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What is known as consular processing is an immigration relief available to those immigrants who have an approved residency application. This method allows them to apply for an immigrant visa directly at the U. S. consulate in their home country.

Among its most notable advantages is the processing time, which is usually shorter compared to adjustment of status. Unlike the latter, consular processing rarely exceeds six months from the availability of the visa or the approval of the application, being a somewhat rapid process.

The Step By Step Of Consular Processing In 2024

The first thing you should know before carrying out a consular processing is to have an immigration lawyer who will help you step by step with this legal procedure.

Our immigration lawyers in New Jersey will help you complete the process correctly, increasing your chances of legally entering the United States. That said, we will show you the steps to follow with this immigration procedure:

1# Check If You Can Obtain The Green Card

The first step of the consular process is to know if you can obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States. To do this, review the eligibility categories available in our blog on how to get a Green Card

Generally, most immigrants apply for a Green Card through a petition filed in their name by a sponsor. For example, an employer or a family member. Others, however, can become lawful permanent residents by:

  • Asylum, 
  • Refuge, u
  • Other special considerations.
asylum process in usa

You can learn more about the asylum process in the U. S. on our website.

2# File An Immigration Petition 

The second step requires that you have someone file a request on your behalf based on the following: 

Family-Based Immigrant Petition

For U. S family-based immigration petitions, a member of your family must file Form I-130, petition for alien relative on your behalf, with USCIS. This relative can be a U. S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

Individuals seeking information on family petitions will be able to learn more about this in our following blogs:

Employment-Based Immigrant Petition

If you are applying for a Green Card based on employment, your U. S. employer must file Form I-140, Petition for Foreign Worker, with USCIS on your behalf.

If you want to invest a large amount of capital in a U. S. business, you will need to personally file Form I-526. This form corresponds to the immigrant petition for an independent investor.

Special Immigrant Categories

In some cases, you must file Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widower, and Self-Employed Special Immigrant. However, someone else can also file on your behalf. 

Petition For Humanitarian Programs

The vast majority of humanitarian programs do not require you to have an immigrant petition. However, you may need to meet certain additional requirements before applying for a Green Card.

In our website, we have covered different topics in regards to U. S. humanitarian programs. For example, “What is the TPS status” or the “VAWA visa“.

3# Wait For The Decision About Your Request

If you have reached this step, do not despair, as USCIS will notify you of the final decision on your application. During this step one of the following situations may occur: 

  • Approval. If you live outside the U. S, or prefer to apply for the visa abroad, USCIS will send the approved application to the National Visa Center (NVC). There, your petition will be held on hold until an immigrant visa number is available for you.
  • Denial. If USCIS denies the petition, the notice will include the reasons for the rejection. Additionally, if possible, it will also contain information on how to appeal an immigration decision.

4# Wait For The Notification From The National Visa Center

consular process step by step

The NVC will be responsible for collecting fees for visa applications and required documents. Additionally, this agency will notify both you and your petitioner of the following:

  • Application review, 
  • Availability of a visa number,
  • Delivery of payments for immigrant visa procedures (known as “fee bills”), and 
  • Delivery of additional documents.

5# Attend The Appointment 

Once the visa or priority date is available, the office in charge of carrying out the consular processing will schedule an appointment for the interview. This office:

  1. Will complete the application process, and 
  2. Decide if you are eligible to obtain an immigrant visa.

6# Notify The NVC Of Any Changes Made

Generally, you will not need to contact the NVC as they will contact you. However, you should contact the NVC when:

  • Changing your marital status,
  • Changingthe address, or
  • If you were under 21 years of age but already turned 21.

If you submit these changes and do not notify the NVC, it may affect your eligibility for consular processing.

7# After Obtaining A Visa

At this point you may be wondering: “What happens after USCIS approves my application for consular processing?” When you are issued an immigrant visa, the officer in charge will give you an information packet. This package is commonly known as the “Visa Package”.

Also, you should know that:

  • You do not have to open the visa package for any reason.
  • You will have to pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee. This fee is used by USCIS to generate your Green Card. We recommend that you pay the fee online after you receive the visa package and before traveling to the United States.
  • When you arrive in the U. S, you will need to present your visa package to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.
  • You will be inspected by the officers and they will determine if you are eligible to be a lawful permanent resident in the country. If admitted, then you will meet the requirements to legally enter the United States.
perm labor certification steps

With PERM labor certification, you could work and live in the U. S. indefinitely despite being a foreigner.

