What is Consular Processing?
Consular processing is a crucial step in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa to the United States or another country. It is a method by which individuals who are seeking to become permanent residents (green card holders) can apply for their visas through a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country or another designated location.
The process involves several key steps:
- Petition Approval: Before beginning consular processing, an eligible family member or employer typically needs to file an immigrant visa petition on behalf of the applicant. This petition is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and must be approved.
- National Visa Center (NVC) Processing: Once the petition is approved, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC), which assists in collecting the necessary documentation, fees, and forms required for the visa application.
- Application and Interview: After completing the necessary forms and paying the required fees, the applicant will be scheduled for a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country or another designated location. During the interview, a consular officer will review the applicant’s documents and conduct an interview to determine their eligibility for the immigrant visa.
- Medical Examination and Security Checks: As part of the application process, applicants are often required to undergo a medical examination to ensure they do not pose a health risk to the U.S. population. Additionally, security checks are conducted to identify any potential security concerns.
- Visa Issuance: If the consular officer approves the visa application, the applicant’s passport will be stamped with the immigrant visa, allowing them to travel to the United States and seek admission as a permanent resident.
- Travel and Admission: Once the visa is issued, the applicant can travel to the United States and present themselves to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the port of entry. The CBP officers will make the final determination regarding the applicant’s eligibility for admission as a permanent resident.
Consular processing is commonly used by individuals who are outside the United States and wish to immigrate as permanent residents. It’s important to note that the consular processing procedures can vary depending on the specific immigrant visa category and the policies of the U.S. embassy or consulate where the application is being processed.
What is the difference between Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status?
Consular processing and adjustment of status are two different paths that individuals can take to obtain lawful permanent resident status (green card) in the United States. The main difference between them lies in where the final processing of the green card application takes place.
Consular processing involves applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States. Here’s how it generally works:
- Petition Approval: An eligible family member or employer submits an immigrant visa petition on behalf of the applicant to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once the petition is approved, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
- NVC Processing: The NVC collects the necessary documentation, fees, and forms from the applicant. Once everything is in order, the case is transferred to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country or another designated location.
- Visa Interview: The applicant attends a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. A consular officer reviews the application, conducts an interview, and makes a decision on the visa issuance. If approved, the applicant receives an immigrant visa stamp in their passport and can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.
Adjustment of Status:
Adjustment of status is the process of applying for a green card while physically present in the United States. Here’s how it generally works:
- Eligibility: The applicant must be physically present in the U.S. and meet certain eligibility criteria to apply for adjustment of status. Typically, this applies to individuals who are already in the U.S. on a valid nonimmigrant visa (such as a student or work visa) or are beneficiaries of certain immigrant visa petitions.
- Form I-485: The applicant submits Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to USCIS. This form includes various supporting documents and fees.
- Biometrics and Interview: After the application is filed, the applicant may need to attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints and photographs. In some cases, USCIS may schedule an in-person interview to assess the applicant’s eligibility for the green card.
- Green Card Issuance: If the application is approved, the applicant will receive a green card, granting them lawful permanent resident status.
- Location: Consular processing takes place at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the U.S., while adjustment of status occurs within the U.S.
- Entry: With consular processing, the applicant enters the U.S. as a green card holder after the visa is issued. With adjustment of status, the applicant remains in the U.S. throughout the process.
- Visa Interview: Consular processing involves a visa interview, while adjustment of status may or may not require an interview, depending on the specific circumstances.
- Timing: The timing and processing times can differ between the two methods.
The choice between consular processing and adjustment of status depends on an individual’s specific situation, including their current location, visa status, and eligibility for either process. It’s important to carefully consider these factors and consult with legal experts if needed to determine the most appropriate path to pursue.
Consular Processing filing fees
The filing fees for consular processing can vary depending on the specific type of immigrant visa being applied for and the circumstances of the applicant. Here are some of the common immigrant visa categories and their associated filing fees for consular processing to the United States:
- Immediate Relative and Family Preference Immigrant Visas:
- Form DS-260 (Online Immigrant Visa Application): $325
- Affidavit of Support (Form I-864): No fee for immediate relative petitions; $120 for family preference petitions
- Employment-Based Immigrant Visas:
- Form DS-260 (Online Immigrant Visa Application): $345
- Affidavit of Support (Form I-864): Generally required for family-sponsored cases, but not typically for employment-based cases
- Diversity Visa Lottery Winners:
- Diversity Visa Lottery Processing Fee: $330
- Other Special Immigrant Visas:
- Fees can vary for special immigrant categories such as religious workers, Iraqi and Afghan translators, etc. It’s important to check the specific fee requirements for each category.
Please note that these fees are subject to change, and it’s essential to refer to the official U.S. Department of State website or the specific U.S. embassy or consulate where you intend to apply for the most up-to-date information on filing fees and payment methods.
Additionally, some applicants may also be required to undergo medical examinations and obtain police clearances, which could incur additional costs. These fees can vary based on the country of origin and the specific requirements.