There are two ways to apply for a green card; one of which is Consular Processing. Consular Processing is the process through which a foreign national applies for a Green Card from abroad.
Alternatively, applying for a green card from within the US is done through a process called Adjustment of Status.
All family based green card Consular Processing cases begin with an I-130.
I-130, Application for an Alien Relative
The I-130 is an application that your United States citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident relative files on your behalf to establish that you have a familial relationship. In some cases, the I-130 is relatively simple; for example, a mother filing for her daughter may only have to provide a birth certificate to prove a familial link.
However, other types of familial relationships can be more complicated to prove. For example, spouses must prove not only that they are legally (civilly) married, but also that their relationship is ‘bona fide.’ Bona fide means that the marriage is legitimate, and not entered into simply to evade the immigration laws of the United States. Thus, marriage based green cards typically require a lot more documentation to prove a familial relationship than a parent/child relationship.
All I-130s are filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). After you file an I-130 you’ll receive a receipt notice with your case number, the location that your case is being processed, confirmation that you have paid the filing fee, and date of filing. After that you likely won’t hear anything from USCIS for a while.
You can check the status of your case online, and also check the processing times for your particular service center. After some months you’ll receive one of 4 responses from USCIS: (1) approval, (2) request for evidence (RFE), (3) notice of intent to deny (NOID), or (4) denial. Typically, if USCIS is going to deny an I-130 it will issue an RFE or a NOID first, so that the Applicant has time to fix any deficiencies.
After your case is approved, the case is sent to the National Visa Center, which serves as a clearing house between USCIS in the United States and the various Embassies and consulates abroad.
National Visa Center
Once the National Visa Center (NVC) receives your case from USCIS it creates a ‘consular case’ associated with the Embassy where your interview will take place.
Once your consular case is created you will file Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application. The Immigrant Visa is the visa that will be placed in your passport and permit you to enter the US as a lawful permanent resident.
Additionally, the NVC collects all your biographical documents, along with the Petitioner’s biographical documents.
At this stage you’ll also provide the Petitioner’s I-864, Affidavit of Support, along with all supporting financial documents.
Once all the documents have been provided and approved, the NVC sends the case to the relevant Embassy for interview scheduling.
Once you receive your interview notice you will schedule a medical exam, and an appointment to have your fingerprints taken. Your petitioning family member does not attend the interview with you; however, you can bring an interpreter, if you do not speak English.
After the interview one of five things may happen: (1) the officer indicates that your case has been approved, (2) the officer requests more evidence, (3) the officer sends your case for administrative processing, (4) the officer requests a waiver of a ground of inadmissibility, or (5) the officer denies your case.
If all goes well, the officer will take your passport for immigrant visa stamping, which will be returned to you via mail.
Enter the United States
Once you receive your passport with your immigrant visa stamp, you’ll have approximately 6 months to enter the US. You will become a Lawful Permanent Resident on the date that you enter the US with your immigrant visa.
Prior to entering the US you’ll want to pay the Immigrant Fee, which will trigger USCIS to manufacture your green card, upon your entry.
If you or a loved one would like to apply for a green card through consular processing, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in complex and simple consular processing cases. Please feel free to call us at 510-488-1020 to see how we can help!