Two primary paths are offered by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) for an individual to get permanent resident status popularly called “green card”. By a process in which an eligible alien already in US and without having to go back to home country can apply and complete the process for permanent resident status and this process is called adjustment of status. Another method called consular processing is the one in which alien who is the receiver of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident.
Consular Processing steps:
1. Basis to Immigrate to be determined:
The specific immigrant category the applicant belongs to should be determined first. Through petition filed for them through a family member or employer most immigrants become eligible for permanent residence. Under other special requirements or after getting refugee or asylum status also aliens become green card holders.
2. Immigrant Petition needs to be filed:
In most cases an immigrant petition would have to be filed once the category is decided on behalf of the alien.
- Employment Based
The US employer would have to file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker for employment based category. Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur can be filed by the entrepreneurs for themselves and who intend to invest in US significant amounts of capital into a business venture.
- Family Based
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is required to be filed for applicant by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative.
- Immigrants under Special Classes
Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er) or Special Immigrants may be filed for alien in some cases or file one on their own behalf.
- Some Humanitarian Programs
Applicants may be required to meet additional requirements before they can adjust status for most humanitarian programs and they need not file an underlying petition.
Although immigrant petitions are filed with USCIS, in some cases, an I-130 petition may be filed for an immediate relative (spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen) with a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Situations where this may be applicable include:
- If the U.S. citizen has been authorized to be continuously residing within the jurisdiction of the consular office for at least the previous 6 months
- Members of the military
- Emergency situations
- Situations involving the health or safety of the petitioner
- When in the national interests of the United States
3. Decision on Petition to be awaited
Petitioner will be notified of a decision by USCIS. The notice will include the reasons for denying the petition and any rights to appeal the decision in case the petition is denied. USCIS will send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) If the petition is approved and if you are the beneficiary of the petition and living outside the US or living in the US, but choose to apply for your immigrant visa abroad. It will remain with NVC until an immigrant visa number is available.
4. National Visa Center notification to be awaited:
Once the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available the National Visa Center will notify the petitioner and beneficiary. NVC is the one responsible for the collection of visa application fees and supporting documentation,. They will also notify the petitioner and beneficiary of when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees (commonly referred to as “fee bills”) and when supporting documentation must be submitted.
5. Be present at Appointment
Once a visa is available or a beneficiary’s priority date is current (earlier than the cut-off date listed in the monthly Visa Bulletin),the consular office will schedule the applicant for an interview. The consular office will complete processing of the applicant’s case and decide if the beneficiary is eligible for an immigrant visa.
6. Notify the National Visa Center of Any Changes
If any additional information is required the National Visa Center will contact you about your petition. But if there is a change in your personal situation or if you change your address you should contact the NVC. Your eligibility or visa availability may be affected so it is important to notify the NVC if you reach the age of 21 for a child or have a change in your marital status.
7. After Your Visa is granted
The consular officer will give you a packet of information if you are granted an immigrant visa. This packet is known as a “Visa Packet.” You should not open this packet. Upon your arrival to the US, you should give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. You will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the US, which gives you the authority to live and work in the US permanently.
8. Receive Your Green Card
Your green card will be mailed to you. If you do not receive your green card within 30 days of your arrival, please call the USCIS National Customer Service Center.