Consular Processing

Employment-Based Immigration

Family-Based Immigration

Summary

If you’re planning to acquire an immigrant visa soon, you should fully understand what consular processing is and its requirements. Being equipped with this information can help ensure smooth and easy processing of your immigrant visa. 

The process of applying for a US immigrant visa is often time-consuming and stressful, which is why it’s best to know the entire procedure and its requirements ahead of time. In a worst case scenario, not following the process or adhering to its requirements can lead to penalties and the rejection or denial of your visa application.

It’s important to complete this process correctly because having a US immigrant visa will make it easier to work legally in the US and eventually become a US citizen. Once you become a US citizen, you’ll have a lesser risk of deportation and have easier access in and out of the US.

If you’re planning to acquire an immigrant visa soon, you should fully understand what consular processing is and its requirements. Being equipped with this information can help ensure smooth and easy processing of your immigrant visa.

What Is Consular Processing?

Consular processing involves a person who intends to immigrate to the United States and visits a US embassy or consulate in their home country to complete the application and submit the requirements necessary to acquire a green card.

Generally, consular processing is considered “part two” of a person’s green card application process. The first part of this process involves the prospective immigrant being petitioned by a family member or employer, or perhaps their selection in the diversity visa lottery. This process will require the immigrant to register at least one year before the lottery and regularly check their confirmation number on the Department of State’s E-DV website to see if they’ve been selected. The first part can also be completed by an employer acquiring an approved I-140 petition and labor certification on behalf of the immigrant or an immigrant’s relative getting an I-130 petition approved by US Citizenship and Immigrant Services.

You can enter the US legally and eventually apply for permanent resident status once you have successfully gone through the consular processing interview and are given an immigrant visa.

How Does Consular Processing Work?

After completing the first part of your green card application, you’ll have to go through consular processing. Generally, consular processing has two different stages: the forms and paperwork and the in-person interview.

When you process your immigrant visa application from a US embassy or consulate in your home country, expect that you’ll have to submit several forms and documents directly to the embassy or the National Visa Center. Although submitting paperwork is the first step, you must know which documents to submit and what information to include in these documents because submitting incorrect or incomplete paperwork can cause delays. In some cases, your inability to submit the correct documentation the first time can become the reason why your application will be denied.

Once the paperwork process is complete, your in-person interview at the local embassy or consulate is the key to your success in applying for an immigrant visa. The answers you provide during your interview can help the consular office determine whether you should be issued an immigrant visa.

During the in-person interview, the consular officer will ask various questions covering your biographic information, residence and education, and employment status. The consular officer might also ask about your cultural background, prior marital status (if applicable), family, common interests, and reason for traveling to the US.

What Are the Steps in Consular Processing?

Now that you understand two of the most important stages of consular processing, it’s time to know more about the steps in detail. Once you understand these steps, it’ll be easier for you to manage your expectations, prevent delays, avoid stress, and expedite your entry to the US.

Here are the basic steps of applying for a US immigrant visa through consular processing:

  1. File an Immigrant Visa Petition
  2. Wait For a Decision on Your Petition
  3. Wait For Notification From the National Visa Center
  4. Reach Out to the National Visa Center for Any Changes (address, reached 21 years of age, changed your marital status)
  5. Appear for Your Interview
  6. Receive a “Visa Packet” After Being Granted a Visa

When Does Consular Processing Apply?

Immigrants living abroad will have no other choice but to undergo consular processing as their means of obtaining a green card. Some immigrants are given the opportunity to enter the US and then complete their application there in a process called adjustment of status. If you’re already in the US and have started to work on your green card application, your interview might take place inside the US with the USCIS.

Completing your interview in the US isn’t a “shortcut” but rather another option to go about the immigration process. This simplifies the process and is very advantageous if you’re already living in the US because you won’t have to experience distractions or disruptions. However, keep in mind that only select people are eligible for adjustment of status.

How Can I Ace the In-Person Interview?

The in-person interview is one of the most critical steps in acquiring an immigrant visa because this serves as an opportunity for the US government to verify the validity of the information on your documents and check your criminal, financial, and medical records.

The information that the US government can get from you during the interview can significantly affect their decision to grant you a visa.

Interviews are nerve-wracking, but there are many ways to ace them. Listed below are tips for a successful visa interview:

1. Speak For Yourself

When applying for a US visa, the consular officer will only interview you, not any of your family members. This remains true regardless of the category you qualify for when applying for a visa.

Not being prepared to speak for yourself and bringing along your entire family for your interview can create a negative impression and affect your chances of getting a visa.

