A Step-By-Step Guide To Consular Processing
If you are outside of the United States, you may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an Immigrant Visa in order to come to the U.S. and be admitted as a permanent resident. This method is called “Consular Processing”.
Timeline For Consular Processing
1. Determine The Basis For Immigration
Before you can do anything else, you must find out if you are eligible to apply for a Green Card (lawful permanent residence). Eligibility is usually established when a relative or employer files a petition for you. Depending on your circumstances, you may also become eligible by first obtaining refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions. To see the many different ways to get a Green Card, go to the Green Card Eligibility Categories page.
2. File the Immigrant Petition
When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, you usually will need someone else to file an immigrant petition for you.
- Family-based immigrant petition: If you want to apply for a Green Card based on your family relationship, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative Based on specific family relationships: Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizen or Other family members of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative.
Although you usually file immigrant petitions with USCIS domestically, sometimes you can file a Form I-130 petition for an immediate relative (spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen) with a USCIS field office, U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Situations where this may be applicable include:
- If you, the petitioner, are a U.S. citizen and
- There is an international USCIS field office located in the country in which you reside, or,
- If you reside within the consular office’s jurisdiction for countries in which there is no USCIS field office and exceptional circumstances (PDF, 61 KB) exist that warrant the local filing.
- Members of the military
- Emergency situations
- Situations involving the health or safety of the petitioner
- When in the national interests of the United States
- Employment-based immigrant petition: If you want to apply for a Green Card based on your employment, your U.S. employer must file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker for you. If you intend to invest significant amounts of capital into a business venture in the United States, you may file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur for yourself.
- Special categories: In some cases, you may file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant for yourself or have someone else file one for you.
- Humanitarian programs: Most humanitarian programs do not require you to have an immigrant petition, although you may need to meet additional requirements before they can apply for a Green Card.
3. Await the official decision on your petition
USCIS will let the petitioner know about its decision in an official notification. If the petition is denied, the reasons will be set forth in the notification, along with information about your ability to appeal. If the petition is approved and you live outside the United States (or live in the United States but want to apply for your immigrant visa abroad), USCIS forwards the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center. The petition is held there until an immigrant visa number becomes available for you. See the Visa Availability & Priority Dates pages for more information.
4. Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center
The National Visa Center (NVC) is tasked with collecting visa application fees and supporting documentation. The NVC notifies the petitioner and you (the beneficiary) when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. They will also inform you when you must submit immigrant visa processing fees (also known as “fee bills”) and supporting documentation.
5. Go to Your Appointment
Once a visa is available or your priority date is current (earlier than the cut-off date listed in the monthly Visa Bulletin), an interview will be scheduled. The consular office will also review all of the relevant information about your case and make a determination about your eligibility for an immigrant visa.
6. After Your Visa is Granted
If you are granted an immigrant visa, you’ll get an information packet from the consular officer. This packet is known as a “Visa Packet.” Do not open it. At this time, you should pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee, which is used to process your immigrant visa packet and produce your Green Card. It is best to do so online after you receive your visa packet and before you leave for the United States. When you arrive you should give your Visa Packet to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The CBP officer will then decide whether to admit you into the United States as a lawful permanent resident. If you are admitted, you will have lawful permanent resident status and be able to live and work in the United States permanently.
7. Get Your Green Card
If you paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee, you will receive your Green Card in the mail after you arrive in the United States. If you do not receive your Green Card within 45 days after you get here, please call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 or make an InfoPass appointment to visit your local USCIS field office. If you did not pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee before you arrived in the United States, you will need to pay the fee before USCIS will send you a Green Card.
Green Card for spouse, minor children and parents
Family member of a U.S. Citizen
Green Card for family member of green card holders
Green Card based on approved status
Remove 2-year marriage condition
Concurrent filing of form I-485
Adjustment of Status Eligibility-requirements
Adjustment of Status
Adjusting Status with a criminal record
Required documents for I-130
Checklist of forms and supporting documents for form I-485
Direct filing addresses for form I-485 application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
Preparing for your biometric services appointment
How I can Check my case status?
What is concurrent filing?
How long will I have to wait for approve my application?
Once you file your Application for Adjustment of Status on Form I-485, the length of time it will take depends upon the current processing time and that can vary depending upon your location. It depends on whether your Green card application is employment-based or family-based or other immigration category.
Employment-based adjustments can take anywhere from six months to two years to be approved.
Family-based, it could take at least 12-18 months or longer before your I-485 application could be adjudicated.
Can I leave the country while my adjustment is pending?
Yes, but only if you have received advance parole (referred as a travel document). Once you eligible to apply for an adjustment of status, You can apply for advance parole with form I-131 at the same. Once their travel documents are approved, even with pending adjustment applications, you be able to travel (as long as their adjustments remain pending).
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Your Attorney Compiles your Case, you Sign, and your Attorney Submits. Your attorney prepares all necessary USCIS forms and any supporting materials in their power. If there is supporting documentation that only you as the client have access to (ex: former employer letters), they will tell you exactly what you need to do and provide you with samples, so you can get the correct documentation. Once everything is ready, your attorney will compile your case into a professional legal petition, with a cover letter and a table of contents that will please USCIS and/or the other immigration authorities. They will check everything again, and send it to you to print and sign, via our secure online system. You will print and sign your completed case, and mail it to us in the envelope we provide. Your attorney will verify that you signed in the correct places, and they will send it off to the correct USCIS Dropbox, processing center, or other authority. It is possible that USCIS or other immigration authorities may request additional documentation/clarification regarding your petition. Your attorney will handle any such requests, communicating with you as required. Please visit our How our Legal Services Work page.*
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