Frequently Asked Question about Consular Processing
Q. What is consular processing?
A. This is the process by which the beneficiary of an immigration petition applies for an immigrant visa through the National Visa Center and a U.S. consulate overseas.
Q. When does consular processing begin?
A. This process will commence only after the underlying immigration petition is approved by the USCIS and a visa number becomes available.
Q. Who may need consular processing?
A. The following aliens may need consular processing:
- Persons who are outside the U.S.; or
- Persons who are in the U.S. but prefer processing at a U.S. consulate for strategic or convenience reasons.
Q. What is the time frame for consular processing?
A. Generally speaking, the time frame for Consular Processing is quicker than for Adjustment of Status in some states. From the date the immigrant visa becomes available, an average of 6 to 12 months processing time is expected.
Q. In which country does consular processing take place?
A. Consular processing must be processed in the alien’s country of permanent residence or home country.
Q. If an alien is in the U.S., may he apply for both consular processing and adjustment of status at the same time?
A. No. You may not apply for both consular processing and adjustment of status at the same time. You must choose only one.
Q. May an alien who chooses to apply for Consular Processing take advantage of work permits and/or advance parole while their petition is processing?
A. No. They do not have the benefits of a work permit and advance parole. For more information about advance parole please click here.
Q. If an alien is outside the U.S., may they apply for either consular processing or adjustment of status?
A. To be able to apply for adjustment of status, an alien must be in the U.S. Therefore, the alien in question would not be eligible to apply for adjustment of status if they are outside of the U.S. They may only apply for consular processing.
Q. An alien is in the U.S. and is in a valid nonimmigrant status. After their immigration petition is approved, may they apply for either consular processing or adjustment of status?
A. Yes. They may apply for either consular processing or adjustment of status, but not both.
Q. What are the steps in consular processing?
A. Briefly, the steps in consular processing are:
The USCIS forwards the approved immigrant petition (the I-797 Notice of Action) to the National Visa Center (NVC) if the alien has indicated his desire to apply for consular processing in an immigration petition. Otherwise, he has to file Form I-824 to request consular processing;
- The NVC sends Packet 3 to the alien when an immigrant visa number becomes available;
- The alien and his family complete Packet 3 and return it to the NVC;
- The NVC processes Packet 3;
- The NVC notifies the State Department Visa Office of the completed Packet 3 processing and requests allocation of visa numbers for the alien and his family; and
- The Consular Office abroad schedules an immigrant visa processing appointment to be attended by the alien and his family at the nearest U.S. consulate that issues immigrant visas.
Q. What are the benefits of applying for consular processing?
A. The primary advantage of consular processing is speed. The time frame for consular processing is between 6 to 12 months on average. Once the application is approved, the alien may obtain an immigrant visa. Upon their entry into the U.S. with that immigrant visa, they will become a permanent resident of the United States.
Q. What kinds of documents are needed for consular processing?
A. The documents needed are:
- The Original I-797 approval notice for immigration petition (I-130, I-140, etc.);
- A Copy of the immigration petition as-filed;
- The receipt notice for Form I-824 (only if they did not indicate they were applying for consular processing in the initial immigration petition) and the approved notice for Form I-824;
- Evidence that the applicant’s last residence was in the host country of the past;
- Consular Processing application forms;
- Medical exam;
- Employment information for the past 10 years;
- Birth Certificate;
- Military Records, if applicable;
- Marriage Certificates, if applicable;
- Documentation of termination of prior marriages (e.g. divorce decree or death certificate), if applicable;
- Address since the age of 16; and
- Police certificates from every country where an applicant has resided for one year since the age of 16. Police certificates must cover the entire period of an applicant’s residence in that area, must have been issued by the appropriate police authority, and must include all arrests, the reason for the arrest(s), and the disposition of each recorded case. (See additional specifications below).
Q. Under what circumstances must an applicant obtain a police certificate from a local police authority?
A. An applicant must obtain a police certificate from the appropriate local police authority if:
- The applicant has been living in his/her country of nationality at his/her current residence for more than 6 months AND the applicant is 16 years old or older.
- The applicant lived in a different part of his/her country of nationality for more than 6 months AND the applicant was 16 years old or older at that time.
- The applicant lived in a different country for more than 12 months and the applicant was 16 years old or older at that time.
- The applicant was arrested for any reason, at any age at the time of the arrest.
Q. What are the differences between consular processing and adjustment of status?
A. The time frame for consular processing is quicker than adjustment of status;
Consular processing must be processed in the foreign country of residence or country of birth; if an alien applies for adjustment of status, he must reside in the United States;
An alien who applies for consular processing cannot apply for a work permit or advance parole. Generally speaking, an alien who applies for adjustment of status may also apply for the benefits of a work permit and advance parole; and
If an alien applies for consular processing, he must do it through the consulate of the country of last residence or country of birth for an interview and medical exam; an alien who applies for adjustment of status needs to take fingerprints and a physical exam in the U.S.
Q. An alien’s National Interest Waiver petition is approved, but their H-1B is going to expire. Can they apply for either consular processing or adjustment of status?
A. Yes. They can apply for either consular processing or adjustment of status. Because applying for adjustment of status has the benefit of a work permit, choosing to apply for adjustment of status is probably the better option if they wish to stay in the U.S. while their application is pending.
Q. An alien is in Texas and in a valid status. Their family-based immigration petition is approved and a visa number is available. Can he or she apply for either consular processing or adjustment of status?
A. Yes. They may apply for either consular processing or adjustment of status. Because the time frame for an adjustment of status application based on family-based immigration petition in Texas is quite long, choosing to apply for consular processing is probably recommended for strategic reasons.