Explaining the Basics of Consular Processing to Applying for an Immigrant Visa



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What is Consular Processing?

Consular processing is a procedure through which foreign nationals apply for and obtain an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to become a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) of the United States. This process is typically used by individuals who are outside the United States and wish to immigrate there. Consular processing involves several steps and is a common pathway for individuals who have been approved for immigrant visas, such as family-sponsored immigrants or employment-based immigrants. Here’s an overview of the consular processing procedure:

  • Visa Petition Approval:

    • Before an individual can begin the consular processing, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident sponsor (or an employer, in the case of employment-based immigrants) must file an immigrant visa petition on their behalf. This petition is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Waiting for Priority Date and Visa Availability:

    • Immigrant visas are subject to annual numerical limits, known as visa quotas. Applicants must wait until an immigrant visa becomes available for their particular preference category and priority date. The priority date is determined by the filing date of the immigrant visa petition.
  • National Visa Center (NVC) Processing:

    • Once an immigrant visa becomes available, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC), which coordinates the process with the U.S. embassy or consulate where the applicant will have their visa interview. The NVC collects fees, documents, and information from the applicant and prepares the case for the consular officer’s review.
  • DS-260 Form and Civil Documents:

    • The applicant must complete the DS-260 form, an Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, online through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). They also need to gather and submit required civil documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, police clearances, and more, as part of the application process.
  • Medical Examination:

    • Applicants are usually required to undergo a medical examination by an approved panel physician. The medical examination ensures that the applicant doesn’t have any medical conditions that would make them inadmissible to the United States.
  • Visa Interview:

    • After completing the DS-260 form and submitting all required documents, the applicant is scheduled for a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate. A consular officer reviews the application, conducts the interview, and makes a determination on the visa application.
  • Visa Issuance and Entry to the U.S.:

    • If the visa is approved, the applicant receives an immigrant visa in their passport. They can then travel to the United States and are inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry. Upon entry, the individual becomes a lawful permanent resident.

It’s important to note that consular processing can be complex and the requirements may vary based on the specific immigrant category and the policies of the U.S. embassy or consulate. It’s recommended to refer to the official U.S. government sources or the embassy/consulate for accurate and up-to-date information about the consular processing procedure.

What’s the difference between Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status?

Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status are two distinct processes through which foreign nationals can obtain lawful permanent resident status (green card) in the United States. The primary difference between these two processes lies in where the applicant is physically located when they apply for their green card and the specific circumstances under which each process is used.

  • Consular Processing:

    • Location: Consular processing is used when the foreign national is outside the United States.
    • Procedure: The process involves applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country or another country where they have legal residence. The visa is issued by the U.S. Department of State, and after receiving the visa, the individual can travel to the United States and be admitted as a lawful permanent resident.
    • Use Cases: Consular processing is commonly used for family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, and diversity visa lottery winners. It’s also used for certain special immigrant categories.
  • Adjustment of Status:

    • Location: Adjustment of status is used when the foreign national is already in the United States in a nonimmigrant status (such as a student or temporary worker) and wants to change their status to that of a lawful permanent resident.
    • Procedure: The individual applies for adjustment of status by submitting the appropriate application package to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This process allows the individual to remain in the U.S. while their application is pending.
    • Use Cases: Adjustment of status is typically available to family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, refugees, asylees, and certain other immigrant categories who are already in the U.S.

Key Differences:

  • Location: The most significant difference is where the applicant is physically located when they apply for their green card. Consular processing is done outside the U.S., while adjustment of status is done within the U.S.
  • Travel: With consular processing, the applicant must travel to the U.S. after receiving the immigrant visa. With adjustment of status, the applicant doesn’t need to leave the U.S. while their application is pending.
  • Immigrant Intent: Consular processing assumes that the applicant intends to enter the U.S. as an immigrant. Adjustment of status assumes that the applicant is already present in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant status.
  • Processing Time: The processing time for adjustment of status can vary, but it often involves a shorter wait compared to consular processing because applicants don’t need to wait for visa availability.
  • Risk of Denial: If a consular officer denies an immigrant visa, the applicant might need to overcome additional challenges to reapply. In adjustment of status, the applicant is already in the U.S., reducing the risk of being stuck outside the country due to a denial.

It’s important to understand the specific requirements and procedures for each process based on your individual circumstances. Consulting with an immigration attorney or referring to official U.S. government resources can help you make the right decision and navigate the appropriate process for your situation.

Consular Processing government fees

The government fees associated with Consular Processing for various immigration-related applications can vary depending on the specific type of application and the circumstances of the applicant. Keep in mind that fees may have changed since then, so it’s always a good idea to check the official U.S. government website or contact the relevant authorities for the most up-to-date information.

For U.S. immigration-related applications processed through consular processing, some of the common fees you might encounter include:

  • Visa Application Fee (MRV Fee): This fee is typically paid when you submit your visa application online through the U.S. Department of State’s visa application system. The fee varies depending on the type of visa you’re applying for. It’s important to note that this fee is separate from other application fees.
  • I-130 Petition for Alien Relative: This is the fee for sponsoring a family member for immigration to the United States. As of my last update, this fee was applicable when filing the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  • I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker: This fee applies to employment-based immigrant petitions filed using Form I-140. It’s often paid by the employer sponsoring the foreign worker.
  • DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application: For those going through consular processing for an immigrant visa, there might be a fee associated with submitting the DS-260 form, which is the application for an immigrant visa.
  • Affidavit of Support: If you are sponsoring a family member for immigration, you might need to file Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. There might be fees associated with this process.
  • Medical Examination and Testing: While not a government fee, applicants often need to undergo a medical examination by an approved panel physician. This involves a cost as well.
  • Other Potential Fees: Depending on the specifics of your case, there might be additional fees related to document translation, obtaining police clearances, or other necessary documentation.

Again, we strongly recommend visiting the official U.S. government immigration website or contacting the U.S. Department of State or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the most accurate and current information on government fees related to Consular Processing. Fees can change over time, so it’s important to rely on the most up-to-date sources.

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