If you live outside the United States you might be wondering how you can get a green card to live and work in the USA when you live far away from America. The solution is consular processing.
There are U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the globe that process visas. Moreover, nowadays the internet allows you to complete a great deal of the green card matters online. Although you do need to also deal with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is located in America, you can also finish the green card process by connecting with the National Visa Center (NVC) online.
What is consular processing?
If a family member or a potential employee lives outside the United States, a U.S. citizen (USC) or U.S. company can file a petition for a green card from within the 50 United States. Common USCIS petitions include the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. Other immigrant visa applications can be submitted from outside the United States, generally when a noncitizen is self-petitioning.
Regardless of the origin of the green card application, after it is approved for someone who resides outside the United States, consular processing can become necessary.
Can you go through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate?
A green card application can only be submitted through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, rather than USCIS, under emergency circumstances. Situations that may be considered dire include the following:
NVC Processing How-To
Once USCIS greenlights an immigrant visa petition for a foreign national who is living outside the United States, they will transfer the case to the National Visa Center (NVC) when a green card is available. The NVC will begin the pre-processing of the immigrant visa by creating a case number for the beneficiary in their system.
Consular Electronic Application Center
After establishing the case, the NVC will send a Welcome Letter that invites both the petitioner and the applicant to log on to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) using their assigned case number. This central hub will serve as the key place for the petitioner and the beneficiary to upload documents, check their status, receive messages, and manage the case.
Green Card Consular Processing Fees
After one receives the Welcome Letter from the NVC and logs on to the CEAC with the case number, next comes the processing fees.
In many cases, a petitioner will need to submit an Affidavit of Support and the relevant financial documents. Next, the applicant can complete their DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application, and upload copies of their civil documents, such as their birth certificate, marriage license, divorce decree, or any court documents.
Forwarding the Case to the Nearest Embassy or Consulate
Once the immigrant visa process is complete with the NVC the case will be forwarded to either a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. At this time, the noncitizen should gather the originals of their forms and documents in preparation for their consular processing appointment.
Although the NVC compiles all of the applications and copies of the relevant documents, they do not officially process the green card application. Rather, this occurs at the consular processing appointment.
What happens at the consular processing appointment?
Sometime after the NVC has transferred a case to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, an interview will be scheduled with an officer. The instructions for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate will differ depending on the city in which it is located. Fortunately, the foreign national can look up the instructions for the consular processing location nearest them. Generally, an immigrant visa beneficiary should print out and bring their applications, their passport, and their original civil documents.
The letter about the consular processing appointment will indicate who must be at the interview, and generally, the sponsor or petitioner does not usually need to attend the visa interview.
The consular processing officer will be placing the foreign national under oath, so the interviewee should be prepared to speak truthfully about their application, their documents, and their plans in the USA.
What happens after the consular interview?
You will either learn that you have been granted a green card on the day of your interview, or shortly after. Once you are approved for a green card, you will receive a travel visa, as well as a sealed envelope which contains your file.
Be sure not to unseal the envelope containing your file, as only a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer should open the package when you are admitted to the USA. The travel visa will last for one year, so that you can enter and exit the United States during that time. USCIS will then send your green card to your address in the United States. Congratulations! You can eventually pursue U.S. citizenship if you would like.