2. Be Concise

The consular officers in your home country will view many applications in a day, so it’s best to keep your answers concise. Beating around the bush during the interview will prevent the consular officers from knowing you better and can be enough for them to deny or reject your visa application.

If you want to succeed in your interview with the consular officers, keep your answers short yet informative. The answers you provide to them during the first minute of the interview are vital because they’ll use those to make a decision.

3. Maintain Eye Contact

Regardless of how nervous you are during the interview, strive to maintain eye contact with the consular officers as this shows that you’re honest with your answers. If the interview is conducted by more than one officer, speak to each of them by looking into their eyes.

4. Answer the Questions Honestly

Intentionally lying or providing information that is false may lead to your application being denied. And worse, it might also bar you from ever being granted permanent resident status in the US.

What Is the Consular Processing Timeline?

Aside from knowing what steps are involved in consular processing, you should also know its timeline. This information is important, especially if you want to enter the US as soon as possible.

The duration of consular processing varies in each case, but you can expect to complete the process within four to six months. This timeline starts once your petition is approved and you have a visa number.

What Are the Consular Processing Fees?

Consular processing will require you to pay a certain amount of money, which is why it’s important to know the costs involved in the process. This will enable you to budget accordingly and ensure that you don’t run out of funds once you’ve started.

Consular processing fees differ based on the type of green card you want to acquire. For marriage and family-based green cards, you’ll have to pay a $535 filing fee for Form I-130 and $345 for your application processing fee. In total, you’ll have to pay $860.

Employment-based green cards are more expensive and will require you to pay about $1,045.

Aside from the type of green card you want to apply for, consular processing will also require you to pay for medical examinations and police certificates from your home country. The costs of these requirements will vary, so make sure to inquire ahead of time from your local authorities.

What If My Application Gets Rejected?

The consular officers who will handle your visa application are expected to follow strict guidelines and only have little leeway when using their judgment in rejecting or accepting visa applications. Consular offices can’t simply refuse to issue a visa based on their discretion or opinion; they need to have factual and specific evidence for denying any visa applications.

There are many reasons why consular officers might deny your visa application. Your visa application can get rejected if you don’t qualify for the visa category you’ve applied for, or you weren’t able to submit all the information or documents required by the consular.

If the consular officer finds that the information you’ve submitted falls within the scope of ineligibility or legal validity, your visa application can be rejected. If this happens, you will be notified about the section of the law which you’ve violated.

Consular applicants can’t appeal to any denials made by the consular officer, which means that it’ll be very challenging for you to overturn their decision.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Consular Processing?

Going through consular processing is a great way to obtain your green card and live permanently in the US. However, if you’re planning to go through the process, it’s not enough that you know its advantages; you should also be aware of its drawbacks. Knowing the pros and cons of the consular process will help set your expectations, making it easier for you to prepare for it.

The advantages of consular processing are:

Time

Unlike waiting for a decision on an AOS application, the consular process has a quicker timeline, taking only about five to 13 months. The processing timeline of the consular process is very beneficial, especially if there is an urgent need to enter the US.

Comfort and Certainty

When you go through consular processing, you’ll know ahead of time where and when the interview will take place. Since the consular officers have been working in your home country, it’ll also be easier for them to explain the technicalities of the entire process. These are things that you can’t experience when you apply for an AOS application through the USCIS officers based in the US.

Cheaper

An AOS application will cost about $1,140 for adult petitioners. On the other hand, consular processing is cheaper because its application fees only cost around $345, depending on the petition that you’re applying for.

The disadvantages of the consular process are:

Non-Reviewability

As mentioned, the decisions made by the consular officers about your visa application can’t be challenged. This means that once consular officers decide to reject or deny your visa application, you can no longer make an appeal.

When this happens, you won’t have any other choice but to go back to square one and apply for a visa application from scratch.

Country Condition

Depending on your home country, you might have to follow other regulations or pay additional fees to start or complete your visa application. When unprepared, this can cause delay and a lot of stress.

What Happens When I Stayed Unlawfully in the US but Now Want To Leave?

Staying in the US unlawfully can pose serious problems when you attempt to undergo consular processing. In fact, merely attempting to go through this process can bar you from returning to the US for three to ten years. This is the exact opposite of your initial goal, which is to be issued a green card and acquire permanent residency in the US.

If you have unlawfully stayed in the US for at least 180 days, it’s best if you work with a reputable attorney. They can help iron out the details of your situation to prevent severe consequences once you submit any paperwork or forms to the consulate.

Get Professional Help

Work with an immigration law firm with years of experience in helping immigrants lawfully enter the US. We can help and make the consular process easier and stress free. Reach out to us — we’d be happy to help.

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