consular processing at US embassy

Green Card through Consular Processing

 
 
 
 
 

Green Card Through Consular Processing

Consular processing is the procedure of applying for an immigrant visa (green card) through a U.S. Embassy or consulate in a foreign country. Consular processing is one of two paths for obtaining an immigrant visa to the United States through family-based immigration. The other path being adjustment of status. If the applicant is outside the U.S., the only path for immigrating to the U.S. is to use consular processing.

The following describes in general terms the process for obtaining a family-based green card through consular processing. In this process, the petitioner is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and the beneficiary is the person obtaining a green card.

Establish Eligibility to 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 green card. The entire process begins when the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of the beneficiary (intending immigrant). To obtain a green card based on a family relationship, the beneficiary must be in either the immediate relative or family preference categories. The purpose of Form I-130 is to establish an eligible relationship so that the relative may apply for a green card.

Immediate Relative Categories
Learn More
Family Preference Categories
Learn More

A similar process is available to U.S. citizens that want to bring a fiancé (as well as any children of the fiancé) to the U.S. for marriage. This process begins with the U.S. citizen filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e). This path is not available to the spouses of lawful permanent residents.

Get Approval on the I-130 Petition

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will notify the petitioner of a decision. If the petition is denied, the notice will include the reasons for denying the petition and any rights to appeal the decision. If the petition is approved, USCIS will send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available. USCIS will also mail an approval notice to the beneficiary. The I-130 approval notice will arrive by mail as Form I-797, Notice of Action. It will look similar to the approval notice pictured below.

i-130 approval notice before consular process

Get a Visa Number from NVC

The National Visa Center, which is responsible for the collection of visa application fees and supporting documentation, will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. For immediate relative categories, there is an unlimited number of visas available. So the process is relatively quick. For family preference categories however, this is a numerical limit of visas available each year. As a result, there is generally a wait associated with family-preference immigrant visas and you’ll need to understand how to read the visa bulletin.

The beneficiary can apply for a green card through consular processing once USCIS approves the I-130 petition and a visa number is available. For a more complete explanation of this process, begin reading at Family-Based Immigration. For an approximate timeline, view What Happens After Filing Form I-130.

Submit the Application for Immigrant Visa

The NVC will also notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the beneficiary must submit immigrant visa processing fees, the visa application and supporting documentation. At this time, the beneficiary and each qualified family member immigrating with the beneficiary must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260).

In most cases, the U.S. petitioner will be required to submit an I-864, Affidavit of Support. The affidavit of support is a legal contract between the petitioner (sponsor) of an immigrant visa applicant and the U.S. government. It’s a promise to support the beneficiary if the person does not have the means to support him or herself.

consular interview at us embassy

Attend Appointment for Consular Processing

Once a visa is available and the NVC has received the DS-260 and all supporting documents, the consular office will schedule the beneficiary for an interview. The consular office will complete processing of the applicant’s case and decide if the beneficiary is eligible for an immigrant visa.

If the beneficiary is granted an immigrant visa (green card), the consular officer will give him or her a packet of information. This packet is known as a “Visa Packet.”

Enter the United States

family immigrant with consular processing

Upon your arrival to the United States, the beneficiary should give the Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The beneficiary will be inspected by a CBP officer, and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, which gives him or her the authorization to live and work in the United States permanently.

USCIS will mail a green card to the beneficiary once he or she is inside the United States. If the green card is not received within 45 days of arriving in the U.S., call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit a local office by making an InfoPass appointment.

Pros and Cons of Consular Processing

Consular processing takes approximately 6 to 12 months from the point that an immigrant visa is available. Because consular processing generally has a shorter processing time, it’s preferred by some applicants over adjustment of status. What’s more, consular processing has a lower risk of refusal. Unlike USCIS officers, consular officers cannot refuse to issue a visa based on discretion. This means that the consular officer must have specific, factual evidence for denying an application. However, cases that are denied are generally non-reviewable. This means that it is a final decision.

