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Consular Processing Path to a Green Card: A Complete Guide

A  green card (also known as an immigrant visa) allows foreign nationals to live and work permanently in the United States, a process that can take several years from start to finish. Before being eligible to receive an immigrant visa, however, most immigrants must first be sponsored by U.S. family members or employers, who must file petitions on their behalf with U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, certain types of immigrants can also apply directly at a U.S. consulate without first having filed petitions with USCIS.

What Is Consular Processing?

Consular processing is also known as immigrant visa processing or IV processing. Consular processing is when you complete your application at an overseas U.S. embassy or consulate and have an interview there instead of at USCIS headquarters in Washington, D.C., as part of Adjustment of Status (AOS). You will have to submit evidence showing that you meet certain requirements for your immigration status and eligibility for naturalization.

What are the benefits of consular processing?

If you’re applying for a green card through consular processing, you don’t have to leave your home country. You might be able to receive your green card sooner and avoid some of the long waits involved with family-based immigration or employment-based immigration applications. Consular processing can take less time than other paths toward receiving permanent residency in America, but it also has its drawbacks. Before deciding whether consular processing is right for you, keep reading.

What are the cons of consular processing?

When you submit your paperwork for consular processing, you typically won’t hear anything back from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for several months—not exactly an ideal situation if you want to move to America. Plus, it can be difficult to get an appointment at a U.S.

What are your chances with consular processing?

Consular processing is one of two paths you can take in order to obtain your green card (permanent residence). If you live outside of North America, then you’ll need to go through consular processing. The interview and appointment process takes place at a U.S. consulate or embassy.

How long does it take?

The process for getting a green card varies depending on where you live and what kind of visa you’re seeking. If you’re from Canada, or from any country with close ties to the U.S., it’s possible that getting your first work visa—the H-1B—will be quicker than if you are, say, an Indian immigrant in search of an L-1A.

Where to begin your journey with consular processing?

Once you’ve decided that you want to apply for permanent residency status (that is, get your green card), there are several options. The first step is to figure out which option is best for you, and where in that process you should begin. You have three broad choices—consular processing, adjusting status, or applying through a US relative—and several sub-choices within each category.

Step 1 – Gather Documents

Make sure you have all of your documents in order before you head over for your interview. This includes, but is not limited to, your passport, birth certificate, photo ID (driver’s license or passport), and any other supporting documents that prove your relationship with a family member. All applicants will be required to submit original versions of each document; it is also advisable that you bring photocopies for yourself just in case there are problems during processing.

Step 2 – File Petition & Pay Fees at NVC

Once your case is approved, you’ll be instructed to file your petition and pay USCIS fees. You can learn more about filing fees on or by calling 1-800-375-5283. If you choose not to file online and are unable, for any reason, travel abroad for your appointment with U.S. consular officials, you can request that NVC mail you an alternative appointment packet.

Step 3 – NVC Review and Schedule

Interview at US Embassy in PhilippinesThe NVC is an office of USCIS that is primarily responsible for scheduling and conducting interviews at US Embassies and Consulates worldwide. The NVC receives all application packages, complete with fees and supporting documents from USCIS Service Centers. Once you submit your I-130 petition, you will receive instructions from the National Visa Center on how and where to send your immigrant visa application (Form DS-260). This form helps verify information that was provided on your Petition For Alien Relative (I-130) form.

Step 4 – Getting Your Alien Number (A#)

You are not eligible for an SSN until you have your Alien Registration Number. If you have lost or misplaced your card, you can call USCIS customer service at 1-800-375-5283 and they will provide you with it over the phone.

Step 5 – Preparing for Interview at U.S.

Embassy in Manila, PhilippinesIn order to properly prepare for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, you will need to make sure that you have gathered all of your required documents and filled out your DS-160 application form in advance.

Step 6 – Attending Interview at U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines

The next step is attending an interview at one of U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Philippines (Manila, Cebu or Davao). At your interview you will present the receipt showing that you have paid your fees and supporting documents, such as proof of marriage (e.g., marriage certificate), valid passport and police clearance. If you are having employment based petition you may also need valid I-797 Approval Notice (Form I-797) in addition to above mentioned documents.

Step 7 – Medical Exam & Security Clearance

Paperwork at U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines (Second Appointment)

As of April 2013, U.S. Embassies are requiring that most applicants complete medical exams and supply fingerprint records (i.e., for their FBI criminal background checks) directly to them in Manila, Philippines before their visa interviews in Washington D.C., USA can be scheduled. The medical exam and fingerprinting at U.S. Embassy Manila is done on one day and you will have your interview with USCIS in Washington D.C., USA on another day after your paper work has been submitted to USCIS by mail. This is called consular processing and is what everyone who applies for a K-1 Fiance Visa must do now, even if they are already married or engaged.

Step 8 – Returning Home After Filing From

Manila (Optional) Section 9 – Waiting Period Ends / Adjustment of Status Interview with USCISAfter filing for Adjustment of Status, it may take six (6) months or longer for you to receive an interview appointment from USCIS in Manila. This is not something that you can speed up by contacting USCIS. It is something that only occurs when and if USCIS has received all your paperwork from your lawyer / sponsor and approves your case for an interview appointment with them.

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