The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offers two pathways for getting permanent resident status (green card). An individual can apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for a visa to come to the U.S. as a permanent resident if they are the beneficiary of an approved application and have a visa number available. This pathway is called “consular processing”.
The second pathway is “adjustment of status”. For this path, an eligible person already in the U.S. can apply for permanent resident status without returning to his/her home country to finish the process.
Steps for Consular Processing
1) File the Employment-Based Immigrant Petition (I-140)
Indicate on the I-140 that you are applying for a visa abroad if you live outside the U.S. or live in the U.S. but are applying for a visa abroad. (See Form I-140, Part 4, 1.a.; Please Note – If our firm is e-filing your I-140, please tell us that you are applying for your green card through consular processing so that we can indicate this on your e-filed I-140.) This alerts the USCIS that you are applying for a green card at a U.S. Department of State consulate.
When you have dependents (spouse or children) who are also applying for a green card based on an approved I-140, indicate on the I-140 that they are also applying for a green card outside the U.S. (See Form I-140, Part 7, 1.h.; Please Note – If our firm is e-filing your I-140, please tell us that your children are applying for their green card(s) through consular processing so that we can indicate this on your e-filed I-140.) This alerts the USCIS that they are also applying for a green card(s) at a U.S. Department of State consulate.
2) Wait for a Decision on the Immigrant Petition
The applicant is notified of the decision by USCIS. If the application is approved and you are the beneficiary living either outside the U.S. or in the U.S. but choose to apply for your visa abroad, USCIS will send the approved application to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), where it will remain until a visa number becomes available.
You can check the U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin website to find out if a visa number is available.
All priority dates are current for first preference employment-based immigrant visas (i.e., EB-1A, EB-1B, and EB-1C). Therefore, visa numbers are available immediately for recipients of these applications.
For second preference employment-based immigrant visas (i.e., NIW, EB-2 PERM), priority dates are current for all recipients except those born in China or India who cannot begin consular processing until the priority date is current.
Please Note – The rule for determining which country’s quota is charged for a visa is generally that the visa is charged to the quota of the beneficiary’s country of birth. The visa is not charged to the country of citizenship/nationality unless it is also the country of birth. The exceptions to the rule are:
A child’s visa can be charged to the foreign country of either the parent that the child is currently accompanying or the parent that the child is trying to join;
A spouse can be charged to the country of an accompanying spouse;
A non-resident born in a country where neither parent resided or was born can be charged to the foreign country of either parent (parent accompaniment is not required).
For example, if the I-140 applicant was born in China or India but his/her spouse was not born in China or India, visa numbers can be available immediately based on the rule of cross-chargeability. Contact our law firm to discuss your case if you think an exception may apply.
3) Wait for National Visa Center Notification
The National Visa Center (NVC) is responsible for collecting supporting evidence and visa application fees. The NVC will notify the beneficiary and petitioner when the visa application is received and a visa number is becoming available. The National Visa Center will also notify the applicant and beneficiary when supporting evidence is to be submitted and when immigrant visa processing fees (“fee bills”) should be submitted.
The first thing you will receive from the NVC is an “Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee Bill Invoice” for each person that is doing Consular Processing (CP). The invoice will specify the processing fee (“Amount Due”) and will stipulate payment instructions. The instructions should be followed closely.
After the NVC receives the fees, they will send detailed instructions concerning documents that should be sent to NVC. Submit all the requested evidence and follow the instructions closely. Do not provide documents that were not requested by NVC.
4) Prepare for the Interview
When all the requested evidence has been received by the NVC, you will be sent notification of the scheduled interview. Once you receive the interview notification, do the following in preparation for the interview:
Review the information sent by the NVC, carefully noting the location, time, and date of your visa interview;
Get ready for the Medical Examination;
Confirm that all original required evidence will be accessible during the interview. All evidence sent to the NVC is transferred to the USCIS officer;
Get the necessary photographs; (Photograph requirements are listed on the U.S. Department of State website.)
