Consular Processing is the process under U.S. immigration law that allows a person to apply to immigrate to the United States. The person is required to apply for residency through the U.S. Embassy or consulate in his or her home country. One thing to keep in mind about Consular Processing is that the entire process is done outside of the United States. The process itself includes submitting forms and documents to the consulate, as well as attending an interview there.
Consular Processing is the most frequently used method for applying for a Green Card while living over seas. If an immigrant has already been living in the United States, they have the option of applying for legal residency through the Adjustment of Status process. (More on this process in a later post.)
For immigrants who have stayed unlawfully in the United States for more than 6 months, Consular Processing is not the way to go when it comes to applying for a Green Card. If you have overstayed and you leave the U.S., you will be banned from re-entering the United States depending on the length of time that you overstayed your visa. The ban will apply if you otherwise qualify for getting a Green Card. If you happen to find yourself in this situation, you should definitely get in touch with us. We will review your specific situation and let you know of the options available to you.
Steps for Consular Processing:
- Determine Your Immigration Category:
There are many ways to become eligible for a Green Card, such as through a family member, an employer, a humanitarian program, or if you are a special class of immigrant.
- File the Immigration Petition:
There are different types of forms depending on what immigration category you fall into. If you fall into the family based category, you’re looking at the Form I-130. If you’re employment based, the process requires that your U.S. based employer file a Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.
- Wait for a Decision
During this time period, which can take many months, you will wait for the decision to be made on your petition. If your petition is denied, you will receive a notice with reasons for the denial, and if you have the right to appeal. If your petition is approved, congratulations! And now you get to wait again.
- Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center
The National Visa Center is where your application will sit until an immigrant visa number becomes available. This wait period can also take a while. You will receive a notification from the National Visa Center when a number does become available, and then you can submit your visa processing fees, and wait for your Interview to be scheduled.
- The Interview
The consular office will schedule you for an interview. They will ask you questions about your documents and situation. Stay calm and answer each question with an honest and truthful answer.
- Visa Granted
If you are granted an immigrant visa, next you will receive a packet of information from the consular officer. Do not open this packet. Once you arrive in the United States, you will give this packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer. You will be inspected at a port of entry and then you can be admitted as a Permanent Resident of the United States.
You’re almost done! The last step is to wait for your Green Card to arrive in the mail. If you don’t receive anything in the mail after 45 days of being in the U.S., you should contact USCIS to check up on your case. Don’t Forget!
Remember: It’s important to notify the National Visa Center about any changes in your information, such as a change in address, a change in marital status, or if a child turns 21.