Consular processing occurs at a U.S. consular post in a foreign country. An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has a visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. An applicant undertakes consular processing for one of three reasons:
- the applicant is outside the United States;
- the applicant is ineligible to adjust status inside the United States; or
- for strategic or convenience reasons.
For those present in the U.S. who have both alternatives available to them, adjustment of status is generally the preferred method. Consular processing, however, can be the better option in time-sensitive situations, such as diversity lottery cases or minors who will “age-out” by reaching the age of 21.
Who Is Eligible for Consular Processing of an Immigrant Visa?
In order to be eligible for a family-based immigrant visa, the applicant must be:
– the beneficiary of an approved visa petition (Form I-130) granting family-based immediate relative or preference classification; or
– a derivative family member (i.e., spouses and unmarried children of preference immigrants if they are accompanying or following-to-join the primary applicant).
What Is the Application Process for Consular Processing?
Once a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) is approved, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) forwards the approved immigrant petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is part of the U.S. State Department. When an immigrant visa number becomes available (i.e. the priority date of the individual becomes current), the NVC will send a barcode sheet to the applicant, which must then be returned to the NVC with the appropriate fees. Once payment has been received, the NVC will send forms DS-230 Parts I and II to the applicant for completion along with a list of documents that should be brought to the consular appointment.
After its review, the NVC will forward the petition and supporting documentation to the consular post designated on the petition. The applicant still has the burden to prove admissibility to the U.S. by showing that he or she has not accrued unlawful presence in the U.S., and is not inadmissible under health, criminal, or other grounds. There are waivers for many of these bars to admissibility, which should be discussed with an immigration attorney. When an immigrant visa is granted, and the visa-holder enters the United States, she or he will be inspected and barring any problems, the Applicant’s passport will be stamped to indicate that he or she is now a lawful permanent resident.
What Is the Time Frame for Consular Processing?
Generally speaking, the time frame for consular processing is quicker than for adjustment of status. From the date the immigrant visa becomes available, an average of six to twelve months processing time is expected, depending on the particular facts of the case and whether a waiver of grounds of inadmissibility is necessary.
Contact Aretz & Chisholm Immigration today to schedule a consultation regarding your immigration case.