There are two different processes for obtaining an immigrant visa: consular processing and adjustment of status (AOS). Those aliens who seek an immigrant visa and live outside of the United States must undergo consular processing. However, those who are living in the United States on a different type of nonimmigrant visa may choose to adjust their status without leaving the United States or seek their immigrant visa from a U.S. consulate abroad through consular processing. The following is a brief discussion about the major differences between the two processes that might affect an alien’s choice between the two.

Consular Processing:

  1. The time frame for consular processing is quicker than adjustment of status. From the date immigrant visa numbers become available, an average of 6 to 12 months processing time is expected;
  2. Consular processing must process in the National Visa Center and the U.S. Consular Office in the foreign country of residence or country of birth;
  3. An alien who chooses to apply for consular processing does not have access to benefits such as a work permit or advanced parole while their visa application is processing.
  4. An interview, police report, and a medical exam at a consulate abroad are required for every alien seeking an immigrant visa through consular processing.

Adjustment of status (AOS):

Adjustment of status may be slow. For AOS based on an employment-based immigration petition, an average of 1 to 2 years processing time is expected. For AOS petitions based on a family-based immigration petition, at least a year’s processing time may be expected.

  1. If an alien applies for AOS, he or she must reside in the United States at the time of filing the I-485 (Adjustment of Status) application.
  2. An alien who chooses to apply for AOS may take advantage of benefits such as a work permit and advance parole while their application is processing. (For more information about advance parole, please click here); and
  3. An alien who chooses to apply for AOS needs to have fingerprints taken at a USCIS office and needs a health exam by a certified doctor in the U.S.

For more information on consular processing, please visit the USCIS web page.