Once you are the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, there are two ways to apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (also known as the “Green Card”). If you are in the U.S., you may file an Adjustment of Status (AOS) application directly with the USCIS. If you are outside of the United States, you may apply for a consular process at a U.S. Department of State (DOS) consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to be admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as immigrant consular processing.
Immigrant Consular Processing Requirements
Whether you are filing an AOS application or applying for consular processing, both processes require the foreign national to:
- Submit copies of biographical documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and passports, as well as relevant police certificates,
- Undergo a medical examination and receive necessary vaccinations, and
- Appear for fingerprinting for security and background clearances.
Immigrant Consular Processing Step by Step
Following are the steps for immigrant consular processing:
- Determine your basis to immigrate to the U.S. – Most immigrants gain immigration eligibility through an I-130 or I-140 petition filed by a family member or employer, respectively, on the foreign national’s behalf. If qualified, the foreign national can also self-sponsor an employment-based petition, through filing an EB-1 Extraordinary Ability petition, or an EB-2 Advanced Degree Professional or Exceptional Ability Petition requesting a National Interest Waiver.
- File the immigrant petition – Speak with our attorneys to determine which immigrant visa category is most appropriate for your circumstances.
- Wait for a decision on your immigrant petition – USCIS will notify the petitioner and beneficiary of a decision. If USCIS denies the immigrant petition, the notice will include the reasons supporting the denial and whether you can appeal the decision. If the petition is approved and you live outside the U.S. or if you live in the U.S. but are barred from adjusting status or you want to apply for the immigrant visa abroad, USCIS will then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center. The approved petition will remain there until an immigrant visa number is available.
- Wait for notification from the National Visa Center (NVC) – The NVC collects visa application fees and supporting documents. The NVS notifies the petition and the beneficiary when the visa petition is received and again, when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. The NVC will also notify the foreign national when he or she must submit immigrant visa processing fees (known as the “fee bill”) and supporting documentation.
- Attend the Interview – When a visa is available or your priority date is current, the consular office will schedule an interview. At the interview, the consular office will process your case and determine if you are eligible for an immigrant visa.
- After your interview and if an immigrant visa is granted – If you are granted an immigrant visa, the consular officer will provide a packet of information, known as the “Visa Packet.” You may not open this packet. You must pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee, used to process the immigrant visa packet and produce the Green Card. When you arrive in the U.S., you must give the Visa Packet to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officer at the port of entry. The CPB officer will inspect you to determine whether to admit you into the U.S. as an LPR. If the CBP officer admits you, you will officially have lawful permanent resident status, having all the benefits of living and working in the United States permanently.
- Receive the Green Card – If you have paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee, you will receive your Green Card in the mail after you arrive in the U.S. If you do not receive your Green Card within 45 days of your arrival, please speak to one of our attorneys and they will contact USCIS on your behalf.