Consular Processing is the process by which the beneficiary of an immigration petition, for example, a relative who is a foreign national and whom you are sponsoring to come to the United States, applies for a US immigrant visa at a US consulate or embassy in their country of residence.
Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status
An individual wishing to immigrate to the United States essentially has two paths to obtain a green card:
- An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition and who already has an immigrant visa number may apply for a green card at a United States consulate abroad. This is called consular processing.
- An eligible person who is already inside the United States can apply for a green card without having to return to their own country to complete the process. This is called adjustment of status.
The Consular Processing Process
Obtaining a green card through consular processing will involve the following steps:
Step #1 – Filing Form I-130
The first consular processing step is for the petitioner, such as the spouse of a US citizen, to visit a US embassy or consulate abroad and file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with USCIS and wait for its approval. This can take 6 to 12 months, depending on many different factors, including the workload that the USCIS is experiencing at the time the petition is filed.
Step #2 – Preprocessing at the National Visa Center
Once the USCIS has approved Form I-130, it will be sent to the National Visa Center where it will be pre-processed. At this point, the petitioner will be required to send a number of supporting documents to the National Visa Center, including:
- A Police report
- Military records
- Court and prison records
- The confirmation page from Form DS 260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application)
- A signed and completed Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) with supporting documentation
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Divorce records, etc.
Preprocessing at the National Visa Center can take 90+ days to complete.
Step #3 – Interviewing at US Embassy or Consulate
Once preprocessing has been completed by the National Visa Center and a visa number is available, the petition will be transferred to the US consulate or embassy abroad, who will review it and schedule the petitioner for an interview. This process can take an additional 90 days or longer.
Step #4 – Receiving The Visa
If the interview goes well, all other consular processing steps have been completed, and the petition for immigrant visa has been approved, the petitioner will then be required to leave their passport with the embassy or consulate so that their visa can be placed inside of it. Finally, when the petitioner comes back to pick up his or her passport, they will be given a sealed envelope that must remain sealed and be given to the customs officer in order to gain admission to the United States.
Common Consular Process Questions
1. Who May Need Consular Processing?
Individuals who may need consular processing include:
- Persons outside of the US; and
- Individuals who are inside of the US, but who prefer processing at a US embassy or consulate for either:
- Planned reasons; or
- Because they are not able to adjust their status in the US due to inadmissibility issues, for example, because they enter the US illegally.
2. When Does Consular Processing Actually Begin?
Consular processing begins only after the underlying visa petition has been approved by the USCIS and a visa number becomes available. For example, after an I-130 Petition For Alien Relative has been approved by the USCIS and the visa bulletin shows that the priority date is current to obtain legal permanent residency, also known as green, status.
3. What is the Timeframe For Consular Processing?
Because there are three different entities involved in the consular process (the USCIS, the National Visa Center, the US consulate or embassy where the petitioner will have his or her interview) the processing will take an immediate relative, such as a spouse, minor child, or parent of a US citizen, 4 to 12 months to complete. However, a person immigrating via a family preference category, such as a spouse or minor child of a permanent resident, can expect much longer consular processing time. Other factors that will influence consular processing time included how quickly the necessary supporting documents are submitted by the petitioner and how heavy the current caseload is at the USCIS.
4. What Benefits Does Consular Processing Offer Over An Adjustment of Status?
Consular Processing may be the best option for foreign nationals who want to immigrate to the United States and do not have any other way to enter the country lawfully or who are not already in the United States on a valid visa.
Consular processing is also a great option for individuals who will need to travel outside of the United States frequently for business, work, or other reasons. One of the drawbacks of adjustment of status is that once you have filed a petition, you will not be able to travel outside of the United States while it is being processed unless you have obtained an advance parole documentfrom the USCIS.
Finally, adjustment of status takes a lot longer to complete than consular processing and has slightly higher processing fees. So, even though an adjustment of status may be less complicated, many petitioners still prefer applying for a green card through consular processing.
Contact Attorney Eric Price Today!
If you have any additional questions regarding consular processing contact Attorney Eric Price today! You may have only one chance to get it right! So, find out all you need to know about obtaining a green card through consular processing before you file.