There are many different ways through which you can get a green card. Being sponsored by your family member or a US employer for a green card are the common ones. Persons living outside the US have to get in touch with the US embassy for an immigrant visa. This process is called Consular Processing.
Adjusting status to permanent residency is the procedure if you had come to the US on a legal status and then want to switch to a green card. You have to be in the US to adjust your status to permanent residency. If you are outside the US, only option to obtain an immigrant visa is through consular processing at a US Consulate abroad. After your visa petition is approved and you are issued a visa, you can come to the US. In this case, your green card will be mailed to you as it is in the case of adjustment of status.
In consular processing, the USCIS will send your approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) for the next round of processing. The NVC, will then send you the necessary forms, list of supporting document and other instructions. After the application process is over and when visa numbers are current for your preference category for your country of birth, they will send you a notice regarding your appointment including more forms and instructions. You have to attend a personal interview and your dependent family members accompanying you to the US are also required to attend one at the consular Office. These appointments are scheduled on short notice, so be ready and be able to travel whenever the appointment is scheduled. You will also have to take a medical examination with a physician, who is approved by the US consular post.
Though the supporting documents needed for Consular processing is more or less similar to that required for adjustment of status, there are a few additional requirements. You have to provide a police certificate of good conduct from each country in which you, or your family member resided for six months or more since you reached the age of sixteen. Submitting proof for having fulfilled any obligatory military service is also mandatory.
The processing time for consular processing is quicker when compared to the adjustment of status process and can take as little as six months for the entire process to complete. But what you need to remember is that, as the process is taking place of the US, if there is any issue with the application, you may not be able to return to the US until the problem is settled. Also remember there is no formal appeal process for consular processing applications as you have for Adjustment of Status. You will have to maintain your non immigrant status while the application for an immigrant visa is pending.
Once your case is approved and you are granted an immigrant visa, the Consulate will give you a packet of information, called the “Visa Packet.” Make sure you do not open this packet. Once you arrive in the US, you should give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. Here a Customs and Border Protection Officer will inspect you and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the US. This will give you the right to live and work in the US permanently.