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Green Card Consular Processing Benefits & Steps

green card consular processingConsular processing is a method by which a beneficiary of an approved family-based, employment-based or other immigration petition can apply for a visa through a U.S. Department of State consulate office abroad. There are many benefits when it comes to green card consular processing. However, you must first determine if you fit into an eligible immigrant category which permits this form of processing.

Initial Steps for Consular Processing

There are many benefits to choosing consular processing as we’ll illustrate, including enhanced convenience and a moderate degree of flexibility. It’s important to first acknowledge that there are two different entities involved in the immigration visa consular process system–the National Visa Center and the designated Consular Office overseas.

Once you know that you qualify for consular processing you’ll usually have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf. Depending on which category you fit in, however, the steps differ.

For example, for those in employment-based categories, the U.S. employer will need to file an I-140, Petition for Alien Worker. Otherwise, if you plan on filing for yourself as an entrepreneur for a U.S. based venture, you’ll need to file I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur.

After submitting the appropriate petition based on your immigration status, you’ll need to wait for a decision–whether it be an approval or denial. If you receive an approval and want to apply for your immigrant visa overseas then USCIS will send the approval to the designated visa center until a visa number becomes available. You can see a complete list of priority and availability dates on the USCIS official website.

The Next Steps After Approval

Once the visa center receives the approval from USCIS and your priority date becomes current (or a visa becomes available) the next step is your consular interview. You will need to complete a DS-160 or DS-260 Online Nonimmigrant/Immigrant Visa Application and bring a printout of the confirmation page with you.

In addition, you will need to bring the following items to your interview appointment:

  • Valid passport and any old or expired passports
  • A photograph of you according to the Department of State requirements.
  • The receipt of your DS-160 or DS-260 fee payment
  • Evidence of your qualification for the visa or green card sought
  • Resume or CV (for employment-based cases)

What if my petition is denied? 

If you receive a denial you’ll also be provided reasons for why the petition is denied as well as your options to appeal the denial. You will want to work very closely with your immigration attorney in order to determine your options after a petition denial. There may be other avenues available for you to obtain your green card.

Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status

Wondering if consular processing or an adjustment or status is more favorable? One of the most significant advantages of green card consular processing is the speed in which it gets adjudicated. In most cases, the average consular processing time ranges between 6 and 12 months while an adjustment of status can sometimes take upwards of a few years.

As you can see, the time frame is significantly shorter for green card consular processing cases. That’s not to say, however, that an adjustment of status may not be the preferred option. With an employment-based adjustment of status, you have the ability to simultaneously apply for advanced parole which allows you to re-enter the United States without an immigrant/non-immigrant visa after traveling abroad.

In either case, your processing time will heavily depend on the service center or U.S. consulate that is responsible for your case. Some people have reported having to schedule their consular interview many months in advance while others only have had to wait a few weeks.

On the other hand, the I-485 application to adjust your status to lawful permanent resident could take as little as 4 months or as long as a year. It depends on the service center’s caseload.

Learn more about the benefits of an employment-based adjustment of status as well as the documents required. Among other things, adjusting your status happens automatically once the application is processed and does not require you to leave the country or go through an interview.

Green Card Consular Processing FAQs

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding green card consular processing. If you have additional concerns, please contact one of our employment immigration attorneys to schedule a consultation.

Q. Who is consular processing ideal for?

Any individual (who meets the necessary criteria) can apply for green card consular processing once their visa petition has been approved by USCIS (i.e., EB2 consular processing). For immigrants living overseas, this is typically the go-to method since it is significantly more difficult to enter the U.S. in an attempt to complete their application.

Similarly, some individuals may not be eligible for adjustment of status (i.e., expired visa status) so there really is not alternative but to leave the U.S. and apply for consular processing abroad. If you are already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant visa, then speak with your immigration attorney to learn if consular processing is best for your unique situation.

Q. At what point does immigration visa consular processing begin? 

Consular processing begins once the initial petition has been approved by USCIS and your priority date and/or visas become available.

Q. What’s generally the time frame you should expect? 

 As previously mentioned the processing time varies, however you should expect anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Contact an immigration visa consular processing attorney to learn more about your particular situation.

Q. Is there a difference in the cost?

For green cards, there is a difference in the required fees. the most prominent difference is that adjusting your status requires an I-485 application with a filing fee of $750-$1,140 depending on how old you are.

On the other hand, green card consular processing requires that you complete the DS-260 and pay the $230 fee as well as the $88 fee for the Affidavit of Support. You may also need to pay the $85 biometrics fee.

Q. What happens if my priority date is not current when my I-140 is approved? 

If you find that your I-140 is approved but your priority date has not yet become current, then the I-140 will be kept on file with the National Visa Center until the priority date becomes current. At the point when your priority date does become current the National Visa Center will send you Packet 3 and then forward your file to the proper consular post.

Q. Can I switch from consular process to an adjustment of status?

If you’ve begun consular processing and wish to switch to AOS, you need to file the adjustment of status application with USCIS and inform the consular as well as the National Visa Center of your decision to switch.

Contact a Consular Processing Lawyer

Choosing between adjusting your status and going through consular processing can be difficult. Just like any other aspect of immigration law, it’s not a good idea to attempt anything alone. Having an experienced immigration attorney at your side can save you both time and money as well as help you handle any unexpected situations.

The lawyers at SGM Law Group can best address the details pertaining to your case. Our lawyers have an excellent track record when it comes to cases involving consular processing and adjustment of status. We also specialize in a range of employment-based immigration visas including EB-1EB-2EB-3, PERM and PERM AuditEB-4EB-5, and DV-1 Visas.  Contact us to receive a comprehensive consultation and learn more about our firm’s offerings.