In our 2024 guide on consular processing, we explain this process step by step. We also answer frequently asked questions and other concerns that may arise in the process.
Our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles can help you with this procedure from wherever you are. Please review the blog and if you have any questions, feel free to contact our experts through a confidential consultation.
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Table of Contents
What Is Consular Processing?
By consular processing or process, we are talking about the method used by aliens to obtain permanent residence from outside the US. This method is also used when the alien is not eligible to use adjustment of status.
With the consular processing, the immigrant seeks to obtain permanent residence. To do this, you must first comply with the following:
- Be the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition, and
- Have an immigrant visa number immediately available.
With these requirements met, you now have 2 main ways to obtain residency: adjustment of status or consular processing.
If the immigrant is abroad, they must follow the consular procedure that we will see in the step-by-step process below.
If you are already in the US, please review our “Adjustment of Status” blog. You can adjust your status without having to leave the country, although if you are not eligible, you must opt for the consular process at hand.
Consular Processing Step By Step
Once aliens speak with their immigration attorney, they will have to follow the next steps recommended by USCIS.
If you need help on this point or any other, we are at your service.
1. Make Sure You Are Eligible To Immigrate
Determining eligibility to immigrate legally is the most important step. To be eligible you must:
- Have a petition from a family member or employer, or
- Process it through asylum in the United States, refuge and other exceptions.
To check if you are eligible, please review the eligibility categories in our article “How to get a Green Card”.
2. File The Immigration Petition
Once the above step is verified, you will generally need to have an individual file the petition on your behalf.
Family-Based Immigrant Petition
To apply for a family-based Green Card, a family member (citizen or permanent resident) must endorse it. To do this, you must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on your behalf.
If you need help successfully completing this form, please review our blog “How to fill out Form I-130”.
In general, the Green Card application is made directly by the beneficiary through USCIS.
However, under certain circumstances, an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent of a citizen) may also file a petition at a USCIS office, US embassy, or consulate in another country.
The law allows this under the following circumstances:
- When the petitioner is a US citizen;
- When there is a USCIS office in the country where the petitioner resides or;
- If there is no USCIS office where the petitioner is a resident and “exceptional circumstances” make it necessary to file the petition locally;
- In certain emergency situations;
- If you are a member of the military;
- In certain situations related to the safety or health of the petitioner;
- When the national interests of the United States so establish.
If you would like to address the issue in more detail, please review our article on US family-based immigration.
Employment-Based Immigrant Petition
The application for an employment-based Green Card is processed by the US employer. This is done by filing Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, on behalf of the individual being hired.
When the alien is an investor and wishes to establish a business in the US, they must file the petition in their own name. This is done by filing Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.
Special Immigrant Classes
In other cases, the immigrant may file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant, either by themselves or someone on their behalf.
For almost all humanitarian programs, the alien is not required to file an immigrant petition. Although you must meet certain additional requirements to obtain the Green Card.
3. Wait For The USCIS Decision
When USCIS makes its decision, it will notify the petitioner. When it is denied, it will also notify the reasons for the denial.
If this occurs, the petitioner still has the possibility to appeal with the help of one of our immigration lawyers in Los Angeles at Lluis Law.
After the petition is approved and USCIS notifies you of the decision, it sends the petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). There it will remain until a visa number is available to the petitioner.
4. Wait For The Notification From The National Visa Center
The NVC will notify the petitioner and beneficiary once the visa petition is received and the visa number is available.
This agency is responsible for collecting the service fee for visa applications and other supporting documents.
In this way, the NVC will also notify when the payments corresponding to the immigrant visa (fee bills) must be sent and the other details.
5. Attend The Appointment
Upon receiving notification that the visa is available or also that the priority date is current, the consular office will send you an appointment for the interview.
The processing of the case will be completed by the consular office, which will decide if the beneficiary qualifies to obtain an immigrant visa.
6. Notification Of Changes To The NVC
Any change of address, change of marital status or reaching the age of majority (21 years), must be reported to the National Visa Center. These changes may affect the availability of visas or the eligibility of the beneficiary.
7. Obtaining The Visa
When the beneficiary receives an immigrant visa, they will receive an information packet (visa packet) from a consular officer. This should not be open. The individual must pay the USCIS immigrant fee to generate the Green Card.
- It is recommended to pay the fee after receiving the visa package, but before traveling to the US;
- Once the immigrant has arrived in the US, they must deliver the visa package to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. at the port of entry;
- This officer will examine you and determine if you are admitted as a permanent resident in the US With this last step, the immigrant will already obtain permanent resident status.
Note: It is advisable to review the visa as soon as it is received and note its expiration date. Also, you must enter the US before your visa and medical exam expire.
Did you enter the US and your passport did not get stamped? Find out the reason for this in our post “My passport wasn`t stamped when I entered the US“.
Can I Visit The US With A Pending I-130 Petition?
It is possible to visit the US with a pending I-130 petition. To do this, the alien must do so by:
Spouses of US citizens may also apply for the K-3 visa.
There are many assumptions for this question and it is best to talk to our lawyers. In addition, on our website you will find an index with all the types of American visas with updated information.
Consular Interview And Documents
It should be taken into account that before the consular interview, applicants will have their fingerprints (biometric data) taken and they will undergo a medical examination.
- Immigrants are advised to plan to stay abroad for at least a couple of weeks.
- The embassy will inform you of the places where they can take your fingerprints and the doctor who will do your examination. Both must be sites validated by the embassy.
At the consular interview, the officer will review the applicant’s documents and ask a few questions regarding your application.
If you need help on how to legally enter the United States, don’t worry. Our professionals are ready to help you.