Study the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General Specific Interview Guidelines;
Study the Important Visa Interview Notices;
Study the Immigrant Visa Interview FAQs;
Study the questions and answers submitted on all documentation.
More information on preparing for the interview is available at the U.S. Department of State website.
5) Go to the Interview Appointment
Dress professionally, conservatively, and neatly for the interview. Because of space constraints and security issues, any supporting parties such as attorneys, business contacts, friends, or relatives are not allowed to be present at the interview. The recommendation is that you do not arrive more than 15 minutes before the time of the interview, but be sure to be on time. Since you may have wait for your appointment because of the number of petitioners, you should bring puzzles, books, etc. to occupy your wait time.
If there is one case number for the principal petitioner and his/her spouse and/or children, then everyone will be called at the same time. The principal petitioner’s file will be examined first, then the spouse’s file and then the children, if applicable.
Please Note – You must provide the U.S. passports for any children that were born in the U.S.
Please answer the interview questions thoroughly and truthfully. If the answer to a question is not known, tell the officer that you do not know. Do not make up the answer. You may be permanently barred from the U.S. if any false answers are given or facts are concealed. The officer will ask you to swear an oath that all information given in the interview was the truth and that there were no fraudulent statements given during the interview. You will then be asked by the officer to sign the DS 230 Part II.
English is usually the language used in the interview. You can check with the U.S. Consulate where the interview will take place if you are not at ease speaking English and feel the need for a translator or different language for the interview.
Fingerprinting is not conducted during the interview since it is done at your port of entry into the U.S.
Please Note – There are no guarantees that the interview will result in issuance of a green card. The officer can only make a determination after your documentation and application have been examined and you have been to a personal interview. Strong advice is given that you do not dispose of property, give up your job, or make travel arrangements until the green card is issued.
6) Notify NVC of Any Changes
The National Visa Center will contact you if they need information for your petition; you should not contact them. You should, however, contact the NVC if you change addresses or there is a change in your individual circumstances. You should notify the NVC if one of your children reaches 21 years of age or if your marital status changes, since this can affect your status of being eligible for a visa.
The chosen communication method of the NVC is e-mail. The email address for the NVC is NVCINQUIRY@state.gov.
Please Note – Always use your personal email account when contacting the NVC. Copy and paste the email address given for the NVC into your personal email if the computer does not connect automatically when you click the link.
To ensure a quick response, please do the following:
Type your USCIS Receipt Number or your NVC Cast Number into the subject line of your email.
Specify the petitioner’s name and date of birth and the applicant’s name and date of birth.
When the application is employment-based, provide the employer’s organization/company name.
Specify the attorney’s name, law firm, and address (if applicable).
NVC can be contacted by phone–(603) 334-0700 (Hours: Monday-Friday from 7:00 AM to 12:00 AM (Eastern Time)). Customer Service Representatives are available to answer any case inquiries. The following information must be provided in order to receive a response on your case:
The USCIS receipt number or NVC Case Number
The petitioner’s name and date of birth and the applicant’s name and date of birth
The name of the law firm requesting the information if you are the attorney for the case.
Please note – A touch-tone telephone is required for this service.
Lastly, you may get in contact with the NVC by postal mail. Written questions should be sent to:
National Visa Center
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 200
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2915
Photographs, documents, and forms, should be sent to:
National Visa Center
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914
7) After the Green Card is Approved
The consular officer will provide you with a packet of information when you are approved for a visa. This is known as the “Visa Packet”. DO NOT open this packet.
When you arrive in the U.S., give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the entry port. Fingerprinting will be done at the entry port as well. The Customs and Border Protection officer will give you an inspection and, if admissible, will admit you as a permanent resident of the U.S., which allows you to work and live permanently in the U.S.
When the visa application is refused, you will receive a refusal sheet which will specify the reason for the refusal. It will also tell the actions to take to overcome the denial.
8) Receive Your Green Card
The green card will be mailed to you. If the green card is not received within 30 days of arrival, please call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit the local USCIS office after making an InfoPass appointment. Make this appointment by visiting the InfoPass website.