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Pursuing A Green Card Through Consular Processing

Last updated on January 18, 2024

Many people around the world dream of getting a green card. It is a document that grants lawful permanent residency to foreign nationals in the United States.

You do not necessarily have to be located in the United States to start the green card or other visa processes. Having a green card (officially named a Permanent Resident Card or I-551) authorizes you to live and work permanently in the United States. You may have the option of using consular processing to apply for a green card or another visa from the American consulate in your home country.

If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. But at ERM Immigration Law, PLLC, our immigration attorneys make the system work for you. We will explain the steps, help you complete every necessary document, and prepare you as best as we can to secure lawful permanent residency via consular processing.

What Is Consular Processing?

Consular processing is the process of getting a green card while still outside the U.S. The prospective immigrant will complete the necessary steps through a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country or country of residence. This is different from the adjustment of status process, which allows those already in the U.S. to apply for a green card without leaving the country.

This process is preferred by the government and is good for those who need to work or travel up until they have the green card, don’t have a dual-intent visa (that is, a visa which allows them to file for a green card while in the U.S.), or have a bar to entry that must first be waived. Several exceptions apply. Note that if you’re getting a green card through a spouse, you must already be legally married to go through this process.

How Does Consular Processing Work?

To start your process from outside the U.S., you must receive a family-based visa at your consulate of residency. The petitioner (person bringing the foreign national here) and the beneficiary (the person coming to the U.S.) will have to follow these general steps:

  • File and obtain approval of an immigrant petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Submit the required supporting documents to the National Visa Center.
  • Once set for an interview abroad, obtain a medical exam in your country of origin.
  • Attend your immigrant visa interview at your consulate of residency.

This is just a brief overview of consular processing. Your real-life experience will be much more complex and time-consuming.

A Detailed Look At The Process

The petitioner will start the process by filing the paperwork for your relative in the U.S. That can take 6-13 months (usually about 8) to be approved, preliminarily. Then the paperwork is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). NVC will require additional documents, (identity and financial documents from your petitioner, etc.) and will conduct background checks. These documents will in most cases be submitted electronically. Once that process is completed, you will be scheduled for an interview at your local consulate. The NVC process takes 2-5 months more. Then, usually, within 6 months, the beneficiary is scheduled for an interview. But, at some consulates, it takes much longer.

In the vast majority of cases, your petitioner will not need to (or even be allowed to) attend the interview abroad. The intending immigrant is required to attend an interview at the consulate. The officer will ask about their background and history, as well as the qualifying relationship. If they believe that your relationship is authentic, and that you have no inadmissibility issues, your visa will be approved. Once you enter the U.S. with your visa, you then become a legal permanent resident at that moment. The green card will be mailed to you within one to six months of entry and so will a social security card.

Can You Visit The U.S. During Consular Processing?

Contrary to a lot of bad information online, you usually can visit the U.S. while the consular processing is underway, provided you already have a visit visa. However, like in all cases where the entrant is not a U.S. citizen, there is some risk that you will not be allowed to enter and customs could return you home. You should always seek legal advice before attempting a visit.

Advocates Who Will Guide You

Our team believes in providing detailed help for you at every step of your petition. We are here to de-mystify the process, be honest with you about potential pitfalls and help provide realistic expectations so that you experience a less stressful process. Immigration law is what we know best. Having worked with hundreds of clients around the world, we understand the many subtle differences in requirements from country to country and how they may affect your immigration journey.

Get Guidance From A Team That Cares

Do you have questions about consular processing? We are ready to answer them and give you realistic expectations of what to expect. Contact our office in Seattle, Washington, to speak with one of our team members about scheduling an initial consultation. To reach us, please call 206-745-9241 or send us an email. We represent clients around the globe.