The green card process may sound complex, and scrolling through Google may cause you anxiety due to the large amount of information you can read about immigrant visas. If you are preparing your immigrant petition to start the green card process, the most important thing is where to start.
Well, it will mostly depend on your current location which will determine whether you go through adjustment of status of the consular processing.
Here we will talk about consular processing, one of the two green card processing methods. Consular processing comprises several steps, and it’s essential to understand each before taking your first actions.
What Is Consular Processing?
Consular processing is a U.S. government procedure for individuals who intend to immigrate to the U.S. and apply for their green card at the consulate abroad. When the green card applicant is outside the U.S., he or she must go to a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country to complete the application for lawful permanent residence.
As we mentioned earlier, consular processing is one of two paths for obtaining an immigrant visa to the U.S. through family-based immigration or marriage-based green cards. The second path is the adjustment of status for immigrant who are in the U.S. on an nonimmigrant visa, but when the immigrant is outside the U.S., consular processing is the only path that he or she may take.
Although there are other ways you can gain the permanent resident status, such as through obtaining refugee or asylum status, here we will mostly talk about family-based and marriage based green card, and the employment-based green cards.
Consular processing Phases
The consular processing involves three phases:
- Submitting forms and documents to the consulate
- Having a medical exam per the consulate’s instructions
- Attending the immigrant visa processing appointment
Short Overview Of The Process
However, consular processing can be deemed as “part two” of the green card application process.
“Part one” of the green card process is when:
- The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident submits and gets an I-130 petition approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the immigrant’s behalf
- When a U.S. employer obtains labor certification and an approved I-140 petition for the immigrant
- The immigrant is being selected in the visa lottery.
#Petition filed is Being transferred
After the green card applicant does all necessary paperwork, the case gets transferred to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate.
The applicant needs to attend the green card interview with a consular officer and get approval for an immigrant visa. Only afterward, the immigrant can enter the U.S. and claim lawful permanent resident status.
Consular processing and adjustment of status have different timelines, application forms, supporting documents, and USCIS immigrant fee, but the overall green card eligibility requirements are the same.
Eligibility Criteria Ta Apply For A Green Card
A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may petition certain family members to live in the U.S. and receive a green card.
As mentioned above, the process begins when the U.S. citizen or permanent resident files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of the beneficiary (intending immigrant). The purpose of Form I-130 is to establish a qualifying relationship.
To obtain a green card based on a family relationship, the beneficiary must be in either:
- The immediate relative or
- Family preference categories
Can Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen go through the Consular processing?
A similar process is available to U.S. citizens that want to bring a fiancé (and their children) to the U.S. for marriage. This process begins with the sponsor filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). This path is not available to the fiancés of lawful permanent residents.
What Visa Types Require Consular processing?
Intending immigrants go through consular processing for the following visa types:
- CR1/IR1 spousal visas;
- CR2/IR2 child visas when the sponsor is a U.S. citizen
- F2A category visa (F21 for spouses; F22 for children) when the sponsor is a legal permanent resident
Can I Wait for an Immigrant Visa Number to become available while I am in the U.S.?
Waiting in your home country while the government agency process your green card application can take several months. But, generally, it is much quicker than adjustment of status, and you can continue your regular employment in the meantime.
Some green card applicants decide to come to the U.S. to file an adjustment of the status application instead of going through consular processing.
Still, only a few U.S. visas allow you to enter the country to adjust status.
Only people who already qualify for a green card through marriage, employment based categories, or another way and have filed the relevant petitions can apply through consular processing.
Once your green card petition is approved and a spousal visa or other visa is available for you, you’ll be able to begin consular processing.
Unless you’re married to a U.S. citizen, you might face a lengthy wait for a visa availability. You can check your priority date to see when you can apply.
CR1 Vs. IR1
When applying for a marriage green card through consular processing, you will either receive a CR-1 visa or an IR-1 visa.