Documentation For The Interview
The applicant must appear for the interview with the following documents:
- Appointment Notice: This is the letter confirming your appointment from the NVC;
- DS-260 Confirmation Sheet;
- Passport: Current and valid for 6 months after the expected date of entry into the US.
- Photographs: Two identical color photos that meet the general requirements for photographs in these documents.
- Medical exam results: If you received sealed envelopes from the doctor, they should not be opened. Other doctors or medical centers will send the results directly to the US consulate or embassy.
- Original or supporting documentation: The original documents or their certified copies and a photocopy of each one are required for the applicant or any family member applying for the visa.
- The NVC will be responsible for forwarding this application and any documents that have been submitted to the US embassy or consulate prior to the interview.
- English translations: If the documents that require translation have not been sent to the NVC, they must be submitted on the day of the interview.
Note: The passport and the photographs are exempt from the photocopy requirement.
How To Change The Date And Time Of The Consular Interview
The US embassy or consulate may have guidelines to follow in this regard. Otherwise, the consulate or embassy should be contacted directly to reschedule the interview.
Applicants should not take the exam until their consular interview has been scheduled. It should be noted that the results are valid for 6 months but in some medical conditions they can expire in 3.
If the medical results expire before the immigrant arrives in the US, they may be denied entry into the country.
The Risk Of Leaving The US Seeking Consular Processing Having Been Illegal
The consequences of unlawful presence in the US and having resided for 180 days or more can be severe. Instead of the aliens opting for a Green Card, they can get a bar on their return.
Even if you otherwise qualify for a Green Card, the consulate has a duty under the law to bar you from entering the US for 3 years if you remained between 180 days and 1 year. If your illegal stay was 1 year or more, the punishment will be 10 years.
Did you enter the US on a visa and overstay? Find the answers to your scenario in our publication “What happens if you overstay your US visa”.
Consular Process With Waiver
Since August 29, 2016, a rule has been applied that allows certain immigrants without papers (spouses/children of single permanent residents and citizens), to request an I-601A waiver to leave the United States.
Therefore, when leaving the US, immigrants will then be able to carry out the consular processing from their country of origin to later be able to return to the country and obtain the Green Card.
The undocumented immigrant needs this migratory resource to be able to return to the United States without falling under the 3 and 10 year bars, which establishes sanctions of 3 to 10 years for illegal aliens.
In our blog “Waiver of inadmissibility” you can read everything you need to know about this resource.
Advantages Of Consular Processing Over Adjustment Of Status
- Processing time is much shorter, although some aliens prefer adjustment of status.
- Consular processing for residence significantly reduces the risk of being denied.
- With adjustment of status, once the petition is filed, the applicant cannot travel outside of the US unless they apply for a Parole.
- Adjustment of status has higher processing fees.
- Consular officers do not have the discretion to deny a visa, while USCIS officers do. To deny a request, the consular officer must justify it by means of objective and specific evidence.
Of course, when the consular procedure is denied it is not subject to review, it is a final decision.
How Long Does Consular Processing Take?
On average, consular processing for residency can take 6-12 months for immediate family members; that is, the spouse and sons and daughters.
- Currently the procedure can take longer. It will also depend on the consulate or embassy where the national foreigner carries out the process.
- However, the waiting time for other family members classified in the different preference categories can be much longer. This is because they have to wait until a visa number becomes available.
There can also be complications such as administrative review that adds months to the process.
How Much Does Consular Processing Cost In 2024?
The entire consular process, including the immigrant visa application, can cost around $1,200. This would be the breakdown:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: $535.
- DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application: $325.
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support: $120.
- USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220.
Please note that this is an estimate as there may be other costs associated. Here are some:
- Medical examination that varies in cost depending on the country and the doctor.
- Form I-693.
- Transportation to the interview, exam and others.
- Police certificates.
Where To Check The Status Of Your Application?
For updates on a Green Card application, the USCIS website should be reviewed. You will find the number on any receipt or notice sent by USCIS.
Once you have submitted your Green Card application to a US embassy or consulate, the status of your case can be checked. To do this, the applicant must visit the website of the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).
What Happens If My Request For Consular Processing Is Denied?
Unlike adjustment of status, consular officers must follow strict guidelines and have little room to decline at their own discretion. So there are fewer options to deny a request if things have been done correctly.
However, there is no immigration appeal process for the consular processing, so you must ensure that the process is carried out correctly.
Contact our immigration lawyers specialized in immigration law today, so we can help you from the beginning. The consultation is personalized and can save you real headaches.
What Happens When I Get The Green Card Through Consular Processing?
If the immigrant has already obtained the Green Card and becomes a resident, they are free to work and live in the United States. If everything goes smoothly, the next big step will be to become a US citizen.
Are you about to apply for citizenship and don’t know English? Learn more about this topic in “Can you become a US citizen without speaking English?“. You may also be interested in knowing how to dress for the citizenship interview.
Immigration Lawyers In Los Angeles Experts In Consular Processing
Migration processes can turn out to be complex if they are attempted without professional help. Therefore, it is essential to have an experienced immigration lawyer who carefully analyzes all aspects.
Additionally, our consular processing attorneys can assist in analyzing your case. Especially if the application is waiting at an American embassy or consulate. Our professionals will help their clients to:
- Provide reliable advice and assistance on how to present yourself at the interview with the American embassy or consulate.
- Offer a service delivery model that manages to exceed the expectations of its customers.
- Provide a careful review regarding your personal circumstances.
- Identify and examine all important legal issues regarding the specific immigration situation.
For any case related to an immigration matter for you or a family member, do not hesitate to contact us.
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