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What is Consular Processing?

This is the last stage in the process of applying for permanent residence. If permanent residence is applied for while inside the United States, it is known as applying for adjustment of status. However, if applied for outside the United States or if the eligibility requirements for adjustment of status are not, it is known as applying for an immigrant visa and is done so at a consulate (or embassy) abroad, hence consular processing. The result of either will be the same; that is issuance of an immigrant visa and upon return to the United States admission as a lawful permanent resident or Green Card holder.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status.

  1. Adjustment of status is the process by which an eligible individual already in the United States can get permanent resident status (a green card) without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.
  2. Consular processing is an alternate process for an individual outside the United States (or who is in the United States but is ineligible to adjust status) to obtain a visa abroad and enter the United States as a permanent resident). This pathway is referred to as ‘Consular Processing’.

Can I request consular processing at same time as filing an I-140 petition?

Yes. Typically, the decision whether to have the adjustment of status completed domestically or through consular processing abroad is made at the time of filing the Form I-140. For a number of legal or tactical reasons, that decision should be discussed with an attorney to enable an informed decision by the client and/or immigrant.

When filing the I-140, there is a specific part of the I-140 form which notifies USCIS whether this visa filing will utilize domestic adjustment of status or otherwise require consular processing. If choosing the latter option, the Alien will be able to specify the consulate abroad they wish to visit for their visa interview. The selection here does not have any bearing upon the processing time required to approve the I-140. I-140s requesting domestic or consular processing are reviewed in the exact same manner and are not adjudicated differently based on that distinction.

If an I-140 is filed for “domestic” processing and later the Alien wishes to utilize consular processing for issuance of the immigrant visa, a Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition should be filed so that the consulate abroad can be notified to processing the case.

When can do I interview at the consulate?

Generally speaking, the I-140 will be filed with a request for consular processing. Once approved, USCIS sends a notification of the I-140 approval to the Department of State and/or the consulate aboard identified within the filed I-140. This may take USCIS a number of months.

After Department of State abroad receives this notification from USCIS, they will conduct a preliminary review of the Form I-140, particularly with a view as to whether the Alien’s priority date is current. If the individual’s priority date is current, Department of State will provide notification and instructions to file a DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application. The DS-260 is essentially the consulate’s version USCIS’ I-485 for domestic adjustment of status.

Department of State will then review the DS-260 for sufficiency, provide a date to visit the consulate for the visa interview, and if satisfied with the immigrant will provide the immigrant visa for the immigrant’s entry into the United States as a lawful permanent resident, or Green Card holder. If any family members are or will be included in the request for an immigrant visa, they will also file DS-260s and interview with the consulate typically at the same time as the principal applicant.

If you are in need of a US work visa or permanent residency, speak with one of our immigration lawyers. Please contact us online, call our Houston business immigration attorney office directly at 713-953-7787, or schedule a consultation.