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Consular Processing

Consular processing means that person intending to immigrate to the United States goes to a U.S. embassy or consulate in his or her home country to complete the application for lawful permanent residence. This involves submitting forms and documents to the consulate, and attending an interview there.

Consular processing is “part two” of the application process for lawful permanent residency. “Part one” was either the immigrant’s relative getting a visa petition approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services (USCIS) on the immigrant’s behalf or an employer obtaining labor certification and an approved visa petition for the immigrant.

Which Immigrants Must Go Through Consular Processing?

Most immigrants will have no choice but to use consular processing as their application method, especially if they are already living overseas. Immigrants who are living in the United States, but overstayed a visa stay or entered without permission, will have to leave the country to complete the process.

Paperwork Requirements Involved in Consular Processing.

When your relative or employer filled out your visa petition, your address or other information will have told the U.S. government which consulate would be most convenient for you. After your visa petition has been approved, a central office known as the National Visa Center (NVC) will take care of transferring your file to the appropriate consulate.

Exactly what happens next will depend in part on which embassy you’ll be interviewed at. You and the petitioner will have to fill out various forms and paperwork, and undergo a medical exam. But procedures vary as to where you send them once you’re done, and who you hear back from.

The Consular Interview

The final step in obtaining your visa is to attend an interview with a U.S. consular official. You’ll receive written notification of your interview date. The government uses the interview as an opportunity to verify the contents of your application after you’ve sworn to tell the truth, and check your medical, criminal, and financial records to see whether you're inadmissible. If you’re applying based on marriage, it also allows it to ask personal questions designed to reveal whether your marriage is the real thing or a fraud to get the immigrant a green card.

For security reasons, you may not be approved at the interview itself. Instead, assuming all goes well, you will be asked to return to the consulate to pick up your immigrant visa.