Individuals who are not eligible for adjustment of status or who are present in the U.S. are still eligible to apply for permanent residency through the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his or her country of residence. The applicant in this context will not receive a resident card to enter the U.S.; rather, he or she is applying for an “immigrant visa,” similar to a temporary nonimmigrant visa, but intended to allow the applicant to enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident with the intent to remain in the U.S. Once the applicant presents his or her passport with the immigrant visa to U.S. border protection officers, the applicant is admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident. In the past, the applicant did not have to complete any additional steps before the resident card was sent to his or her address, but in recent years USCIS has required the payment of a small filing fee in order to pay for costs of card production. But otherwise, no additional forms or paperwork must be submitted.
But consular processing is not as straightforward a process as adjustment of status. Consular processing does not begin until the sponsorship petition is filed with USCIS and approved whereas adjustment of status allows for concurrent filing. As immigrant visas are processed by embassies and consulates, they are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of State, which is a related government organization to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Hence, once the petition is approved by USCIS it must be transferred to DOS for processing. All consular processing is handled first by a centralized location called the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This division has an advanced computerized system for monitoring all the cases for immigrant visas across the globe and transferring complete files to the embassies and consulates for adjudication. The NVC will hold the petition until the visa is available and then contact the applicant to begin processing. The documentation submitted is comparable to an adjustment of status application; however, the process is more time-consuming as it is spread out across several different steps. Instead of a local USCIS office, the applicant’s application is adjudicated by a consular office at the consulate or embassy in the applicant’s country of residence.
While the requirements for consular processing are less strict than adjusting status, the same grounds of inadmissibility apply, and consular officers are notorious for enforcing them.
Our office has years of experience filing immigrant visa applications with the NVC and preparing applicants for interviews at U.S. embassies and consulates across the globe.