The USCIS provides a step by step guide on how to navigate consular processing, which we have outlined and expanded upon below. For more information on consular processing, please visit the USCIS web page.
Step 1: Determine Your Basis to Immigrate
Before consular processing can begin, you must determine which specific immigrant category you fit into. Most immigrants immigrate through a petition filed on their behalf by a family member, employer, or by himself/herself. Thus, most of what is discussed on this page refers to the family based and employment based green cards. However, you can also become a permanent resident through first obtaining refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions. The USCIS outlines these processes and many other topics related to green cards here.
For information on employment based immigration, please click here.
For information on family based immigration, please click here.
Step 2: File the Immigrant Petition
Once you know which immigration category best fits your situation, you may file the immigration petition or have one filed on your behalf.
Family based immigration mostly refers to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and other close family members of U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 who can immigrate to the United States if their U.S. citizen immediately family member petitions on their behalf. Other close family members are subject to a numerical limit onimmigrant visas and separated into several groups called “preferences.” Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who wish to immigrate are not subject to any sort of cap limit. Family based categories require that a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative file a Form 1-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) to the USCIS for you.
Employment based immigration petitions in most cases are filed by an employer on behalf of their employee. Sometimes,the immigration petition may be filed by an alien, as is the case in EB-1(a), NIW, and EB-5 petitions. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas yearly. These available visas are divided among five preference categories. Employment based categories most often require the intending U.S. employer to file a Form I-140 (Petition for an Alien Worker) for you.
Step 3: Wait for a Decision on Your Petition
The USCIS will consider your immigration petition and notify the petitioner (depending on the petition, this may the employer or the alien’s U.S. citizen or permanent resident family member) of the decision. If the petition is approved and if you are living outside of the United States (or living in the United States but choseto apply for your visa through consular processing), the USCIS will then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). It will remain at the NVC until an immigrant visa number is available. The wait time for an immigrant visa number varies based on your home country and which visa you are applying for. For information on visa availability, please visit the Visa Bulletin at Hooyou.com.
Step 4: Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center
National Visa Center
32 Rochester Avenue Suite 200
Rochester, New Hampshire
The NVC will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. They will also notify the petitioner and beneficiary of when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees and when supporting documentation must be submitted.
The usual documentary requirements for an immigrant visa through consular processing are as follows: