Adjustment of Status vs Consular Processing
What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which one is better?
The requirements for adjustment of status greatly limit the number of people that may be eligible. Generally, the applicant must be in the United States through a lawful entry and a visa must be immediately available. Only immediate relatives (spouses, unmarried children (under age 21) and parents of U.S. citizens) always have a visa available. For this reason, typically only immediate relatives in the U.S. even have the opportunity to adjust status. Family preference categories generally end up going through the consular process.
The time it takes to adjust status to permanent residence can take significantly longer than applying for an immigrant visa through consular processing. If you adjust status to apply for a green card, your application will go to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But if you use consular processing, the U.S. Department of State is responsible for your immigrant visa application. For an immediate relative, typical processing times may look like this:
Some international USCIS consular processing times may be even shorter. If the petitioner resides within the jurisdiction, he or she may file an immigrant petition (Form I-130) for an eligible family member at one of these international USCIS offices. Check the location’s website for specific instructions on filing.
Although it may take more time to obtain permanent residence through AOS, the obvious benefit is that the applicant completes the process in the United States. This allows the applicant to be with U.S. family members and even work (with the employment authorization) while waiting for a green card.
During the wait for a green card, many applicants want the ability to be with family in different countries. For example, a new spouse may reside in the United States, but extended family members are in another country.
The set of forms that you’ll file for a family-based adjustment of status package is generally more extensive than consular processing. But consular path is almost always less expensive than AOS.
1 Form I-130A is only necessary if the beneficiary is a spouse.
2 USCIS has a reduced fee for a child (under 14) if the application is filed with the I-485 of at least one parent.
3 There is a fee to review the Affidavit of Support only when filed domestically.
4 This is an optional form, but USCIS waives the fee if you file it together with the I-485 application.
There are other costs associated with both paths. Every applicant must submit a Form I-693 completed by a USCIS-approved physician. There is no fee for the form. But the doctor will charge a fee for the exam. The cost of the required medical exam will vary by country, doctor, and any additional vaccinations that may be required. Other costs may include photos to submit with the application, postage, and any transportation fees associated with travel to your USCIS or consular interview.
Decisions & Appeals
In addition to the time and financial requirements, some applicants may need to consider immigration officials’ adjudication guidelines. In other words, USCIS and the U.S. Department of State of different a decision making process. Some factors in an applicant’s history may be evaluated differently for adjustment of status as compared to consular processing.
When comparing adjustment of status vs consular processing, it’s impossible to say that one if better than the other. Each path has its own advantages and disadvantages. What’s best for you depends on your specific situation. Only an immigration attorney can thoroughly analyze your case. This comparison is for informational purposes only and shouldn’t be considered advice in your immigration journey.