For detailed, step-by-step instructions through the consular processing path, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative


Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is used to begin the immigration process. A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may file the I-130 petition for eligible family members. For family members with straight-forward cases (no arrests and immigration violations), filing an I-130 petition can generally be done without a lawyer. Yet, each year, USCIS rejects or denies thousands of I-130 petitions.

each year an average of
0,682
I-130 petitions are filed*

out of these
0,717
get rejected*

and another
0,907
get denied*

How CitizenPath Helps You Prepare the I-130 Petition

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It’s a powerful, do-it-yourself tool that puts you in control. And we’ve got your back — CitizenPath guarantees that your petition will be accepted by USCIS.

STEP
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We’re going to ask you a few questions to make sure you’re eligible and preparing the correct form.

STEP
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STEP
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Once you’re completely satisfied, you’ll be able to print your I-130 and customized filing instructions.

green card through consular processing
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Consular Processing FAQs

The consular process can begin only after USCIS approves the immigrant petition (Form I-130) and a visa number becomes available. For immediate relatives, a visa number is always available. For family preference categories, the intending immigrant will need to monitor the visa bulletin.

The National Visa Center contacts the intending immigrant when both conditions are met and invites the intending immigrant to submit an immigrant visa application.

The entire consular processing path, including an immigrant visa petition, will cost approximately $1,200. The table below is based on an I-130 petition that follows the consular processing path. Other immigrant visa applicants may become eligible through other paths such as employment (Form I-140) or refugee status. Employment-based green cards may have additional costs associated with the PERM process while USCIS will waive fees for refugee-based I-485 applications.

Fees for USCIS, NVC or U.S. ConsulateFee (USD)
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative 1

$535
DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application$325
Form I-864, Affidavit of Support 2$120
Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record$0
USCIS Immigrant Fee$220
Total for Typical Adult Applicant$1,200

1 Typically the U.S. relative pays the fee for the petition. But your relative may expect you to pay for it.
2 There is a fee to review the Affidavit of Support only when filed domestically.

There are other costs associated with consular processing. The cost of the required medical exam will vary by doctor and country. Every applicant must submit a Form I-693 completed by a USCIS-approved physician. There is no fee for the Form I-693, but the doctor will charge a fee for the exam. You also may have some travel expenses associated with your medical exam and consular interview, depending on how away you live. Other costs may include photos to submit with the application, postage, and any police certificates (if applicable).

USCIS fees used above are current as of August 2017. Always check USCIS for the most current fees.

The time it takes to complete consular processing is generally shorter than the adjustment of status process. There are always exceptions. An immediate relative can anticipate that the consular process will take about 6 to 12 months to the date an immigrant visa becomes available. However, family preference categories will have a much longer wait. The wait is due to the limited availability of immigrant visas as explained in How to Read the Visa Bulletin.
Green card applicants may not apply through both consular processing and adjustment of status at the same time. You must choose only one or the other.

Remember, only applicants that are physically present in the United States through a lawful entry may apply for a green card through adjustment of status. Applicants outside the United States must use consular processing.

Before someone can apply for a green card (through family), two major conditions must be met. You must have an approved I-130 petition AND a visa must be available to you.

If you are in an immediate relative category (spouse, parent or unmarried child under 21 of a U.S. citizen), there is always an immigrant visa available. You may apply for the green card immediately. If you are presently in the United States, you may be eligible for adjustment of status. If not, you may apply through consular processing.

If you are in a family preference category, there is a limit on the number of immigrant visas available each year. As a result, there is generally a wait which varies by category and country. To determine when a visa is available to you, it’s necessary to read the visa bulletin. Generally, family preference categories will apply through the consular process.

You may also be interested in reading After I-130 is Approved, What’s Next?

It’s possible to get a B1/B2 visa, but it shouldn’t be expected. When the I-130 petition is filed on your behalf, it signals to the U.S. government that you intend to live in the U.S. permanently at some point in the future. As a result, your application for a nonimmigrant visa will receive additional scrutiny. Nonimmigrant visas are generally only issued to travelers that provide sufficient evidence that the visit will be temporary.

Many people within pending I-130 petitions are able to successfully travel to the U.S. on a B visa, or even the Visa Waiver Program. Spouses of U.S. citizens may also be able to apply for a K-3 visa. Each case is different. So speak to an immigration attorney about your situation.