An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This immigration pathway is referred to as “consular processing.”
One pursues consular processing through the Department of State abroad after USCIS approves an employment, family-based or other petition. Once the petition is approved, you should expect the following general steps to occur:
- USCIS notifies the petitioner of a decision. If the petition is approved, USCIS will send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available. Sometimes an immigrant visa number is immediately available. Sometimes, it takes years. If the petition is denied, the notice will include the reasons for denying the petition and any rights to appeal the decision.
- Notification from the National Visa Center. The National Visa Center (NVC) is responsible for the collection of visa application fees and supporting documentation and will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received from USCIS and again when an immigrant visa number becomes available. They will also notify the petitioner and beneficiary of when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees (commonly referred to as “fee bills”) and when supporting documentation must be submitted.
- Appointment In-country. Once a visa is available or a beneficiary’s priority date is current (see the monthly Visa Bulletin here),the consular office in the country where the beneficiary resides will schedule an interview. The consular office will complete processing of the applicant’s case.
- Visa issuance. If you are granted an immigrant visa at interview, the consular officer will give you a “visa packet.” You should not open this packet. Upon your arrival to the United States, you should give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. You will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, which gives you the authority to live and work in the United States permanently.
- Green Card. Your permanent resident card, or “green card” will arrive in the mail after you enter the U.S.
How long does consular processing take?
Generally speaking, after the immigrant visa becomes available consular processing can take from 6 – 12 months, depending on the country and any case complications.
Why do I need an attorney?
Because a seasoned attorney knows average processing times and files multiple consular processing cases a year, you hire an attorney for consular processing to benefit from the office’s experience.
What will Poarch Law do for me?
At Poarch Law, we assist you in managing the consular processing case from start to finish, or petition to visa processing. We will provide you with an easy-to-follow checklist to help you provide all requested documents and we will consult with you frequently to anticipate and address any problems that may arise in the course of planning or processing. Moreover, our staff will work closely with you to answer any questions you may have about consular processing and we will follow your case carefully to assure timely processing.