You can apply for permanent US residency (a green card) either when you are in the United States or in your home country. If you apply while outside the United States, the application will be handled primarily by the US embassy or consulate closest to you. This is called consular processing. With consular processing you stay in your home country until your green card process is completed and approved.
If you are within the United States, rather than consular processing, you apply for Adjustment of Status (AOS). Though green card eligibility remains the same with both processes, the processes themselves are not the same. Each process has its own schedules, documents, timeframes, forms and costs. The good news for those outside the country is that consular processing tends to be faster than AOS.
Phase 1: Before Consular Processing
Consular processing is actually the second part of the immigration process. The first thing that must happen is that your sponsor, such as a spouse with US citizenship or a US employer who wants you to come to the US to work, will file the appropriate petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A family member may file an I-30 Petition for Alien Relative and an employer may file a I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. You then need to wait in your home country for the USCIS to approve your petition. This can take months.
After USCIS approves your petition and a visa is available, USCIS forwards your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). They will contact you regarding fees and additional documentation you must submit. Then the NVC will forward your case to the US embassy or consulate closest to where you live. This is when consular processing begins.
Phase 2: Consular Processing
The embassy or consulate to which your case has been forwarded will contact you to set up an interview once you they deem that you have submitted all the required documents, evidence and fees. You will need to fill out more documentation and have a medical exam by a doctor approved by the USCIS before the interview.
At the interview, expect questions about your application and your background. The consular agent may ask about your criminal record, your finances and your medical record for example. They will be looking for anything that might make you inadmissible. If the basis of your application is marriage to an American citizen, expect the questions to get personal as the consular agent tries to determine whether the only purpose for your marriage is to get a green card.
The consular agent may approve you right after the interview, or you may have to wait for a determination. Once you get your immigrant visa, you will have a set period of time when you can use it to enter the United States.
Call Ghazi Law Group for a Free Consultation
Just because you are out of the country does not mean you cannot seek legal counsel from an experienced United States immigration attorney. If you are planning to apply for a green card through the consular process, or if you are a sponsor, call Ghazi law group for a free initial consultation. Consultations may be by phone, Zoom or in person. We have immigration clients around the world. Getting good legal representation is often the difference between being approved or denied a visa during the consular process.
Contact Ghazi Law at +1 (818) 839-6644 or email us at email@example.com. We are located in Sherman Oaks, California, close to Encino, Woodland Hills, Studio City and other areas of Los Angeles County.