Are you applying for a green card from outside the United States? You’ll be applying through consular processing — this just means your application will be handled at a local U.S. embassy or consulate.
Only those physically living in the United States can use Adjustment Of Status (AOS) instead of consular processing.
Applicants living outside the United States have to use consular processing to apply for a green card. Applying through consular processing means waiting in your home country while your green card application is processed. This process may take several months to years depending on the immigrant visa category.
The USCIS advises against coming to the U.S. to file an AOS application in place of using consular processing and few U.S. visas allow you to enter the country to adjust your status. It’s important to note that doing so may qualify as visa fraud and can bar you from being eligible for a green card.
You must already qualify for a green card — through marriage, employment, or another means — and have filed the relevant petition (such as Form I-130 for marriage green cards) in order to apply through consular processing. Once your petition is successful and a green card is available for you, you’ll be able to initiate consular processing. Your priority date will indicate you when you can apply.
We’ve broken the process down into steps so it’s easier to understand!
1. Have your sponsor file the appropriate petition for your green card category, such as the I-130 form, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
2. Wait for USCIS to approve your petition. This can take anywhere from between a few months, to a year or more.
3. Once your petition is approved, ensure a green card is available for you. If you’re the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen(that is spouse, parents and children under 21), your visa will be available immediately, but other green card applicants may be due for long delays. The visa bulletin published monthly by the US Department of State can tell you more.
4. When a visa becomes available, the USCIS will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing.
5. The NVC will let you know when to pay fees and provide documentation for your application. You must fill and submit Form DS-260.
6. Your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate will contact you through the National Visa Center to arrange an in-person interview.
7. You will need to see a USCIS-approved doctor for a medical exam before your interview. Check your US consulate or embassy website for details. You may only use an approved doctor.
8. Bring your passport and original documentation to the interview. When you arrive, a consular officer will place you under oath and ask questions about your application. They may collect your passport, but you’ll get it back later.
9. The consular officer will decide whether to grant your application. You may be informed right then, or hear back later. Decisions are usually made within a week, unless further checks are required.
10. Following approval, you will receive a visa allowing you to travel to the United States, along with a sealed envelope containing your file. Don’t open this envelope — it should only be unsealed by a U.S. officer at an official port of entry.
11. Your travel visa will be valid for 6 months from the date of your medical examination. Upon entry to the United States, you will be processed by a U.S. border officer who will open the sealed envelope and formally admit you into the country.
12. On arrival the U.S. border officer will stamp your passport with a temporary green card. This will be valid for travel in and out of the United States for up to 12 months. During that time, USCIS will have your physical green card sent to your U.S. address.
Updates on your green card application can be viewed by entering your case number on the USCIS website.