What is Consular Processing?
To live in the United States as a lawful permanent resident, you must have an approved visa petition. Upon the approval of an immigrant petition, there are two ways in which you can apply for legal permanent resident status, more commonly referred to as a green card in the US.
An adjustment of status is the process by which you obtain your green card if you are already inside US borders. However, if you are outside of the United States, you must apply through consular processing. The US Department of State’s consulate, located in your home country, will complete the green card process.
Below, we’ll walk you through some of the eligibility requirements for consular processing. However, receiving a green card through consular processing is the last step. It happens once you’re already inside the United States. It all starts with a person first receiving an approved immigration petition.
What is Your Basis to Immigrate?
The first step to coming to the United States as a green card holder is determining the basis to immigrate. People come to the United States as lawful permanent residents due to many reasons. Some become permanent residents due to family relationships, employment, or refugee status.
Filing an Immigration Petition
Before applying for consular processing, you must file an immigrant petition showing the foundation for getting a green card.
Usually, immigration petitions are filed on your behalf.
- Family-based petitions. may be eligible for a family-based visa if you are married to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident or if you are an unmarried child or parent.
- Employment-based petitions. Some employers can sponsor you to become a lawful permanent resident.
- Humanitarian programs
- Special categories
Waiting for a Decision on Your Immigration Petition
Once your immigrant petition is filed, you must wait for a decision. The federal agency that decides your petition is called USCIS, which stands for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. They will notify you or your attorney once a decision is made. If the petition was denied, an attorney could help you file an appeal. If the petition is approved, you must apply for your immigrant visa in your country.
Every visa category is different. Some visas will be immediately available, while others require a wait time. Your approval will remain until an immigrant visa number is available for you.
Wait for the National Visa Center to Contact You
The National Visa Center (NVC) collects the visa application fees and supporting documentation. Once you and the petitioner have filed the visa petition and have an immigrant visa number available, the NVC will contact you to discuss submitting the visa processing fees, known as fee bills. They will also speak to you about supporting documentation that you must file.
When a visa is made available, you’ll receive a notice from the consular office and get scheduled for an interview. Your case is then decided at the consular office. So long as the consular office approves your provided documents, you will be granted your immigrant visa.
National Visa Center Appointment
The consular office will make an appointment for you once a visa is ready for you. If you are granted a visa to enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident, you will receive a visa packet.
It’s best to pay the USCIS immigrant fee before you leave your country to come to the United States.
It is the responsibility of a Customs and Border Protection agent to determine whether you qualify to live and gain employment permanently in the US, based on specific eligibility requirements, upon your arrival. They will ask for your visa packet and ask you a series of questions upon arriving. It’s crucial to note that just because you have a visa packet does not mean you are entitled to enter the United States.
Once CBP determines that you are eligible to live in the U.S. permanently, they will allow you to enter. However, they will not give you a green card. Your green card will then be mailed to you at your address in the United States.
Consult with an Immigration Attorney
Consular processing can be a long and complicated journey. If you haven’t received your permanent resident card within 45 days of your arrival, you should follow up with USCIS. USCIS is the agency responsible for sending the card. Consulting with an experienced attorney can ensure that there are no mistakes and that you receive your green card as quickly as possible.
At Castillo & Associates, our immigration attorneys are proud to represent individuals and families throughout the Inland Empire and including San Bernardino County, San Diego County, Riverside County and Los Angeles County. Call us today at 1-800-497-9774 or fill out our confidential contact form.
Attorney Domingo Castillo is a workers’ compensation & personal injury lawyer who serve Southern California from our 5 offices: Indio, Pomona, Riverside, San Diego & Calexico.