Consular Processing


Getting an Immigrant Visa through family is a multi-step process. The first step is for the U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident (“green-card” holder) to file a petition with the USCIS for his or her foreign relative. A U.S. citizen can file a petition for a spouse, son/daughter, parent, and brother/sister; a U.S. permanent resident can only petition for a spouse and unmarried sons/daughters.

After the petition is approved, the intending immigrant must apply for an Immigrant Visa. That application will be filed online, and will be processed by the National Visa Center (NVC) and later by a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. The NVC and/or consular post will also request additional documentation and fees. Before the consular interview, the intending immigrant must complete a medical examination by an authorized physician.

The final step is the consular interview. In most cases, only the intending immigrant must attend the interview. If the interview goes well, the intending immigrant will receive his or her Immigrant Visa within a matter of days. The visa is usually valid for six months. Once the immigrant arrives in the U.S., he or she will be a legal permanent resident authorized to live and work here.

It is important to note that U.S. immigration law treats each category of relative differently. There is a limited number of visas available each year, with certain limits by country and by category of relative. If the number of applicants (foreign relatives) for a particular category exceeds the number of visas available for that category, there will be a “waiting list.” Some categories face extremely long waiting periods, such as siblings of U.S. citizens.

A major exception to these numerical limits exists for spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents (if the sponsoring U.S. citizen is over the age of 21) of U.S. citizens. There is no yearly numerical limit or “waiting list” for these categories.

The main advantage of consular processing is that, if the Immigrant Visa is granted, the immigrant will be authorized to work once he or she enters the U.S. The main downside is that the immigrant must remain abroad for the duration of the application process. If you need help obtaining an Immigrant Visa for yourself or a family member, or if you are unsure whether an Immigrant Visa is right for you or your family, contact Rosi & Gardner, P.C. at (231) 941-5878.