U.S. Permanent Residency/Green Cards Through Consular Processing
What is Consular Processing?
A green card is the common term for an immigrant or permanent visa and is proof of permanent resident status in the United States. There are two ways to apply for an immigrant visa – by applying for adjustment of status in the United States or by consular processing at a U.S. consulate abroad.
Once United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your family-based (Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative) or employment-based (Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker) petition, it sends your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is part of the Department of State. The NVC keeps your petition until your priority date is about to become current.
Each month, the Department of State releases the Visa Bulletin, which lists current priority dates. If you have a family-based petition, your priority date is the date USCIS received the Form I-130 filed on your behalf. If you have an employment-based petition, your priority date is the date a labor certification application was filed on your behalf. If labor certification was not required in your case, your priority date is the date USCIS received the Form I-140 filed on your behalf.
Unless you have already filed your application for adjustment of status, when your priority date is current, the NVC will send you a letter asking whether you would like to apply for your immigrant visa by filing for adjustment of status in the United States or by filing an immigrant visa application with a U.S. consulate abroad.
Persons outside the United States who are applying for an immigrant visa must go through consular processing. Only persons inside the United States are eligible to apply for adjustment of status. However, persons inside the United States may choose to travel abroad and obtain their immigrant visa by consular processing.
Applying for Consular Processing
When your priority date is almost current, the NVC will send you:
- A fee bill for Form I-864, Affidavit of Support; and
- Form DS-3032, Agent of Choice and Address.
Form DS-3032 allows you to choose an “agent” to receive papers related to your case from the NVC. The agent may not sign documents for you. The agent may only assist you with your paperwork and with the payment of required fees. The agent can be the person who is sponsoring you, an attorney, a friend, or an organization that is helping you.
You do not have to pick an agent. If you would like to receive information from the NVC directly, you can pick that option on the Form DS-3032. If you do not send Form DS-3032 back to the NVC within one year, your case may be terminated.
Once the Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, processing fee is paid, the NVC will send the petitioner (your sponsor) Form I-864, along with instructions. You must take the completed Form I-864 to your interview at the consulate. It should not be sent to the NVC or the consulate.
Once the NVC receives your Form DS-3032, it will send you or your agent the Immigrant Visa (IV) fee bill.
Once the IV fee bill is paid, the NVC will send you or your agent the Instructions Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants. Although the exact contents of the instructions package depend on which consulate you go to for your visa interview, the package will include Form DS-230, Applicant for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration. You should read the instructions package carefully and make sure you send the right documents to the right place.
Once all the required documents are received and your priority date is current, you will receive an Appointment Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants. This will tell you the date and time for your visa interview at the consulate and give you information about the required medical exam. You and any family members accompanying you to the United States must take a medical exam. You must bring the results of all of the medical exams to your visa interview.
The last step is the visa interview at the consulate. Make sure you bring original or certified copies of all required documents. The consular officer will ask you questions about a wide range of topics, which may include your family, your employment, your health, your immigration history, and any criminal history you may have.
You will be required to sign DS-230, Part II in front of the consular officer. Your signature is your promise that the documents you have submitted in support of your application are authentic and the statements you have made on your application are true.
If you receive an immigrant visa, you must travel to the United States within six months of the date the visa was issued to you.