Consular processing (CP) is equivalent to I-485/Adjustment of Status process except the difference is that I-485 can be filed only if the applicant is physically present in USA. Consular processing is an interview process which an applicant can take at a U.S consulate overseas. In order to apply for the consular processing, the applicant's I-140 must be approved and the visa number (priority date) should be current. The applicant can apply for consular processing if he/she is:
- Outside the United States; or
- Lives in the United States but prefer processing at a US consulate abroad for convenience.
Steps Involved in Consular Processing
The following steps are involved in Consular Processing:
The applicant can indicate that he/she will opt for consular processing at the time of filing the I-40 petition (If the applicant specified that he/she will apply for Adjustment of Status at the time of filing the I-40 and decide to go for consular processing instead, he/she must file Form I-824 with the USCIS. This is to request consular processing and there is a filing fee of $195 payable by check or money order).
The USCIS will forward the information about I-40 approval to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will send an Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants (Packet 3) to the applicant when his/her visa number becomes available. The applicant and his/her family complete the forms in the package and return it to NVC; NVC will process the forms; NVC will then inform the State Department Visa Office once the processing is completed and request them to allot a visa number to the applicant and his/her family; the NVC will schedule an Immigrant Visa processing appointment for interview that the applicant and his/her family must attend. This will be at the US Consulate that issues the Immigrant Visa. If there is no problem, the applicant and his/her family will be issued Immigrant Visas.
Documents Required for Consular Processing
The following documents may be required for consular processing:
- Approved I-40 petition.
- The receipt notice for Form I-824 (only if indicating to apply for consular processing at first) or the approved notice for Form I-824 (only if later requesting consular processing).
- Evidence that last residence was in the host country of the post.
- Form DS-230: Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Part I (Biographic Information) and Part II (Sworn Statement).
- Birth Certificates: One certified copy for each person named in the application.
- Police Clearance Certificate: Each applicant named in the application must have a certificate from the appropriate police authority stating whatever their records show about that applicant. This certificate must cover the entire period of the applicant?s stay in any area.
- Court and Prison Records (if applicable).
- Updated job offer letter from applicant's employer.
- Medical Report: All applicants must pass a medical examination from one of the approved panel physicians.
- Passport: All applicants' passports must be valid for at least six months beyond the visa issue date. Minor children should have their own passports.
- Proof of Relationship with spouse and children: This may include marriage certificate (along with proof of termination of previous marriage, if applicable), birth certificates etc.
- Photographs: Visa photographs must meet the new requirements.
How much time does it take?
From the date the immigrant visa is available, an average of 5 to 13 months processing time is expected - of course, this may vary depending on the number of pending cases at that particular time.
Differences Between Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status?
- The time frame for Consular Processing is quicker than Adjustment of Status.
- Consular Processing must be done in the (foreign) country of residence or country of birth (If applying for Adjustment of Status, the applicant must reside in the United States).
- An alien who applies for Consular Processing, does not have the benefits of a work permit and advance parole.
- If applying for Consular Processing, the applicant must appear for the interview and medical exam at the consulate of the country of last residence or country of birth. If applying for Adjustment of Status the applicant will have to get fingerprints and a physical exam taken in the US.
The Interview Process
All applicants for Consular Processing are expected to attend the interview. The NVC or the Consular Section will send information for Immigrant Visa Applicants (Packet Four) instructing the applicant to gather the documents that will be necessary for the interview. This will be done before the scheduling of the interview. The applicant must submit documents like birth and marriage certificates, biographic data, police records and affidavit of support. A complete checklist of required documents will be provided in the packet. Immigrant visa fees are currently $335, payable by check or demand draft.
When a case arrives at the Consular Section, and the priority date is current, the applicant will be scheduled for an interview. If the applicant cannot make this appointment, or he/she knows that the documents will be incomplete, the applicant should notify the Consular Section right away to be rescheduled. Appointments are scheduled approximately 5 - 6 weeks ahead. The applicant will be notified of the scheduled appointments through the mail and should appear at the Consular Office on the morning of the interview at the scheduled appointment time, taking his/her passports, all relevant documentation as requested, and bank drafts to pay application and issuance fees for each person applying for the Visa. If no problems arise, Immigrant Visas are generally approved on the day of the application and issued later the same day.
If the application is approved, the person will be issued an Immigrant Visa, which is good for only six months. If the person does not enter the US within that period of time, the visa will expire and the opportunity to immigrate will be lost.
If the application is denied, the principle consular officer at the post reviews it. If the officer desires, he can get a second opinion from the State Department. However, if, after this point, the denial is upheld, there is no appeal available to the applicant.
Entering the USA at the Port of Entry
When entering the US, based on this Immigrant Visa the applicant will not need to fill out an I-94 card. The applicant will enter the US with his/her Immigrant Visa, passport, and any documents given to the applicant by the consulate. At the port of entry, after a basic interview, the applicant may be taken to the immigration office where an immigration officer will review the document and issue an I-551 stamp (Temporary Green Card stamp). This stamp is valid for one year. The applicant will receive an actual plastic Green Card via regular mail within few months.