Eligibility and Steps for Consular Processing
Consular processing is a process where a beneficiary of an approved immigration petition applies for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate overseas in order to travel to the U.S. and obtain a green card. The beneficiary must also have an immigrant visa number to be eligible to apply.
Consular processing is different from an adjustment of status. An adjustment of status to a permanent resident is applied by an eligible person already living in the U.S. In this case, the beneficiary does not need to return to his or her home country to apply for residency.
Other differences between consular processing and an adjustment of status include the following:
• The time frame to receive consular processing is shorter than an adjustment of status
• Consular processing needs to be processed at the applicant’s home country
• An applicant of consular processing does have benefits of a work permit or advance parole. However, an applicant of an adjustment of status does
• An applicant of consular processing must have an interview and medical exam in his or her home country. An applicant of an adjustment of status must take fingerprints and a physical exam in the U.S.
Steps to Consular Processing
1. Determine Your Basis to Immigrate
There are several ways to receive a green card, such as through asylum status or a petitioner that is a green card holder or U.S. citizen. The first step is to determine the method of obtaining your green card.
2. File an Immigrant Petition
For family-based immigration, the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or relative will act as the petitioner on your behalf. The petitioner will need to file a Form I-130 for you.
For employment-based immigration, the U.S. employer will need to file a Form I-140 for you. Entrepreneurs can also petition for themselves by filing Form I-526. However, the entrepreneur must have plans on investing a significant amount of money into a U.S. based business venture.
3. Wait for a Decision on Your Petition
You will receive a notification letter by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If your petition is denied, the letter will outline reasons for the denial and rights to an appeal. If the petition is approved and you choose to participate in consular processing, the USCIS will send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) to wait for an immigrant visa number.
4. Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center
The NVC will send a letter to the petitioner and beneficiary when the approved petition is received and when an immigration visa number will soon become available. They also notify the petitioner and beneficiary of processing fees and when documents are needed for submission.
5. Go to Your Appointment
The consular office will schedule an interview with you when a visa is available or when your priority date is current, as well as finish the processing of your case. The consular office will decide to either deny or approve your visa. It is important to note that, if at any time during this process there are changes in your information or current situation, you must notify the NVC. Such examples include a change in address or marital status.
6. After Your Visa is Granted
When you are approved for a visa, you will receive an informational packet from the consular office that you should not open. When you arrive to the U.S. at the port of entry, hand over your packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer. You will be inspected and admitted into the U.S. as a permanent resident.
7. Receive Your Green Card
You will receive your green card in the mail within 30 days of your arrival into the U.S. If you do not receive your green card within the allotted time, please contact the USCIS.