Consular Processing

Once you are the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, there are two ways to apply for lawful permanent resident status (a Green Card). If you are outside of the United States, you may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as consular processing.

If you are already in the United States, you can apply for permanent resident status without having to return to your home country then you would want to look at a different process called adjustment of status.

What is Consular Processing?

Consular processing refers to the process of obtaining legal permanent resident status (a green card) at the United States consulate in the foreign national’s home country. This is the equivalent of the process known as adjustment of status when a foreign national is obtaining legal permanent resident status inside of the United States.

What is the Process?

Determine Your Basis to Immigrate

The first step in consular processing is to determine if you are eligible to apply for a Green Card (lawful permanent residence). Most immigrants become eligible through a petition filed on your behalf by a family member or employer. Others become permanent residents by first obtaining refugee or asylum status, or through a number of other special provisions. To see the many different ways to get a Green Card, go to our Green Card Eligibility Categories page.

Visa Petition

When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, you usually will need someone else to file an immigrant petition for you.

  • 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.
  • Humanitarian programs: Most humanitarian programs do not require you to have an immigrant petition, although you may need to meet additional requirements before they can apply for a Green Card. For more information, see our Humanitarian page.

Schedule Interview At The Consulate

Once the petition is filed and processed, you will fill out an application online for the NVC and to have your case scheduled for an interview at the US consulate in your home country.

After Your Interview (If Approved)

You will leave your passport with the consulate and they will either give you a date to return to get your passport, or they will offer to mail it to an address you provide. Your visa will by physically placed into your passport at that time. Once you pick up your passport you will fly into the US and present the visa in your passport to be admitted to the US as a legal resident.

Once you enter the US you will want to apply to have USCIS send you the physical residency card known as a “green card.” You would already be a resident at this point, so you are only requesting that they produce an ID card for you to make it easier for you present proof of your residency status when needed.