– Getting a Green Card for the United States
Consular Processing are the steps you take after you receive
and approval of an immigrant petition and an immigrant visa number is made immediately
available to you. If you are outside of the United States, you can apply for
lawful permanent resident status, otherwise known as a Green Card, through
consular processing. You apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad
for your immigrant visa in order to properly be admitted as a permanent
resident to the United States.
If you are already in the United States, you can apply for
permanent resident status through an Adjustment
of Status. This is where you apply for your visa to receive permanent
resident status without having to go back to your home country to complete the
1. Determine Your Basis to Immigrate
The first thing you have to do is determine if you are
eligible to apply for a Green Card, also known as lawful permanent residence.
There are some rules and things you have to consider to see if you can apply in
the first place.
There a few ways you can become eligible. The first, and most
common, occurs when immigrants become eligible through a family member or
employer. They have to file what’s called a petition on your behalf.
Other immigrants become permanent residents first by
obtaining either refugee or asylum status through any of the provisions that
qualify you as a refugee or needing asylum. Here are the ways you can obtain a Green Card:
2. File the Immigrant Petition
Once you determine the category that best fits your
situation, then it’s typically time for someone else to file the immigrant
petition for you.
If you are applying through a family-based category, then
applying for a Green Card must be done by filing a Form I-130, Petition for an
Alien Relative. They will file this for you and that relative needs to be a
U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident.
If you have a spouse, child, parent, or sibling living
outside of the United States, you may be able to bring that family member to
the U.S. You do this through filing an immigrant petition.
Green Card applications are almost always filed with the
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices domestically
inside the country. However, you can sometimes file the Form I-130 petition for
a spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen at a USCIS field office, U.S.
embassy, or consulate abroad outside the United States.
3. Family-based immigrant petition: If you want to apply
for a Green Card based on your family relationship, a U.S. citizen or lawful
permanent resident relative must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative for
you. For more information, see our Family page.
Although you usually file immigrant petitions with USCIS
domestically, sometimes you can file a Form I-130 petition for an immediate
relative (spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen) with a USCIS field
office, U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Situations where this may be
another common method to apply for a Green Card. Your employer, who needs to be
a United States employer, will need to file a Form I-140, a Petition for Alien
Worker. They have to file this for you.
During this process, if you intend to invest a large amount
of money or capital into a business venture within the United States, you’ll
also need to file a Form I-526, an Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur for
yourself. This is not filed by your employer.
5. Special categories: In some cases, you or someone
else, may file a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and
Special Immigrant for you.
6. Humanitarian programs: Immigrant petitions normally
aren’t required through most humanitarian programs. It should be noted you may
need to meet certain additional requirements before you can apply for a Green
If you need more information, you can see more information
at the USCIS Humanitarian
7. Wait for a Decision on Your Petition
After your immigrant petition is filed, USCIS offices will
notify you of their decision by mail. If approved, you’ll move forward to the next stage
of the Consular Processing to obtain a Green Card.
If your petition is denied, your notice should include the
reasons they denied your petition. More importantly, you’ll be told if you can
appeal the decision or not. The appeal process will let you contest the results
to argue why your petition should have been approved.
If the petition is approved, and you live outside of the
United States, or you live in the United States and want to apply for your
immigrant visa abroad, then the USCIS will send the approved petition to the
Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). The petition will stay there until
an immigrant visa number is available for you.
8. Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center
The National Visa Center (NVC) collects visa application
fees and supporting documentation. This center notifies the petitioner and you
once the visa petition is received. You’ll receive another notification when
the immigrant visa number is about to become available.
Finally, you’ll also receive a notification when it’s time
to submit your immigrant visa process fees, or fee bills, and any supporting
9. Go to Your Appointment
After the application and supporting documentation is all
handled, your visa will become available and the consular office will schedule
you for an interview. This interview will process your case and determine if
you are eligible for an immigrant visa.
This appointment is a crucial step to determine your
10. Notify the National Visa Center of Any Changes
If you aren’t hearing from the NVC, don’t consider that a
bad thing. The NVC will contact you if they need more information or
documentation. However, if your circumstances change, you need to reach out the
National Visa Center. The reasons you should contact them include:
– You change your address or where you live.
– You were under 21 but have now reached the age of 21.
The reason you need to tell them is because these factors
may affect your eligibility or visa availability. Reporting them quickly will
help reduce any blockades in the process.
11. After Your Visa is Granted
Once you are granted an immigrant visa, the consular officer
will provide you with a packet of information. It’s incredibly important that
you do not open this packet.
Called the “Visa Packet,” the reason you don’t want to open
this is because you need to pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee. The office uses this fee
to process your immigrant visa packet and get you your Green Card. This fee is easily paid
online and you should do this in between receiving your visa packet and
before you depart for the United States.
Here is why you don’t open your Visa Packet: when you arrive
in the United States, you give your Visa Packet to the U.S. Customs and Border
Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry.
The CBP officer will inspect your materials and make a final
determination whether you’re admitted into the United States as a lawful
permanent resident. Once the CBP admits you, you have received lawful permanent
resident status and be able to live and work in the United States permanently.
12. Receive Your Green Card
Once you pay your USCIS Immigrant Fee, you will receive your
Green Card in the mail after you arrive in the United States. The Green Card
should arrive within 45 days of arriving in the United States. If you haven’t
received your Green Card, you should reach out to the USCIS Contact Center.
It is important to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee, because you
will not be sent a Green Card before their offices will send it to you.
If you are a family member trying to get your spouse, child,
or parent into the United States, then it’s important to be the one filing a
If you are applying for a Green Card, or are trying to file
a petition on behalf of your family member, and need legal help to complete
this process, please schedule a consultation with us to learn more and you the help you need.