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What Is Consular Processing And How Does It Work?

Consular processing is one of the ways you can apply for an immigrant visa which will lead to a green card to start living and working in the United States.

Consular processing is only used for people who want to move to the United States but are currently living in another country. 

If you already live in the United States and are trying to apply for a green card, you won't be using this process. 

The process ends at the US embassy's consulate in your country, and this is where forms are reviewed along with supporting documents. The applicant will also have their medical exam and attend an immigrant visa interview at the embassy. 

To help you understand the consular process in more detail, we will go over everything you need to know about applying for a US immigrant visa (which will lead to a green card) through consular processing. 

What is consular processing?

Your immigrant visa or green card application process will differ depending on whether you're currently living in your home country or the United States. 

If you're applying from your home country, you'll go through the consular process at the US embassy. They process the CR-1 or IR-1 visa (family-based immigrant visas) here, which will help you get a green card to work and live in the US. 

If you live in the United States, you use the Adjustment of Status (AOS) process to apply for a green card. If you live in your home country, you have to wait in your home country before your immigrant visa is approved with the consular process. After that, you can travel and live in the US. 

The consular process and AOS have different forms, documents, procedures, and costs, but the overall green card eligibility requirements are the same. 

What is the consular processing timeline?

Both consular processing and adjustment of status take many months before ultimate approval. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting delays, it is not possible to determine with certainty how long either process will take. The best approach is to file all required applications and documents as soon as you can and just be patient by waiting for it to take its course. 

Who should use consular processing for their immigrant visa which results in a green card?

You must be living outside of the US and be applying through marriage or employment. In other words, your sponsor must be your spouse or employer.

Applying through consular processing means that you must be interviewed at the US Embassy in your home country before being approved for and receiving an immigrant visa to enter the US as an immigrant.  

After your sponsor’s immigrant petition is approved by USCIS, and you apply for an immigrant visa and satisfy the requirements of the National Visa Center, then you will be scheduled for an interview to complete consular processing and get your immigrant visa. 

The Steps of Consular Processing

Here is a breakdown of the steps which must be followed for you to secure an immigrant visa which will lead to your green card. 

1. Figure out if you’re eligible for the consular process

The first step in the consular process is making sure you are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. 

You become eligible for an immigrant visa if your qualifying family member’s or employer’s initial immigrant petition for you is approved by USCIS. The employer or family member is called the petitioner or sponsor.  

 2. Wait for a decision 

If your sponsor’s immigrant petition is approved and you currently live outside the US, USCIS will send the approved petition to the Department of State's National Visa Center.

After USCIS approves your family member’s immigrant petition, the National Visa Center takes over the case for immigrant visa processing. 

The petition will remain here until a visa number is available for you.

3. File the immigrant visa application 

From here, you'll have to submit the immigrant visa processing fees and your supporting documentation.

This process takes several months. In addition, the sponsor must qualify based on their income requirements. This requires the sponsor to file an Affidavit of Support with financial documents.

The National Visa Center (NVC) is responsible for collecting:

  • Fees 
  • Immigrant Visa Application
  • Supporting documentation 
  • Affidavit of Support package

They will contact you and your beneficiary as soon as they are satisfied with the materials which have been submitted. 

4. Notify the National Visa Center of changes

You will never have to contact the NVC about your petition. They will contact you if they need information. 

Any changes to your application will be addressed at your consular interview.

5. Go to your interview

The NVC will schedule your interview at the Consular Section of the US Embassy. Here your case will be reviewed, and the consular officer will decide whether or not you will receive a visa. 

6. Take care of your visa packet

When you're granted an immigrant visa, you will be given an envelope containing a series of information. 

This packet is called the Visa Packet. It's vital that you do not open it. 

Next, you will have to pay the ELIS Fee (USCIS Immigrant Fee). This fee will result in your green card being mailed to you after you enter the US. 

It is crucial that you pay this fee online after receiving your packet and before you leave to go to the US. 

When you get to the US, give your visa packet to the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer. 

They'll inspect you and decide whether to let you into the US as a lawful permanent resident. 

If they admit you, you'll be able to live and work in the US permanently. 

7. Receive your green card

If you've paid your ELIS Fee or immigrant fee, you will get your green card in the mail in a couple of months after arriving in the United States. 

Congratulations, you are now a US green card holder - a legal permanent resident of the US! You are free to work and live anywhere in the United States as well as to return to the US after temporary travel abroad.

If you are confused about consular processing, then consider getting some professional legal help to guide and support you through all the steps you need to follow. 

The team at Meimaris Law would be happy to represent your sponsor and you through the complicated journey of applying for a green card through consular processing. We prepare all of the applications, supporting documents, translations, file everything for you and respond to all USCIS and NVC requests for evidence. 

With over 25 years of experience dealing with immigration law, we would be happy to help you on your journey to your new life in the US. 

Get in touch today for a free consultation with our team and talk about how we can help you with your green card application.

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