A CR1 visa is issued when the couple has been married for less than two years and when the green card is approved.
This green card category is “conditional” and is only valid for two years, after which the foreign spouse applies for removal of conditions to receive a 10-year green card.
When the green card is approved, an immigrant receives IR-1 visa when the couple has been married for two years or more. In this case, the green card is valid for ten years, and the foreign spouse will not need to apply to remove the conditions.
Also, be aware that you should not attempt to use a tourist visa to enter the U.S. hoping to adjust status since it could be considered visa fraud and lead to a denial of your green card.
Consular Processing: Step By Step To Adjustment of Status
Immigration process can be a long way. If you are in a foreign country and applying immigration petition at the consulate abroad, you will need to undertake several steps. Here, we will discuss step by step of a consular process.
Step 1: Get the Approval On Immigrant Petition
USCIS will issue a receipt notice to the petitioner of a final decision on the filed application. If USCIS denies the immigrant petition, the receipt notice of a decision will include the reasons for the denial and the rights to appeal it.
If the immigrant gets the approval, USCIS will send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) and mail the approval notice to the beneficiary as Form I-797, Notice of Action.
Step 2: Get A Visa Number From National Visa Center
The National Visa Center, responsible for collecting visa filing fee and supporting documentation, will notify you and your sponsor when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is available.
The process is relatively quick for immediate relative categories, where an unlimited number of visas are available.
For family preference categories, there’s a numerical limit on visas available each year, which means these applicants need to wait and learn how to read the visa bulletin.
Once USCIS approves the I-130 petition, and a visa is available, the beneficiary can apply for a green card through consular processing.
Step 3: Submit The Application For An Immigrant Visa
The National Visa Center will notify you when to submit immigrant visa processing fees, the visa application, and supporting documentation.
At this time, you, as the beneficiary (and each qualified family member immigrating with you if any), must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260).
In most cases, the NVC requires the U.S. petitioner to submit a legal contract between an immigrant visa applicant’s sponsor (petitioner) and the U.S. government, known as Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. It’s a promise to support the beneficiary if the person does not have the means to support him or herself.
For petitioners without significant income, there are options at this point to also use a joint sponsor.
Also, you will need to file your medical examination before attending the consular interview.
Step 4: Attend the The Consular Interview
The consular officers will schedule a green card interview once your visa is available and the NVC has received your DS-260 with all supporting documents. The consular office will complete processing of your case and decide if you are eligible for an immigrant visa.
If you get the green card, the consular office will give you a packet of information, known as a “Visa Packet”, and request from the State Department Visa Office to allot a visa number to you and your immediate relatives.
Step 5: Enter The United States
Upon arrival in the U.S., you must give the visa packet to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. After a CBP officer inspects you and finds you admissible, you will receive immigration status, which means that you can live and work in the United States permanently.
The CBP officer will put a temporary “I-551 stamp” in your passport that you can use until your green card arrives in physical form.
You can expect that USCIS will mail a green card when within 45 days upon your entry into the United States. If you don’t receive your card within this period, you can contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.
Do I Need An Immigration Attorney?
U.S. immigration law provide a lot of opportunities for a foreign national who desire to live and work in the U.S. Both consular processing and adjustment of status can be done without the immigration attorney, but most immigrants decide to hire one, since the smallest mistake could cost you losing the opportunity to get the immigrant visa.
Although an immigration attorney respecting attorney client relationship cannot guarantee success of your case, but they can help you by providing you with the best legal advice according to your personal situation can save you a lot of money and time.
Seek out counsel from the Herman Legal Group now. Our law firm has over 25 years of experience in representing individuals, families and companies in all aspects of immigration law, in all 50 states and around the world, by providing help to numbers of clients who obtained family based green card.
Schedule a personal consultation with Attorney Richard Herman by calling 1-800-808-4013 or 1-216-696-6170, or by booking online. Consultations can be conducted by zoom, skype, whatsapp, facetime, or in-office.