Consular processing is a method for foreign nationals to obtain certain U.S. visas or lawful permanent resident status (a green card) from outside the United States. It is typically used when an individual is living abroad and wishes to immigrate to the United States or obtain a non-immigrant visa, such as a tourist visa or a work visa.
Here’s how consular processing generally works:
- Visa Petition: The first step in consular processing is typically for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member, employer, or prospective employer to file a petition on behalf of the foreign national with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition establishes the basis for the individual’s eligibility to immigrate or obtain a specific type of visa.
- USCIS Approval: Once the petition is approved by USCIS, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC), which acts as an intermediary between USCIS and the U.S. embassy or consulate in the foreign national’s home country.
- Visa Application: The foreign national must then apply for the appropriate visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. They will be required to complete the necessary application forms, provide supporting documentation, attend an interview, and undergo a medical examination.
- Visa Issuance: If the consular officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate approves the visa application, the foreign national will receive a visa stamped in their passport, allowing them to travel to the United States.
- Entry to the U.S.: Upon arrival in the United States, the foreign national will be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at a port of entry. If all is in order, they will be admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident or with the appropriate non-immigrant status.
How to apply for a family-based immigrant visa?
Applying for a family-based immigrant visa in the United States typically involves a multi-step process. This process allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to sponsor certain family members for lawful permanent residency (green card) in the United States. Here are the general steps to apply for a family-based immigrant visa:
- Determine Eligibility:
- You must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR/green card holder) to sponsor a family member.
- The family member you wish to sponsor must fall into one of the eligible categories, such as immediate relatives or family preference categories.
- File the Petition:
- As the sponsoring family member, you will need to file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes your relationship with the intending immigrant.
- You will need to submit supporting documentation, such as proof of your U.S. citizenship or LPR status and evidence of the qualifying family relationship.
- USCIS Processing:
- USCIS will review the petition and supporting documents. If they approve the petition, they will forward it to the National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. Beneficiaries will need to submit Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.
- Wait for Visa Number (Family Preference Categories Only):
- If the family member you are sponsoring falls into a family preference category (as opposed to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens), they may need to wait for an available visa number to become current based on the visa bulletin published by the U.S. Department of State. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens do not face visa number limitations and can proceed to the next steps immediately.
- Affidavit of Support:
- You, as the sponsor, will need to file an Affidavit of Support (typically Form I-864 or Form I-864EZ) to demonstrate that you can financially support the intending immigrant at 125% or more of the federal poverty guidelines. Check out the Form I-864 checklist of required documents.
- Visa Application:
- The intending immigrant will need to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. They will complete the necessary visa application forms, pay the required fees, and attend a visa interview.
- Medical Examination and Background Checks:
- The intending immigrant will undergo a medical examination and background checks as part of the visa application process.
- Visa Interview:
- The U.S. embassy or consulate will schedule a visa interview for the intending immigrant. During the interview, they will determine if the immigrant qualifies for the family-based immigrant visa.
- Visa Issuance:
- If the visa is approved, it will be stamped in the immigrant’s passport, and they can travel to the United States.
- Entry to the U.S.:
- Upon arrival in the United States, the immigrant will be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at a port of entry and admitted as a lawful permanent resident.