The consular process is when the beneficiary of an immigration petition, for example, a foreign relative whom you sponsor to come to the United States, applies for a U.S. immigrant visa at a United States consulate or embassy in the country where he or she lives.
A person who wishes to immigrate to the United States essentially has two ways to obtain a green card:
1. The beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition who already has an immigrant visa number can apply for a green card with a consular process at a United States embassy or consulate abroad. This is known as consular processing.
2. An eligible person that is already within the United States can apply for a green card without having to return to their home country to complete the process. This process is called adjustment of status.
The Consular Process
Obtaining a green card through consular processing will involve the following steps:
STEP 1 - SUBMIT THE VISA/PETITION
The first step in the consular process is for the applicant to file for a visa with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and then wait for it to be approved. For immediate relative petitions, an I-130 is filed. The I-130 approval process has different processing times depending on the type of family relationship. For the spouse of a U.S. citizen, the processing times for the I-130 can take 6 to 13 months, depending on a number of factors, including the workload that the USCIS is experiencing at the time the petition is filed.
STEP 2 - PRE PROCESSING AT THE NATIONAL VISA CENTER
Once the USCIS has approved the I-130, the case will be sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) where the case will be pre-processed.
At this time, the applicant will be required to submit a number of supporting documents to the NVC, including:
- A police clearance/report
- Military records
- Criminal records
- The confirmation page of Form DS-260 (Electronic Application for Immigrant Visa)
- A signed and completed Form I-864 (Affidavit of Sponsorship), along with supporting documentation
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce records, etc.
- Pre-processing at the National Visa Center can take 90 days or more to complete.
STEP 3- INTERVIEW AT THE UNITED STATES EMBASSY OR CONSULATE
Once the National Visa Center has completed the pre-processing and a visa interview is available, the case will be transferred to the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. It will be reviewed and an interview will be scheduled. This process can take another 90 days or more. Most recently, the waiting time has significantly increased and many people have been waiting well over a year for their interview abroad.
STEP 4- RECEIVING THE VISA
If everything goes well at the interview, the immigrant visa petition will be approved.
After this, the applicant will be required to leave their passport at the U.S embassy or consulate in order for their immigrant visa to be placed inside it.
Finally, once the applicant goes to collect their passport, they will be given a sealed envelope that must be delivered in this way to the customs officer so that the individual can be admitted to the U.S.
Once the applicant has been admitted to the U.S. with visa and the visa is stopped by immigration, the person is legal permanent resident of the U.S. (a green card holder). The physical green card later arrives in the mail (after the green card fees are paid).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CONSULAR PROCESSING
People outside the United States and individuals who are within the United States but are required to be processed at a United States embassy or consulate because they cannot adjust their status in the United States due to admission problems. For example: because they entered the United States unlawfully. This situation is often seen when applicant must first file an I-601A waiver. Please see the Waivers of Inadmissibility section for more information.
There are three different entities involved in the consular process (the USCIS, the National Visa Center, the United States consulate or embassy where the applicant will have their interview). The consular processing time has increased significantly due to the pandemic ( as the U.S. consulates have been closed). If the applicant is required to file a waiver of inadmissibility, the applicant’s consular processing time is significantly increased. As such, certain consular processing applicants will wait well over three years before their interview is scheduled. There are many different factors that will influence the amount of time an applicant waits for their consular interview.
Consular processing may be the best option for applicants who want to immigrate to the United States and have no other way to enter the United States legally.
The consular process is also an excellent option for individuals who will need to travel frequently outside the United States whether it is for business, work, or other reasons. Often times, applicants for Adjustment of Status find themselves stuck in the United States and unable to meet their travel needs. One of the disadvantages of Adjustment of Status is that once the application has been filed, the applicant will not be able to travel outside the United States while the application is being processed, unless they have applied in advance for a conditional travel permit.
Although Adjustment of Status can be less complicated, many people prefer to apply for a green card through consular processing.
If you have additional questions regarding consular processing, contact the Law Offices of Janell Freeman Somera today. You only have one opportunity for a first time approval! Therefore, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney.
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