Intending immigrants located outside the United States with an approved immigrant petition and an immigrant visa number available can apply for an immigrant visa abroad at the nearest consulate. Once approved, the intending immigrant can then be admitted to the United States as a permanent resident. Immigrants who are already in the United States and would like to become permanent residents without having to travel abroad can apply for Adjustment of Status instead.
The Immigrant Petition
Consular Processing can be pursued in both family based and employment based cases as well as some special and humanitarian categories. Typically, your family member or employer will first need to file an immigrant petition on your behalf; an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative or an I-140, Petition for Alien Worker are the most common types of immigrant petitions. Once your immigrant petition is filed, you will then need to wait for a decision from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the petition is approved, it will be forwarded to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will notify you once there is an immigrant visa number available for you.
Importance of the Visa Bulletin
Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens with an approved immigrant petition are exempt from the number limitations placed on immigrant visas. This means that if you are a spouse of a U.S. citizen, an unmarried child (under 21 years old) of a U.S. citizen, or a parent of a U.S. citizen 21 years or older you do not have to wait for a visa number to be available to you and your application will be processed by the NVC as soon as they receive it.
Those who do not fall into the category of immediate relative, such as children of U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents over the age of 21 or siblings of U.S. citizens, will need to pay special attention to the Visa Bulletin and check your priority date each month. Your priority date can be found on the approval notice for your immigrant petition. Once the Visa Bulletin chart shows a date that is on or before your priority date or shows a letter “C” for current, you can proceed with Consular Processing. Wait times for availability of visas vary greatly depending on your category and your country of origin. These wait times are estimates and can change at any time by either moving forward or backward each month. It is imperative that you check the Visa Bulletin every month and proceed with your application as soon as your priority date is current.
There are many factors that can affect your priority date and your classification under the Visa Bulletin. It is very important that you consult with a qualified immigration attorney if you believe your preference category may change. For example, if your U.S. citizen parent petitions for you as an unmarried son or daughter but you later get married this can cause a delay in your application and may even cause you to have to start the process over again.
Once you have an immigrant visa number available to you, the NVC will collect additional documentation from you and schedule you for an in person interview at the nearest consulate. The beneficiary is the only one allowed into the interview, therefore, it is not necessary for the petitioner to travel abroad for the interview. The consular officer will go over your application with you and ask you a series of questions. In most cases, the officer will also review your medical examination and background check which will be completed prior to your interview.
After the interview, the consular officer will issue a decision in your case. If you are granted an immigrant visa you will receive a Visa Packet containing everything you need to then travel to the United States as a permanent resident. The consular officer will instruct you not to open your Visa Packet. You will present your Visa Packet to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at your port of entry in the U.S. Your foreign passport will be stamped showing that you were admitted as a permanent resident.
Receiving Your Green Card
Approximately 45 days after your arrival in the United States you will receive your permanent resident Green Card in the mail. While you are awaiting the arrival of your Green Card you can use your foreign passport along with the stamp you received from CBP as proof that you are a permanent resident of the United States.
Obtaining permanent residence in the United States through Consular Processing is a tedious process that can easily be delayed if there are any errors or omissions in your petitions or applications. Barbara Griffin of Williams, Kratcoski & Can is highly skilled in the area of Consular Processing and can assist you in minimizing delays to help bring your loved one or employee to the United States. Contact us today for a consultation. Consultations can be done in both English and Spanish. Se habla español.