Unlike a non-immigrant tourist visa, student visa, or specialty worker visa, which allows someone to stay in the US for a limited amount of time, an immigrant visa will enable you to live in the US indefinitely and to look for work. The US gets millions of applications for immigrant visas yearly. There are various reasons for these applications.
This can be family reasons, employment reasons, or other purposes. The focus is to get a green card. If you are a citizen of a foreign country who wants to get a US green card, you will usually need to apply for an immigrant visa at the US consulate or embassy closest to you.
One of the ways to obtain an immigrant visa is known as consular processing. This process will result in a green card allowing you to live and work in the US. You can only use consular processing if you plan to move to the US but currently reside in a different country.
If you already live in the US and are applying for a green card, you cannot use consular processing. During consular processing for an applicant for an immigrant visa, the interview will take place at a US embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over the applicant.
The process can be challenging and confusing. However, an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights can take you through the entire process with stress. Here are some valuable tips you should know to give you an idea of the process.
What Are Immigrant Visas?
Immigrant visas are a way to stay in the US for good. You can get one either through family or work sponsorship. If you apply for an immigrant visa, you must meet the basic requirements to stay and work here for the rest of your life. This can happen if you have a family relationship with an American citizen or a legal permanent resident, like a spouse or kid.
Or, you can get an immigrant visa through employment sponsorship, which usually requires you to have a job offer that lasts for a certain amount of time. There are some immigrant visas that you can apply for, and you don’t need any employer sponsorship. An immigration attorney in Jackson Heights can give you more info about this option.
If you want to change from a non-immigrant visa to an immigrant visa, you must speak with an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights to help you move forward.
What Is Consular Processing?
If you are planning to move to the US and want to apply for an immigrant visa, you must go to a US consulate in your home country to complete your application. Consular processing is a process that the US government uses to help you get an immigrant visa from your home country. It is one of two ways to get a green card in the US.
The other way is to adjust your status for an immigrant already in the US on a nonimmigrant visa. If you are not in the US, you can still get an immigrant visa (green card) through consular processing. Contact an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights to know if consular processing suits you.
Who Should Use Consular Processing?
Most immigrants who want green cards can only apply for immigrant visas through consular processing. This is especially true for those trying to enter the US. Most people don’t have the option to come to the US to apply for green cards.
However, some immigrants already living in the US, especially those with a valid visa or who are in line to become a US citizen, can use an alternative process called “adjustment of status.” They can submit their documents and meet with a USCIS official to apply for their green card without going to an American consulate.
However, many immigrants who have already lived in the US can’t take advantage of this process. Especially if their visa isn’t valid or they entered the US illegally. This puts them at risk, as they have to go back home to apply for an immigrant visa through consular processing.
If you are in the US illegally, consult an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights to guide you on what to do. If you are an immigrant living illegally in the US for more than 180 days, your consular processing may not result in a green card. Instead, it could result in a bar on your return.
When you leave the US, you are subject to the penalties for your illegal stay, even if you don’t have a green card. The law says the US consulate must bar you from returning for 3 years if your illegal stay was between 180 days to 1 year or 10 years if more than 1 year.
If that is your case, you should see an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights. You can apply for a waiver from USCIS, but it takes work to get approval.
The Consular Process
1. Spot the immigrant visa that you need.
Before you can start consular processing, you should figure out which category of immigrant you belong to. Most immigrants get green cards through a petition they file on their own behalf, from a relative, or an employer.
If you want to get an immigrant visa, you must be sure you are eligible. USCIS will approve your initial immigrant petition if it is from an eligible family member or employer. They are called the petitioner or sponsor.
2. The petition phase.
The next thing you must do is file an immigrant petition. Someone is expected to do this on your behalf, whether your employer or a family member (a US citizen or a green card holder). You won’t need to file this form as the beneficiary.
There are two primary forms your sponsor may complete. Form I-130 is for family-based petitions, and Form I-140 is for employment-based petitions.
3. The decision on the petition.
Once your petition is accepted, you can move on to the Consular Processing stage, which is the next step in the process. This stage takes place in your home country. If the USCIS rejects your petition, you will get a notification that explains why and if you can appeal.
If USCIS approves your visa application, it will be sent to the US Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will let you know when they get the approved visa petition.
4. The NVC phase.
The NVC will only do something about your petition if you have a visa number. Immigrant visas are automatically available for specific categories of visas. For instance, you can get an immigrant visa automatically if your wife is an American citizen. But if she is just a green card holder, you must wait longer.
US immigration law determines how many immigrant visas non-citizens can get yearly. You must wait until you get a visa number. The Department of State puts out a monthly visa bulletin that tells you when you will get a visa number based on when you submitted your petition.
You can check it out online or consult an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights. The NVC will also let you know when you can expect a visa number when you will need to submit documents, and what processing fees you must pay. At this stage, you must complete a DS-260 form and support your application with the correct document.
You will also need an affidavit of support. Once you have completed the DS-260 form, you must print out the receipt page and be ready to show it at your interview at the US Embassy. NVC will then review your application and everything you have submitted to support your application.
5. The interview phase.
Once you get a visa number, your consular officer will schedule your interview and let you know the date, location, and time. Before your interview, you must go for a medical checkup with a doctor approved by the USCIS. You can ask an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights to help you with a list of approved doctors and more info.
You must bring your appointment letter to the doctor’s office. The doctor must complete a form I-693 (i.e., a report of medical examination and vaccine record). You must bring it to your interview. You should bring everything related to your application with you to the interview.
This includes a copy of the application packet, your passport, and any other travel documents you might have if you travel between the interview and your application. You must also provide copies of any supporting documents you have submitted, medical exams, and government ID’s.
The officer will also ask questions to double-check the information you gave on the forms. They will also check if your application is legit, like if you are married and not just looking for an immigration benefit. It is essential, to be honest throughout the whole process.
Hiring an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights will prepare you better for the interview.
6. Visa Approval or Denial.
Once you have been interviewed and your application is approved, you will get a visa packet from the consular officer. You can only open it once you get to the US. To process your packet and get your green card, you must pay the US Citizenship and Immigration Services immigrant fee. It is a good idea to pay it after you get your visa but before you arrive in the US.
You can pay it after you arrive, but if you do it, your green card will be issued once you pay the fee. Only some applications, like kids from orphan programs, can get a fee waiver. Once you arrive, you will give the visa packet to the CBP officer at the US port of entry.
They will open it and check you to be sure you can enter the US as a legal resident. Once you are admitted, you should have your green card soon.
Get Legal Help!
If you are a foreigner outside the US looking to move to the US for good, you must go through consular processing. But this process can be a real hassle. That is why it is so important to get an immigration attorney in Jackson Heights to help you.
At Gehi and Associates, we have a team of immigration attorneys who can handle any immigrant visa application. We have had a lot of success with our clients. Trust us to take care of your immigration needs, and be sure it will be a smooth experience. Contact us today to learn more!
1. What is the duration of consular processing?
The time it takes to process an immigrant visa depends on two main things. First, how long does it take USCIS to process your first petition? Secondly, is your sponsor a citizen or a green card holder? If your sponsor or petitioner is an American citizen, the process can take 6 to 14 months.
This is because you will automatically get a visa number. But if your petitioner has only a green card, it could take longer. You must wait until you get a visa number or your application’s priority date changes.
2. Can my US citizen spouse follow me to my interview?
Yes. It is usually a good idea to do it if you can.
3. When does consular processing begin?
The process actually only starts after your immigration petition is approved. You must also get a visa number from the US government first.