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Consular Processing

by Hamid R. Kashani, Attorney at Law
Nov 07, 2018 (last modified Sep 30, 2019)

After a classification petition is approved to classify you in a particular immigrant visa category, you need to obtain the actual visa. If you are in the United States and qualify to file an Application for Adjustment of Status (AOS), you may do so and obtain your permanent resident status (green card) while here. Otherwise, you must go through consular processing overseas.

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How would the USCIS know that I need consular processing?

When you, or your prospective employer, file a classification petition (e.g. I-140, or I-360), you may specify which U.S. consulate you wish to handle the immigration file once the petition is approved by the USCIS.

How should I select the U.S. consulate for processing my immigrant visa?

Ordinarily, the U.S. consulate in your home country, nearest to where you live, would be the preferred consulate post for processing your immigrant visa application.  It is important that you check the web site of various consulates, to ensure that your desired consular post processes the kind of visa you are seeking.

If there is no U.S. embassy in your home country, then you must specify a consulate in a nearby country where they would process the kind of immigrant visa sought for the citizens of your home country.

Always check the web site of your desired consulate, to ensure that they would process the desired immigrant visa for citizens of your home country. In addition, check whether that consular post has any residency requirements in their geographic jurisdiction before accepting your file. Failure to do so will complicate and delay your case.

What happens after USCIS approves my petition?

If consular processing has been specified on your classification petition, the USCIS will send your file to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC), if and when the USCIS approves the petition. The NVC will advise you and the petitioner (if different), when it first receives your file.

Your file will remain at the National Visa Center until an immigrant visa is available for people in your immigrant visa category.

How to check visa availability

When a visa is about to become available to you, the National Visa Center will contact you and the petitioner (if different) to collect the visa application fees and supporting documents. It is very important to submit the fee and documents on a timely basis. Thereafter, the National Visa Center will transmit your file to the U.S. consulate where your visa will be processed.

Once a visa actually becomes available, the U.S. consulate will schedule you for an interview appointment.  It is very important to show up for the appointment on time. If the appointment date is not convenient, you may email the consulate for another date. If you do so, provide them with a range of dates which would be convenient to you.

If a visa is immediately available for the visa category you are seeking, there would be no wait time at the National Visa Center and the visa processing will start after the NVC receives your file from the USCIS.

Notifying National Visa Center of Change of Address and Circumstances?

If your address changes, you should advise the NVC. Also, advise the NVC if there is a change in your marital status or your children reach the age of 21. For the NVC's contact information, see NVC Contact Information.

What happens after my visa is granted?

If the U.S. consulate approves your visa application, you will receive a sealed “Visa Packet.”  When you arrive in the United States, give the Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer who interviews you. If the officer admits you to the United States as a permanent residence, the officer will denote the decision in your passport and you will be free to live and work in the United States permanently.

When do I receive my green card?

You will receive your green card in the mail in about 45 days after being admitted into the United States as a permanent resident. If you do not receive the card by then, make an appointment with your local immigration office through the USCIS' Infopass Web Site.  You may also call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Related Topics:

Priority Date & Visa Availability

Derivative Beneficiaries

Adjustment of Status


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