A helpful guide to consular processing

When applying for a green card, there are many options available to immigrants. However, the way you appeal for the right to live and work in the U.S. depends on your circumstances. For example, someone living within the country seeking permanent resident status through an offer of employment can petition to have their residency status adjusted. But if someone is living outside of the country, he or she may be required to go through consular processing. Learn more about this method of green card application and the step-by-step process.

What is consular processing?
Consular processing is a means of applying for a green card. It is one of two primary paths for obtaining permanent resident status as outlined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (the other is the adjustment of residency status). One would apply through consular processing if he or she has an immigrant visa number and is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition but is not currently living in the country. The U.S. Department of State is responsible for granting green cards, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services works closely with the department to process these consulate requests.

How do I apply for consular processing?
The course of action for applying through the consular process is a strict one that requires quite a bit of paperwork and patience. Follow this step-by-step procedure:

  • Determine your basis for immigration: You must fit into one of the INA immigrant categories to be eligible for a green card. The most common way is through a petition filed by an employer who wants to hire you (employment-based) or an immediate relative (family-based). Other categories include special classes of immigrants and humanitarian programs.
  • File a petition: After you have determined the correct category, you must file a petition or have one submitted on your behalf. You should check with the consulate regarding the right status before submitting a petition.
  • Wait for a decision: You will receive a decision regarding your petition in the mail. It will either say that you have been approved, in which case the petition will be sent to the National Visa Center to be held until an immigrant visa number becomes available, or it will be denied. If denied, you can appeal the decision. The reason for rejection will be stated on the letter.
  • Attend an appointment: When a visa number is available, you will be required to sit for an interview, during which you will complete any additional paperwork.
  • Notify the National Visa Center of changes: You must contact the National Visa Center to alert them of your status in the consular process and inform them of any changes to the application.
  • Receive your visa packet: You will receive a packet of information in the mail. It should not be opened. Rather, when you arrive in the U.S., you will give it to the Customs and Border Protection officer to obtain entry.
  • Receive your green card: You should receive your green card within 45 days of arriving in the country.