8# Get Your Green Card

When you pay the USCIS immigrant fee, you will receive the Green Card in the mail in the next few days after your arrival in the United States.

In the event that you do not receive the Green Card within 90 days of your arrival in the country, you must contact the USCIS Contact Center.

If you arrived in the United States and did not pay the immigrant fee, you will have to pay it before USCIS will send you the Green Card.

It is important to note that immigration used the USCIS 90-day rule to evaluate your intentions upon arriving in the country. Although it is no longer in use today, it still serves as a guide for evaluating all immigrants. This includes those who have requested consular processing. 

What Types Of Documents Are Needed For Consular Processing?

Some of the documents you will need for this process are:

  • Marriage certificates (if applicable).
  • Original I-797 approval notice for immigration petition (I-130, I-140 and others.).
  • Notice of receipt of Form I-824 (if consular processing was not initially requested) and its approval.
  • Birth certificate.
  • Police certificates from each country where you have resided for more than one year since the age of 16.
  • Copy of the immigration petition submitted.
  • Termination documents from previous marriages (if applicable). For example, divorce or death certificate.
  • Consular process application forms.
  • Address history since the age of 16.
  • Work history of the last 10 years.
  • Passport.
  • Proof of previous residence in a host country (if applicable).
  • Military records (if applicable).
  • Medical examination results.

Consular Processing Vs. Adjustment Of Status

The main difference is that the adjustment of status is carried out while being present in the United States. On the other hand, consular processing occurs at a U. S. consulate in the last country of residence. Likewise, consular processing tends to be faster than adjustment of status. 

In any case, if any of these options are applicable to your case, it is best to consult one of our immigration attorneys: Carolina T. Curbelo and Sharon Lieberman.

How Much Does It Cost To Carry Out Consular Processing In 2024? 

what is consular processing

Typically, the total cost of consular processing is $1,200. This cost is broken down as follows:

  • Form I-130: $535.
  • Form I-864: $120.
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220.
  • Form DS-260: $325.

It should be noted that other Green Card applicants may have higher or lower costs. In addition, you will also have to pay for a medical exam, with costs that vary depending on the health system of your home country. 

If that’s not enough, you may have to pay a fee to local authorities to obtain criminal record certificates.

What Are The Benefits Of Consular Processing?

The main advantage of consular processing is that it is usually a faster path to enter the United States. Additionally, it eliminates the need to travel to this country beforehand, which could be expensive and time-consuming.

For more information about traveling outside the country, check: “How long can we stay in the U. S. with a tourist visa .”

What Is A Consular Interview?

An agent designated to carry out consular processing will interview you to determine your eligibility. Within this interview process, inkless fingerprint scans will be conducted.

How Long Does The Consular Interview Take?

Generally, the consular process interview usually lasts approximately only a few minutes. However, it may take you two to three hours at the embassy or consulate to complete this entire process.

Before the interview, staff will be in charge of collecting, entering your data and reviewing the application.

What Happens If My Application Is Denied?

Consular officers have strict guidelines when rejecting Green Card applicants, while USCIS officers have more discretion in adjustment of status cases. Adjustment of status applicants can appeal denials, but consular processing applicants often have a harder time. 

It is crucial to get consular processing right from the beginning. Therefore, Curbelo Law can be your reliable helping hand, providing legal advice to avoid problems.

You are inadmissible to the U. S? Read our publication: “Waiver of inadmissibility”, thanks to a waiver you may qualify for consular processing even if you have been barred for 3 or 10 years.

Who Must Apply Through Consular Processing?

Applicants who live outside the U. S. can generally opt for consular processing to apply for a Green Card. This process applies to various types of visas, such as the CR1/IR1 spouse visa or the F2A category. Read our related blog on the different types of U. S. visas for more information.

Either way, this involves waiting in the home country while the application is processed.

To apply for consular processing, it is necessary to meet all eligibility requirements. Additionally, it is key to check the priority date to determine when the application can be submitted. This applies especially if you are not married to a U. S. citizen.

If you are wondering if if an undocumented immigrant can get married in the U. S. you can read our respective publication. Likewise, we invite you to find out what you need to apply for the K-1 fiancé(e) visa.

How Can I Verify The Status Of The Consular Process Application?

You can check the status of your Green Card application by entering your case number on the USCIS website. This number can be found on any notice or receipt provided by USCIS.

