Consular processing is the procedure through which foreigners outside of the U.S. may be able to immigrate to the U.S., including to Nevada, as a permanent resident (a.k.a. get a green card). Requirements for consular processing usually include
- filing a work- or family-based petition,
- paying filing fees, and
- having an interview.
Below our Las Vegas Nevada consular processing attorneys answer frequently-asked questions about obtaining legal permanent residence in the U.S. while overseas. Click on a topic to go directly to that section.
- 1. How does “consular processing” differ from “adjustment of status”?
- 2. What is the process for getting “consular processing”?
- 3. How long does “consular processing” take?
- 4. How much does consular processing cost?
1. What is the difference between “consular processing” and “adjustment of status”?
Consular processing is a method by which the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits for foreigners residing outside of the U.S. to procure permanent resident status in the U.S. When a foreigner is granted an approved immigrant petition and an immigrant visa number, he/she may apply with the U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa so that he/she may come to the U.S. as a permanent resident.1
Another way to obtain U.S. permanent residency is “adjustment of status.” But this is used when the foreigner is already in the U.S. and is permitted to apply for permanent resident status without needing to return to his/her home country in order to complete the process. In short, consular processing is for aliens outside of the U.S., and adjustment of status is for aliens inside the U.S.2
2. How does “consular processing” work?
The following are the steps for achieving consular processing and ultimately legal permanent residence in the U.S.:
- Determine the Basis to Immigrate: The foreigner must deduce if he/she falls under a specific immigrant category. In the majority of cases, the immigrant obtains eligibility for a green card through a petition filed on his/her behalf by a family member or an employer (Learn more about work-based visas and spousal visas). Other foreigners become permanent residents through first obtaining refugee status.
- File the Immigrant Petition: Once the immigrant category has been determined, an immigrant petition will have to be filed on the foreigner’s behalf with the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
- The Petition gets approved or denied: The USCIS then notifies the applicant of its decision. When the petition is rejected, the notice will include the reasons and appeal options. If the application is approved, the USCIS will forward the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). At this point, the petition will receive an “immigrant number” once one becomes available.
- The NVC processes the petition: The NVC will notify the foreigner when it obtains the visa petition and when an immigrant visa number becomes available. The NVC will also inform the individual about what fees are due.
- Show up to the Consular Interview: Once a visa is available, the consular office will schedule an interview for the foreigner applicant at his/her local U.S. embassy or consulate. The NVC will inform the foreigner what supporting documentation he/she needs to bring to the appointment.
- Inform the NVC of Any Changes: All visa applicants are expected to contact the NVC with any changes to their address, personal situation, if he/she turns 21 years old, or if there is a change in marital status. These situations may affect the applicant’s eligibility for a visa.
- Go to the U.S.: If the foreigner is granted a visa, the consular officer will give him/her a “Visa Packet” that should not be opened by the applicant. Rather, he/she will hand over his/her Visa Packet to the appropriate Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer upon arriving at a U.S. port of entry. (If the foreigner is flying to Las Vegas, the port of entry is McCarran Airport.)
- Obtain the Green Card: The applicant is typically mailed his/her green card within 45 days after his/her arrival to the U.S.
Note that non-citizens are strongly advised not to attempt consular processing or adjustment of status without an immigration attorney helping them through the complicated and confusing process. One mistake can set applicants back months or disqualify them altogether from immigrating to the U.S.3
3. What is the timeframe for “consular processing”?
It depends on the foreigner’s specific case and which country he/she is applying from. Achieving permanent resident status usually takes a few months to a year or more.
4. What are the fees for “consular processing”?
The consular processing fees vary depending on the specifics of the person’s case, and they are frequently raised every few years. Currently, the two most common consular processing fees are:
- $325 for family-based green cards, and
- $330 for employment-based green cards
The following is the full schedule of fees from the Department of State website.
Need a Nevada immigration attorney?
If you or a loved one has questions related to consular processing, contact our Las Vegas NV immigration attorneys for a consultation. We may be able to help you and your family secure green cards in Nevada.
- Green Card Processes and Procedures, USCIS.
- Adjustment of Status, USCIS.
- Consular Processing, USCIS.