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ESTA Glossary of Key Terms

Updated: Dec 13, 2023  | Tags: ESTA Application Guide

The process of obtaining a U.S. visa involves understanding a variety of terms and acronyms related to immigration. This glossary is designed to help simplify these terms, providing a comprehensive overview for anyone navigating the U.S. visa system. Whether you're traveling for leisure, business, or longer-term pursuits such as study or work, knowing these terms can make the process more manageable. From understanding what an ESTA or VWP is, to grasping the implications of overstay or deportations, this glossary serves as an essential guide for your U.S. travel preparations.


Protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee.

B1/B2 Visa

A type of U.S. visa for temporary visitors for business (B1) or pleasure, tourism or medical treatment (B2).


Physical or behavioral human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person for authentication purposes.


The line that separates one country, state, province, etc., from another; a frontier.

Business Travel

Travel undertaken for work or business purposes, as opposed to other types of travel, like leisure or tourism.

C1 Visa

A type of U.S. visa that is used for transit purposes.


Customs and Border Protection; the largest federal law enforcement agency of the DHS, overseeing border control.

Consular Processing

The procedure of applying for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in a foreign country.


The premises of a consul, an official representative of the government of one state in the territory of another.


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; an immigration policy focusing on illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.


The formal removal of a foreign national from a country for violation of immigration law.


Department of Homeland Security; U.S. department responsible for public security, including immigration and border control.

Dual Nationality

The status of an individual who is a citizen of two countries.

Eligible Countries

Countries whose citizens can apply for travel to the U.S. under the VWP.


The official residence or office of an ambassador.


Electronic System for Travel Authorization; an online system for eligibility assessment of VWP travelers.

Expedited Removal

A process by which non-U.S. citizens can be denied entry or removed from the U.S. without going through normal deportation proceedings.

Global Entry

Is a DHS program whereby travelers apply to join for the ability to expedite their arrival into the United States.

Green Card

Informal term for a permit allowing a foreign national to live and work permanently in the U.S.

Homeland Security

National security efforts to ensure the U.S. is safe from terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

I-94 Form

Is an Arrival-Departure Record for foreign nationals entering the U.S. and is used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.


The process of individuals moving to a country with the intention to live and work there permanently.


Grounds under which a foreign national is barred from entering the U.S., such as criminal activity or health issues.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)

Commonly known as a green card holder, an LPR is a non-U.S. citizen who is lawfully authorized to live permanently in the U.S.


The process by which a foreign national acquires U.S. citizenship.

Nexus Program

A joint Canada-United States program designed for pre-approved, low-risk travelers to expedite border crossing.


A foreign citizen permitted to enter the U.S. for a temporary period under specific purposes.


To stay longer than the visa or permit allows, which may lead to being banned from future travel to the U.S.

Passport Validity

The length of time a passport is good for, required to be valid for at least six months for entry into many countries.


A document issued by a government which certifies the holder's identity and citizenship and is used for international travel.

Port of Entry

A place where one may lawfully enter a country. It typically has border security staff and facilities to check passports and visas.

Reciprocity Fee

A fee charged by one country to citizens of another to issue visas, based on the fees that country charges its citizens.


A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

Status Adjustment

The process that allows immigrants currently living in the U.S. to apply for lawful permanent resident status.


Travel for pleasure, also the theory and practice of touring, attracting, accommodating, or entertaining tourists.


A short-term stay for the purpose of catching a connecting flight or ship to a third country.


United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; government agency administering the country's naturalization and immigration system.


An endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period in a country.


Visa Waiver Program; U.S. program allowing citizens of specific countries to enter the U.S. visa-free for 90 days.


An agreement waiving a requirement, such as a visa, under certain conditions.

Work Authorization

Official permission by a designated authority, like USCIS, to an immigrant allowing them to work in the U.S.