When it comes to applying for a green card there are two main ways to do so. If you are currently in the U.S, you are able to apply by a process called adjustment of status. For those that are outside of the U.S, a process called consular processing can be carried out.
Although these two processes follow a similar path, we will outline the most important steps for obtaining a green card through consular processing.
Steps Involved in Getting a Green Card Through Consular Processing
Consular processing is the method of obtaining a green card while outside the U.S by first applying for an immigrant visa, utilizing a U.S Embassy or consulate to complete the process, and arriving in the U.S legally to receive your green card.
Generally, all green card petitions can be submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), making it easy to submit your application from anywhere in the world.
So, how do you get a green card to the U.S? Listed below are the steps that you must follow if you are outside the U.S but wish to begin your green card process.
Step 1: Establish Your Eligibility
When applying for a green card to the U.S using consular processing, you must first acquire all the necessary documents to establish your eligibility. In order to do so, an I-140 petition must be filled out correctly.
This form simply asks that you demonstrate a legitimate right to legally come to the U.S due to relatives or various categories of family preference already established in the U.S. Here are the two most common ways to determine if you qualify for a green card in the U.S.
- Immediate relatives: This category for family-based green cards will include anyone from a spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents of any U.S citizens. Additionally, if you are an orphan that has been adopted abroad by a U.S citizen, or are about to be adopted, you will qualify for a green card as well via this category. This type of eligibility establishment doesn’t take much time to be approved.
- Family preference: On the other hand, this category has a longer wait time due to the fact that immigration will only grant a certain number of these visas a year. These are the four subcategories of this category:
- F-1 (Family first preference): This subcategory includes all unmarried sons and daughters of a U.S citizen and any minor children.
- F-2 (Family second preference): In this subcategory, spouses, children that are minors, unmarried sons and daughters over the age of 21, and lawful permanent residents can help you to qualify.
- F-3 (Family third preference): Any U.S citizen that has married sons or daughters, and their spouses and any minor children can be used to determine eligibility for a green card in this subcategory.
- F-4 (Family fourth preference): Anyone over the age of 21 can apply for eligibility with brothers and sisters of a U.S citizen, their spouses, and any children considered minors.
Step 2: Submit Immigrant Petition to a US Embassy or Consulate
In all cases, a U.S citizen within the groups listed above will need to file a petition with the government on your behalf. Once this petition is filled out correctly and completed, showing a qualified U.S relationship, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will make an eligibility decision.
For immediate relative applications, this decision will typically be made between five and nine months. In a situation where an individual under the family preference category applies, an approval first from the USCIS will arrive, however, this simply means that your relationship qualifies you to apply for a green card. A final decision when establishing eligibility can take anywhere from a few months to years.
Once a decision is made, there are the following steps in applying for a green card that you must follow, which are explained below.
Step 3: National Visa Center (NVC) Processing
Once your eligibility is approved by USCIS, they will then send your case to the National Visa Center (NVC) within a few months. You and the beneficiary must complete an application for an immigrant visa and follow the instructions.
This tends to beg the question, can I apply for a green card from outside the U.S? Luckily, the NVC automatically connects you to the Consular Electronic Application center, or CEAC, which will enable you to track and manage your case after it gets approved.
This online portal system has many features that applicants can utilize, including:
- Paying for Green Card Consular Processing Fees: These fees will vary based on each individual case. Generally, if you are submitting your green card application from abroad, this processing fee will cost anywhere from $800 to $1,200.
- Completing Affidavit of Support and DS-260: When applying for a green card from abroad, the family member that has sponsored you will need to complete an affidavit, stating that they will take total financial responsibility when you arrive legally in the U.S. A DS-260 is a required online form that will need to be correctly filled out with all necessary information, which will be used by the NVC for transferring you to a local U.S consulate for interview scheduling.
- Forwarding the case to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate: After the NVC receives the proper forms and payment listed above, your case will be transferred to a local U.S embassy. Here, you will schedule a visa interview. Even if you are applying for a green card overseas, there are plenty of locations to interview.
Step 4: Immigrant Visa Interview Preparation
Once an interview is scheduled, it’s important to be fully prepared if you want to have a successful visa interview. Each U.S consulate or Embassy is different, so it’s in your best interest to look up the instructions prior to your interview.
Generally, you need to prepare and bring:
- Your passport
- Original civil documents and the original I-864 forms
- A printout of the total application,
- Any documents used throughout the application process
- An immigration medical exam conducted by a doctor or authorized hospital by the U.S Embassy
Step 5: Immigrant Visa Interview
Upon entering the interview, your passport will be taken so that the respected immigrant visa can be printed on your passport if you are approved. You will find out on the same day of your interview, or quickly after, if you are granted the immigrant visa or not.
Because you have completed the green card application requirements, you will be required to take an oath at the start of your interview, meaning that you will need to be truthful about your application, documents, and future plans in the U.S.
While your sponsor is not required to attend your interview, they should be reachable by phone if needed.
Step 6: After the Immigrant Visa Interview
If approved, you will be able to enter the U.S as a lawful permanent resident. The immigrant visa granted at your interview is only valid for three to six months, meaning you need to enter the U.S before it expires. You must present the immigrant visa and all files or documents to Customs upon arrival.
There is no need to know how to file for a green card after arriving in the U.S on an immigrant visa because the USCIS will mail you all you need to the listed address on your application.
How We Can Help You in Getting Green Card (Outside US)
Consular processing for a green card entails more work than simply finding a sponsor, going online, and filling out the paperwork needed for your interview. There are many costs included in filing an application and a long green card processing time that you must think about.
Luckily, with our support, you can follow the steps for consular processing and complete your application through our online systems. ImmigrationDirect will ensure that all is filled out and filed correctly, so contact us today to get started on the right path.