Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status

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When applying for a green card to become a legal resident of the U.S, there are two ways that you can go about the process. Depending on your case, you can choose between the two approaches, which are known as adjustment of status or consular processing.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each process, which will be further discussed in the following article.

What Is Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status?

Typically, there are two main approaches that you can follow in order to obtain a green card. Let’s take a look at consular processing first.

Consular Processing

This first method allows those abroad to apply for a green card with the use of a U.S Embassy or Consulate. Those that have not yet obtained an immigrant visa and cannot come to the U.S legally to receive their green card will use this process.

Generally, these are the steps one must follow to obtain a green card through consular processing:

  1. Determining eligibility: In general, many immigrants will receive eligibility based on family members or employers. Additionally, some may claim eligibility through refugee or asylum status. You can choose which category you would like to select a sponsor under, based on your personal circumstances.
  2. Filing form I-130: This form, which is commonly known as the immigrant petition form, must be completed by your sponsor, which was chosen in the first step. This sponsor will petition on your behalf for your permanent resident status in the U.S.
  3. Waiting for the decision: USCIS will notify you about their decision regarding your filed petition and eligibility. If approved, you will then be able to continue your application while outside the U.S. From here, the National Visa Center, or NVC, will take your case and reach out to you to collect all fees and supporting documentation.
  4. Scheduling and attending your visa interview: Once your visa date gets approved, you will schedule an appointment with a U.S consular or Embassy and attend an interview. Here you will be asked questions about your application, and a decision will be made if you are approved or denied an immigrant visa.
  5. The approval of your immigrant visa: If approved, you will be able to travel to the U.S to obtain a green card legally on your immigrant visa.
  6. Arriving in the U.S to receive your green card: Once you have legally arrived in the U.S using your immigrant visa, you will shortly receive your green card at the address listed in your application paperwork. It’s important that you pay USCIS the fees as soon as possible, or else your green card won’t be sent to you.

If you are switching from consular processing to adjustment of status, then you must first obtain an immigrant visa through consular processing, move to the U.S legally, and file your application to adjust your status while in the country.

Adjustment of Status

Adjustment of Status, or AOS, allows you to complete a green card application while living in the U.S. To simplify, you can merely adjust your status and become a legal citizen without having to leave the country and re-enter.

There are various steps you must follow in order to file an application for a green card through the adjustment of status process. These include:

  1. Determining Eligibility: Eligibility requirements will solely depend on which immigrant category you are filing your application under. In total, there are eight categories that one can file under, some of which include family, employment, refugee status, registry, or special immigrant status.
  2. Filing an immigrant petition: Depending on the category you applied under; an immigrant petition must be filled out by your “sponsor.” These forms simply hold the sponsor responsible for you throughout the process and during your stay in the U.S.
  3. Filing form I-485: This form will be the application form used to apply for a lawful and permanent residence in the U.S. Once approved, you are able to continue on with your green card application.
  4. Scheduling and attending an interview (If applicable): USCIS will make a decision as to whether or not you will need to come in for an interview. If asked, you will need to go to a USCIS office and answer any questions regarding your application.
  5. Receive your green card decision: As soon as USCIS decides on your application, you will receive a written decision letter. If approved, you will obtain your green card as soon as possible. If denied, you will be able to see the reasons why you were given a rejection and appeal the decision.

This whole application process can be done through a USCIS office, which requires applicants to submit fingerprints and undergo a physical examination.

If you need to change from AOS to consular processing, you must first file form I-824 and get your petition approved. It’s important to note that this transfer may take up to one year.

Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing

Consular ProcessingAdjustment of Status
  • You are able to apply for your green card anywhere in the world
  • This process is quicker than applying through AOS
    Lower filing fees in comparison to AOS
  • 3. A lower risk of application denial
  • You may stay in the U.S while your application is being considered
  • You are able to apply for a work permit, and get a job while undergoing the application process
  • No interview process is needed for approval
  • If denied, the chance to challenge your appeal is possible
  • You are not able to work legally in the U.S while your application is being reviewed
  • Interview availability will solely depend on the times available at each individual consulate abroad, which could lengthen the process
  • In-person interviews are always required
  • A medical exam is required
  • If you have criminal charges, you won’t be eligible for AOS
  • This method requires more processing fees
  • The Adjustment of Status processing time is generally longer than consular processing
Required Forms and Cost Requirements
  1. Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) – $535
  2. Form I-130A (Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary) – $0
  3. DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application – $325
  4. Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) – $120
  5. Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Updated Vaccination Record) – $0
  6. USCIS Immigrant Fee – $220

The total cost of this process comes to around $1,200.
  1. Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) – $535
  2. Form I-130A (Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary) – $0
  3. Form I-485 (Application to Adjust Status) -$1,140
  4. Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) – $0
  5. Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Updated Vaccination Record) – $0
  6. Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) – $0
  7. Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) – $0
  8. Biometric test (applicants aged between 14-and 78) – $85

The total cost of this process generally costs $1,700.
Processing TimeConsular processing green card processing times are quicker than AOS, ranging from six to 12 months.

If more deliberation is required for your case, the processing time could be over a year.
Processing times can range anywhere from eight months to 14 months.
Travel ConsiderationsYou may travel freely as long as you have the correct visa for the countries entered.With the necessary travel documents obtained, travel is permitted.

Those obtaining H or L status visas as AOS applicants may use these respective visas to travel.
Decision and AppealsYou are not able to make appeals to any decisions made when applying for a green card through consular processing.

You will still be able to enter the U.S with a nonimmigrant visa, but you won’t be a legal resident.
If your application is approved, you will receive your green promptly to the address listed.

If your application is denied, you will be given the reasons as to why. From there, you can file a motion to reconsider.

Who Can Choose Between Consular Processing and AOS?

Both processes will depend entirely on where you currently reside. If you are residing in the U.S for the time being, then AOS should be used. However, if you are applying from abroad, then consular processing will need to be utilized.

Each process has its own timeline as well as its own application documents, costs, and eligibility requirements.

Many applicants wonder how long it takes for consular processing, which is sometimes difficult to say. Generally, this path can take anywhere from five to 13 months. Whereas the adjustment of status process normally takes anywhere from eight months to 14 months based on family applications.

Switching From Consular Processing to AOS

If you are currently using consular processing to obtain your legal documents to the U.S but are looking to switch to adjustment of status, then there are a few things that you must be aware of. Before making the switch, you must be eligible for an immigrant visa first and foremost.

If you are eligible to adjust your status, you can file form I-485 with USCIS. From there, USCIS will move your case to the National Visa Center.

The AOS timeline is typically eight months to 14 months for family-based applications. In contrast, other application types can take a bit longer.

The main benefit of switching from consular processing to adjustment of status is that you may remain to reside in the United States throughout the process.

Switching From AOS to Consular Processing

You are able to change your application from adjustment of status to consular processing if needed. All that you must do is file form I-485 and notify USCIS of the change in application. From there, USCIS will send a confirmation of adjustment of status letter.

The I-485 average processing time is around eight to 14 months after filing this form. But, this processing time is simply an estimate. The total amount of time for this form to get approved will solely depend on your case and the basis of your initial adjustment of status eligibility.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to the decision of whether to apply for your green card through consular processing or adjustment of status, there are many things to consider. These two processes are sometimes lengthy, expensive, and time-consuming. Meaning, it is imperative that you apply correctly the first time.

If you are ready to start your application for a green card, ImmigrationDirect can assist and support you throughout this process. Contact us today if you need more insight into which process is best for you.

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