Applicants for immigrant visas who reside outside the
U.S. must apply for the immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. This
process is referred to as “consular processing.” Consular processing is also an
alternative to adjustment
of status for
applicants for immigrant visas currently residing in the U.S. Consular processing requires the
applicant (and accompanying family members) to process for the immigrant visa
(“green card”) at the U.S. Consulate in the country where he or she last
resided before coming to the U.S. or in his or her country of citizenship. For
applicants currently in the U.S., consular processing will require at least one
trip back to this U.S. Consulate.
Applicants who must or wish to obtain their green cards
by consular processing should indicate the consulate they wish to process at on
the immigrant visa petition (Form I-140 or Form I-130). When the USCIS approves
the immigrant visa petition, the file will automatically be forwarded to the
National Visa Center (“NVC”) to initiate consular processing at the U.S.
Consulate designated on the form.
the priority date is current, the NVC will send the applicant (or applicant’s
attorneys of record) a packet of forms to complete and return along with a fee
request form. In most cases,
the applicant will need to obtain police certificates from every country where
he or she has lived for at least six months since reaching the age of 16 (See
the Department of
information on how to obtain police certificates). When the forms are returned
to the U.S. Consulate overseas, the applicant (and his or her family, if
applicable) will be scheduled for an interview. The U.S. Consulate will also require a medical examination
by a consular-designated physician immediately before the interview. Depending on the backlog for medical
appointments at the designated medical facility, the applicant would need to go
abroad a few days to a week prior to the interview to receive the medical
exam. Normally, the
Consulate will send instructions and a list of approved physicians with the
interview notice and packet. Consulates set their own interview policies and
procedures regarding the medical exam. Be sure to check the consulate’s website
for their specific instructions.
An interview will take place with a consular officer at
the U.S. Consulate. The interview
will include a review of all of the documents submitted to the U.S. Consulate
and a discussion of the applicant’s familial relationship to the Petitioner or employment
position in the United States.
Upon approval, the applicant will be issued an immigrant visa in a
sealed envelope, for submission to the Immigration Inspector at the time of
entering the United States. Upon
admission to the U.S. pursuant to the immigrant visa, he or she would be a
permanent resident of the U.S.
What is the time frame for consular processing?
The time frame for consular processing varies for each
U.S. Consulate. Typically, it takes approximately six to twelve months after
approval of the immigrant visa petition. There can also be delays when
submitting the paperwork to the NVC. If any of the documents are missing or the
forms are deficient, the NVC will send the paperwork back to be corrected. This
can take add several weeks to the process just in U.S. mail time alone.
Associated with Consular Processing
The U.S. Consulates exercise complete discretion when
reviewing applications and their decision is not appealable. Meaning, there is no judicial review of
the decision. In addition, there is no right to attorney representation. If there is anything unusual about an
applicant’s background or immigration history (e.g., past criminal record,
entering on a B-1 to work in the U.S., medical problem etc.), he or she should
consult with an immigration attorney prior to deciding to consular process.
Additionally, in the event that an issue arises at the
interview which causes the U.S. Consulate not to approve an applicant’s status
to that of permanent resident, he or she may not be able to return to the
United States unless the issue can be resolved.
before and after visa issuance
note that if the applicant is married before issuance of the immigrant visa or final adjustment of status,
his or her spouse will be able to also apply for permanent residence. If the marriage occurs after the issuance of the immigrant visa (or approval of the adjustment
of status), the permanent resident must “sponsor” his or her spouse by filing
the USCIS Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Spouses of permanent
residents fall into the family-based “Second Preference A” category, which is
currently backlogged many years. Thus, if an individual marries AFTER becoming a permanent resident, the individual’s
spouse typically would NOT be able join him or her in the U.S. for five years or more.
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