Consular Processing for Immigrant Visas

The Consular Process is used to obtain an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Consular processing is available for intending immigrants who reside outside the United States.

The process starts with a U.S. citizen, Permanent Resident, or U.S. employer petitioning an intending immigrant through USCIS. U.S. citizens and permanent residents can petition and sponsor family members who live abroad for a green card. U.S. employers can also petition future employees who live abroad. After the petition at USCIS is approved, the petitioner receives an approval notice in the mail. The next step is to proceed with the Consular Process to apply for the immigrant visa.

To start Consular Processing, USCIS sends the approved petition to the Department of State, National Visa Center (NVC). The National Visa Center official issues the visa. If the visa is immediately available, the NVC creates a case number and sends the petitioner a notification with the next steps. This notification tells the petitioner to submit the affidavit of support and accompanying documents.

Petitioning a Relative Outside the United States

U.S. citizens and green card holders can petition their relatives who live abroad to enter the United States with a green card. U.S. citizens can petition their spouses, children of any age, parents, and siblings. Green card holders can petition their spouses and unmarried children of any age. To learn more about who you can petition, click here and read about our services.

Spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens who are outside of the U.S. can go through consular processing quickly. They can receive an immigrant visa through the NVC shortly after the NVC receives the case. It is quick because they are considered “immediate relatives” of United States citizens. There is an unlimited number of visas available to immediate relatives of United States citizens.

If you are petitioning other relatives, there may be a wait time before the immigrant visa is available. The wait time depends on the country of origin and family relationship. Please click here to see visa categories and wait times.

Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)

The affidavit of support (Form I-864) is a legal requirement for green card applications. Form I-864 is a contract that a petitioner makes with the U.S. government to ensure that the immigrant/applicant will not become a “public charge.” A “public charge” is a person that uses financial government assistance to live. This contract confirms to the U.S. government that the petitioner/sponsor will be responsible for the immigrant/applicant’s expenses while they are in the United States. It also states that the applicant will not seek public assistance in the U.S.

The affidavit of support must include the petitioner’s income information, including recent tax returns and other proof of income. If the petitioner/sponsor’s income is not enough to support the applicant, up to two joint sponsors can be included. The joint sponsors will have to sign a separate affidavit of support and provide a copy of the most recent tax returns and income information. Additionally, the sponsors have to provide evidence of legal status in the U.S.

Once the affidavit of support is approved, all the supporting evidence accepted, and the government fees are paid, the NVC will send the application to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of the immigrant’s home country. The Embassy will schedule the immigrant for an interview.

Interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate

During the interview, the applicant must bring a police certificate, medical exam, biometrics, original civil documents, proof of the relationship with the petitioner, and a passport. If done correctly, the Embassy or Consulate will approve the immigrant visa and place a stamp in the immigrant’s passport.

The visa stamp allows the applicant to enter the U.S. as a green card holder.  The physical green card and social security card arrive by mail at the U.S. address. The green card allows the immigrant to live and work in the United States.


Our immigration lawyers ensure that your relatives qualify for the green card through the fastest route.  We also make sure that the petition has the required income to be approved.  Our attorneys are skilled in spotting issues that may arise.  We avoid problems by carefully analyzing your case to determine how to get a green card for your relatives.

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