What is Consular Processing?
Consular processing is a procedure through which foreign nationals who are eligible for immigrant visas can apply for and obtain their visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. This process is used by individuals who intend to immigrate to the United States permanently, often through family-sponsored or employment-based pathways.
Here’s an overview of how consular processing works:
- Eligibility and Petition Approval:
- The first step in consular processing involves the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) petitioner filing a relevant immigrant petition on behalf of the intending immigrant family member. For example, Form I-130 is commonly used for family-sponsored petitions.
- Immigrant Visa Number Availability:
- Before an intending immigrant can apply for an immigrant visa, a visa number must be available in the appropriate preference category. This is particularly important for family-sponsored immigrants, as visa numbers are subject to annual limits.
- National Visa Center (NVC) Processing:
- Once the immigrant petition is approved and a visa number is available, the case is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC plays a role in collecting and processing required documents and fees before the visa interview.
- Required Documentation:
- The intending immigrant and the petitioner must provide various documents to the NVC, including the completed visa application form, civil documents (e.g., birth certificates, marriage certificates), police certificates, medical examinations, and financial sponsorship information (Form I-864, Affidavit of Support).
- Visa Interview Scheduling:
- The NVC will schedule a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the intending immigrant’s home country. The beneficiary will receive instructions on how to prepare for the interview.
- Visa Interview and Decision:
- During the visa interview, a consular officer reviews the application, supporting documents, and the beneficiary’s eligibility for the requested visa category. If approved, the visa is affixed to the beneficiary’s passport.
- Port of Entry and Admission:
- With the immigrant visa in hand, the beneficiary can travel to the U.S. and present themselves at a designated U.S. port of entry. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will inspect their documents and determine their eligibility for admission as a lawful permanent resident.
- Form I-551 (Green Card) Arrival:
- Following successful admission, the immigrant will receive their Form I-551, commonly known as a green card, in the mail as evidence of their lawful permanent resident status.
Consular processing is a common way for individuals abroad to become lawful permanent residents of the U.S. While this process is generally straightforward, each case can have unique aspects and requirements. It’s important for applicants to carefully follow the instructions provided by the U.S. embassy or consulate, as well as the National Visa Center, to ensure a smooth and successful process.
What civil documents are required for Consular Processing?
The specific civil documents required for consular processing can vary based on your individual circumstances, the type of visa you’re applying for, and the U.S. embassy or consulate where you’re having your visa interview. However, here is a general list of common civil documents that are often required for consular processing of immigrant visas:
- A valid passport for the intending immigrant. The passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the intended date of entry into the U.S.
- Birth Certificate:
- A copy of the birth certificate of the intending immigrant. This document verifies the individual’s identity and place of birth.
- Marriage Certificate or Divorce Decree (if applicable):
- If the intending immigrant is married or has been married previously, marriage certificates and, if applicable, divorce decrees or annulment documents are required to establish marital status.
- Police Certificates:
- Police certificates from all countries where the intending immigrant has lived for a certain period, usually one year or more, since reaching the age of 16. These certificates confirm the individual’s criminal history or lack thereof.
- Medical Examination Results:
- The results of a medical examination conducted by an approved panel physician. This examination is to ensure the intending immigrant meets health-related requirements for immigration.
- Passport-Style Photographs:
- Passport-sized photographs of the intending immigrant and any accompanying family members. The photographs must meet specific U.S. visa photo requirements.
- Affidavit of Support (Form I-864):
- A completed and signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, from the petitioner. This form demonstrates that the intending immigrant will not become a public charge in the U.S. and includes financial information about the petitioner.
- Proof of Relationship:
- Documents that establish the qualifying family relationship, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, adoption decrees, or other relevant documents.
- Court and Prison Records:
- If the intending immigrant has been convicted of a crime or served time in prison, court and prison records may be required.
- Name Change Documentation (if applicable):
- If the intending immigrant’s name has changed due to marriage, divorce, or other reasons, legal documentation of the name change is necessary.
- Documentation of Immigrant Visa Fee Payment:
- Proof of payment of the required immigrant visa application fee.
It’s important to note that the U.S. embassy or consulate where you’re applying may have specific requirements or additional documents that they request. Before your visa interview, carefully review the instructions provided by the embassy or consulate to ensure you have all the required civil documents in the correct format and with appropriate translations if necessary. Additionally, each individual case can have unique circumstances, so it’s recommended to consult the specific guidelines provided by the embassy or consulate handling your case.