Green Card Via Consular Processing of Immigrant Visa
Lawful permanent resident or “green card” status is the culmination of a several stage process, typically starting with either a family based I-130 visa petition, or an employment based I-140 visa petition filed on behalf of the foreign national by a family member or employer in the U.S.. The final stage involves the foreign national applicant, if abroad, undergoing an interview and the processing of an immigrant visa application at a U.S. consular post or if in the U.S., undergoing an interview and processing of their I-485 adjustment of status application. The rules, requirements and guidelines for each are almost identical but for certain, there are situations where one of these processing options may be a better than the other. Sometimes though, the applicant has no choice because due to time constraints or more often, ineligibility for adjustment of status processing in the U.S., consular processing of an immigrant visa abroad is dictated.
Reasons for Consular Processing
Why would a foreign national seek consular processing of their immigrant visa vs. adjustment of status in the U.S.?
- The foreign national has never been to the U.S. and their only option is to enter on an immigrant visa by way of a U.S. Embassy or Consulate process in their home country. This is mostly the case when it comes to family based visa petition beneficiaries and the overseas family member never previously had a chance to be approved for a temporary visa to enter the U.S. to visit, study or work in the U.S.
- The foreign national was previously in the U.S. but violated their nonimmigrant status to a significant degree and such that the final stage processing of their permanent residence status – adjustment of status – was not legally viable. Importantly, in deciding whether consular processing of an immigrant visa is a good idea in these situations, an applicant must factor in whether they will be subject to a 3 or 10 year bar to admissibility due to the violation.
- Timing. Sometimes a foreign national with the choice of pursuing either consular processing of an immigrant visa vs. adjustment of status processing in the U.S., will choose consular processing simply because it involves a shorter timeline, or because their international travel plans makes adjustment of status processing in the U.S. impractical.
The Application Process
Prior to the case getting scheduled for a visa interview at a U.S. consular post abroad, the filing will typically have undergone screening in the U.S., first by U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (“DHS/CIS”) and then by the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (“NVC”). Once documentation is deemed complete by the NVC AND a visa has become available in the particular family or employment based category, the case will enter a queue for immigrant visa scheduling at a U.S. consular post abroad. How quickly an interview will get scheduled is usually determined by visa applicant volume at the consular post. Lower traffic posts can usually schedule an immigrant visa interview within a couple months of NVC case completion. Other higher volume posts, such as Ciudad Juarez, Mexico or Manila, Philippines may take 8-12 months to finally schedule the interview.
The immigrant visa interview can include the principal, petitioned foreign national along with their spouse and under 21 year old children. Sometimes a child who has turned 21 already may still qualify assuming they are covered by provisions of the Child Status Protection Act.
Required documents and items for consular processing include valid passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, Affidavit of Support – especially for family based cases, and police certificates or clearances (adults only – although some countries do not issue such clearances, and thus this requirement will not apply to applicants who have resided in such countries).
Once issued, an immigrant visa will allow the foreign national to enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. That means they are considered in green card status the moment they arrive, and accordingly, an entry stamp confirming as much is affixed to their passport following inspection. From there, the green card will be sent to the foreign national’s U.S. address within 90 days or so.
Like most U.S. immigration processes, the consular processing of immigrant visas can sometimes be a challenge to navigate. To help keep the process simple and problem free, the assistance of a reputable lawyer, such as Richard Hanus and the Law Offices of Richard Hanus, may be the right call. That way, unnecessary obstacles and delays can be avoided, and the overall experience can be as stress free as possible.