fbpx A Few Immigration-related Terms You Should Know | Chestnut Hill College Skip to content Skip to navigation

A Few Immigration-related Terms You Should Know

Protesters holding sign saying 'Defend DACA. Defend DREAMers.'

A Few Immigration-related Terms You Should Know

Immigration is confusing. The terms and concepts are complex. What is a green card? What is asylum? Who exactly is a DREAMer? When referred to in the news, these terms rarely come attached with an in-depth definition. Without proper knowledge of the central concepts of this issue, it is impossible to draw a conclusive and informed opinion. Below I will provide explanations of some of these terms.

An illegal immigrant (also known as an undocumented immigrant or illegal alien) is an individual who has entered another country without proper documentation and/or inspection. It can also refer to someone who has overstayed their visa.

A visa is issued to an individual wishing to permanently live in the U.S. Visas are also granted to individuals who live outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. temporarily for reasons such as tourism, business, and education.

A green card is a document that gives lawful permanent residence to individuals who are not citizens of the United States.

Lawful permanent residents, also known as permanent resident alien, are those who have been granted the opportunity to permanently live in the U.S. Their status becomes known as “permanent residence status.”

Chain migration, also known as family migration, allows for the family members of legal U.S. immigrants to enter the U.S. The Trump Administration would like to discontinue it.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a legislative measure instituted by the Obama Administration that offers protection to youth and children who arrived in the U.S. The young people that this legislation impacts are called “DREAMers” in reference to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a similar legislative measure.

Asylum is protection that a country gives to those of another nationality. After one year in their host country, asylum seekers can apply for permanent residence status.

Naturalization is the process through which someone becomes a citizen of the U.S. after birth. They then become known as a “naturalized citizen.”

Hopefully, you are now able to talk with more knowledge and information when discussing immigration. By staying up to date on the terminology that is used frequently in current events, we will be more informed about the details of important issues occurring around us, an essential skill to have in our nation’s political climate today.


Bernal, R. (2018 January 25). What is chain migration? The Hill. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/homenews/politics-101/370796-what-is-chain-migration

n.d. Glossary of immigration terms. Federation for American Immigration Reform. Retrieved from https://fairus.org/issue/glossary-immigration-terms

n.d. Permanent Resident Alien. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved from  https://www.uscis.gov/tools/glossary/permanent-resident-alien 

n.d. What is DACA and who are the DREAMers? Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved from  https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/table-talk/what-is-dacaand-who-are-the-dreamers

n.d. What is the difference between an immigrant visa vs. nonimmigrant visa? U.S Customs and Border Protection. Retrieved from https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/72/~/what-is-the-difference-between-an-immigrant-visa-vs.-nonimmigrant-visa-%3F