After you submit your Green Card application to a U. S. embassy or consulate, you can check the status of your case. 

There, you will be able to find out the current stage of your application and information about when your visa will be printed. The latter in the case of having successfully passed the consular process.

Is The Consular Process Risky?

consular process vs adjustment of status

Consular processing is riskier than other ways for obtaining lawful permanent resident status. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the process and prepare if you wish to obtain the Green Card through this method. 

Unlike adjustment of status, consular processing involves:

  1. Travelling outside the United States, and 
  2. Conducting an interview with a consular officer.

That said, you should be well prepared before going to the consular processing interview, as your attorneys will not be able to accompany you.

Did you know that it is possible to “earn” lawful permanent residency in the U. S? To do this, you must qualify and register for the 2025 diversity visa lottery program. If you win, you will be able to come live in this great country and fulfill your American dream. 

What Are The Disadvantages Of The Consular Process?

The main disadvantage of consular processing is that it can have extensive waiting periods for visa approval. Additionally, the cost of applying for a visa through this process may be higher compared to other methods.

What Are The 6 Steps Of The Immigration Process To Apply For A Visa?

According to the United States Department of State, the first 6 steps to apply for an immigration visa are:

  1. Submit the application,
  2. Start the process with the NVC,
  3. Pay the fees,
  4. Submit a declaration of financial support,
  5. Submit financial documents, and
  6. Complete the DS-260 application process.

Do I Have To Complete The Consular Procedure Even If I Am Afraid Of Returning To My Country?

If you are afraid to return to your country, you may be eligible to apply for asylum based on domestic violence if that is what you are experiencing. But for this, the most advisable thing is to talk about it with our lawyers. 

Can DACA Holders Undergo Consular Processing?

Depends. If you are a DACA holder and have come to the country on parole, you may be able to adjust your status. However, this option is not available to all DACA holders. Therefore, we recommend that you consult with our lawyers.

For more information about this process, we invite you to read the DACA application requirements.

How Fast Is Consular Processing?

The main advantage of consular processing is the speed of obtaining a Green Card. On average, consular processing takes 5 to 13 months. Once the application is approved, you can enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

What Are The Medical Evaluations They Perform at The Consulate?

Generally, the medical evaluation that will be performed on you at a consulate for consular processing includes the following exams: 

  • Eyes, 
  • Ears, 
  • Nose, 
  • Throat, 
  • Extremities, 
  • Heart, 
  • Lungs, 
  • Abdomen, 
  • Lymph nodes, and 
  • Skin. 

Did you not qualify for consular processing? Don’t worry, there are other ways to obtain lawful permanent residency. Some examples are being eligible for the EB-1 visa or the EB-5 program. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a personalized consulation where we can study all available paths for you.

Why Do I Have To Leave The Country For Consular Processing?

There are several reasons for this. These are usually:

  1. You entered the U. S. without inspection so you are under unlawful presence. As a result, you will not be able to adjust status. So you will only be able to get the Green Card if you leave the country and request consular processing.
  2. You violated your immigration status in some way. For example by entering on a B-1 business visitors visa or the U. S. B-2 tourist visa and overstayed your stay.  
  3. It is at your discretion to apply for residency through the consular process from your country of origin. 

What Happens After You Have Completed The Consular Process?

At Curbelo Law we congratulate you on obtaining your Green Card, you can now work and live in the United States. If your Green Card is conditional due to a recent marriage, apply for the non-conditional version after 2 years. 

After 5 years (3 if you are married to a U. S. citizen), you will be able to complete the process to get U. S. citizenship. However, you must meet a variety of additional requirements to do so.

If you lost your U. S. citizenship certificate or are about to face the stokes interview, we recommend calling us as soon as possible. At Curbelo Law we have been helping immigrants for more than 10 years, both in the consular process and in many other immigration cases.

Latino Lawyers In New Jersey For Consular Processing Abroad

Now that you know what the consular process is and how it works, the next step is to have a good immigration lawyer by your side. At Curbelo Law, our commitment is to effectively guide you through the entire consular processing, your interview and document management. 

Our experience and dedication ensure that you are properly informed and supported at every stage. Trust Curbelo Law to provide you with the legal advice you need on this important path. We are here to facilitate your process and achieve successful results in your consular procedure.

You can call us, email us, or schedule an interview today with the office in Ridgewood, NJ.