work visas, an employer must apply for and receive labor certification from the Department of Labor as well as be granted a petition from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Common temporary work visas include:

  • H-1B visas for specialty (professional) workers
  • H-2A visas for temporary or seasonal agricultural workers
  • H-2B visas for non-agricultural temporary labor workers
  • L-1 visas for executive assistants or
  • D-1 program from crewmembers


Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Generally, to become a naturalized citizen, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and meet the continuous residency and physical presence requirements, which require an applicant to have been a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. for the last 5 years and physically present in the U.S. for the last 30 months.

Applicants also must possess “good moral character.” As part of the naturalization process, applicants are required to demonstrate a proficiency in the English language (including the ability to read, write, speak and understand the language) in addition to demonstrating a basic familiarity with American history and government prior to becoming a U.S. citizen.


Commonly known as deportation, removal is the legal process that forces the departure of an alien from the United States. The Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 USCA § 1227, contains categories for justified deportation. An alien may be deported in the following instances:

  • Conviction of certain crimes
  • Entry into the U.S. through fraudulent registration or entry documents
  • The use of fraudulent immigration documents
  • Becoming a public charge within five years of entry into the country
  • Specified security related concerns
  • Nonimmigrants staying over their departure date
  • Nonimmigrants illegally working

Removal precludes re-entry into the U.S. for five years, and in some instances, can result in an alien being permanently banned from ever re-entering the U.S. The appeals process and the rules for challenging a deportation order are complex. An experienced immigration attorney should be consulted in any deportation matters.

Speak to an Immigration Lawyer

Matters concerning federal immigration law can be confusing. An immigration attorney from WHGC, P.L.C. in Newport Beach, California, can provide your business with the immigration legal assistance it needs.

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