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Seeking an Immigration Green Card: Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status

Information to Help You Choose Between Applying for an Immigration Green Card through Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status

The decision of obtaining your immigration green card through consular processing or adjustment of status can be a complicated experience which will impact the green card processing time. Any mistake you make may lead to a waste of money, time, and even still, a bar from US immigration benefits. There are many important choices to make in this confusing process of ultimately obtaining your immigration green card. This site was created to give you the information you need to make the right decisions. However, the information in this site can in no way replace good legal advice from an immigration lawyer in the USA.

If you haven’t already done so, stop right now and read our homepage. It is full of surprising information that could save you a great deal of time and money. Once you have read through the homepage, come back here to find out more about green card processing time, consulate processing, and whether it is an option for you.

Deciding whether to pursue an immigration green card through consular processing or adjusting status can be a difficult choice. The information below is meant to help give you a better idea of what is required and involved in each of the two available processes for ultimately obtaining an immigration green card (lawful permanent residence status).


Advantages of Consular Processing

The chief advantage of this procedure is speed. Green card processing time through the consulate is generally much faster than adjusting status. The typical green card processing time is six to eight months as opposed to one to three years in some bureau citizenship and immigration services (USCIS) offices around the US. Please note, however, that the expected green card processing time will depend on the location of the consulate abroad. Some consulates are much busier than others so it is expected that their green card processing time will be longer.

Also, though seeking an immigration green card through the consulate may proof to be inconvenient, disruptive, and expensive, as discussed above, it can generally be accomplished in a relatively shorter period of time. This shorter green card processing time could be of major significance in situations in which a child may "age out" (i.e., attain the age of 21 years) or owing to other considerations which require a shortened adjudication time.

Disadvantages of Consular Processing

  • Expense of time and money to travel to the consulate for the interview
The above is more of a minor inconvenience. However, other disadvantages may result in long-term difficulties which must be seriously considered such as the applicant having been unlawfully present in the U.S. for over 6 months after April 1, 1997. This can trigger 3 or 10 year bars against return to the US. So, leaving the US to obtain your green card through the consulate abroad could subject an affected individual to this potential risk.

Additionally, it is often viewed as an inconvenience to seek an immigration green card through the consular process since the applicant needs to physically travel to the foreign processing post. For this, he/she must take additional affirmative steps to obtain certain required information. For example, the individual seeking consular processing must do the following before the consulate appointment/interview:

  • Obtain police clearances from every country the applicant has spent more than 6 months in since the age of 16 (in adjustment, the security clearance is handled by the FBI after fingerprints have been taken) and
  • Schedule an appointment for medical examination with the recommended physician in the home country.

Furthermore, the applicant’s legal rights are somewhat more limited while seeking an immigration green card at the consulate instead of through the bureau citizenship and immigration services (USCIS.) For example, during your interview at the consulate, you have no right to counsel. Hence, you cannot bring an attorney with you to the green card interview. You must attend the interview and answer all questions by yourself. Plus, if the consular officer denies the application at the consulate or embassy, the applicant cannot appeal that decision. Finally, if there are any unforeseen problems through the application of the immigration green card, there is the possibility that the applicant will be required to remain in their home country until the problems are straightened out.

Summary of Consular Processing Procedure For Obtaining Immigration Green Card

The procedure of seeking an immigration green card through consular processing is essentially as follows:
  • Once the applicant fills out the forms sent to him/her by the USCIS in the US, the packed of applications and supportive documentation is then forwarded to the Embassy or Consulate (for Canadians, it is sent back to the National Visa Center).
  • Then there is a waiting period, the length of which varies from country to country depending on green card processing time.

    During this waiting period, the applicant may remain in the US only if he/she has a basis for stay and work (for example, H-1B authorization).

    Otherwise, the applicant must return to his/her home country to await further instructions from the consulate/embassy.

Advantages of Adjustment of Status

Seeking an immigration green card through adjustment of status has several advantages. First, processing can take place with no traveling abroad. Also, the immigration green card applicant can work while waiting for processing to take place. Finally, processing an immigration green card application in the US means that potential bars on reentry can be avoided that might prevent consular processing.

For example, seeking a green card through adjustment of status allows the applicant to address any discrepancies or problems during the processing of the adjustment application by submitting additional documentation; that which cannot be done through consular processing. (During consular processing of immigration green card application, the applicant must explain any inconsistencies at the personal interview.)

Also, the average green card processing time for an adjustment application is generally between 10-18 months (longer in some jurisdictions), though the applicant can obtain the employment and travel authorization within three months of filing the applications.

Is it possible to simultaneously do BOTH consular processing AND adjustment of status?

The question often arises over whether it is possible to seek an immigration green card through BOTH consular processing and adjustment of status simultaneously. The question is controversial. There is no statutory bar to processing both ways, but the INS takes the position that if it learns that one is pursuing an immigration green card through both consular processing and adjustment of status at the same time, it will consider an adjustment application abandoned.

This would typically arise when someone is in the process of adjusting status and files a request with the INS to cable an approval notice to a consulate to initiate consular processing. However, the issue will typically not arise in the reverse circumstances – when one begins with consular processing and then decides to pursue adjustment of status.

IMPORTANT: You must NOTE that an applicant may be INELIGIBLE or uninterested in adjusting status. Ineligibility to adjust status may stem from various reasons, including:

  • being in unlawful immigration status on the date of filing the adjustment application, invalid admission to the United States,
  • violating the terms of the nonimmigrant status, or,
  • being in unlawful status in the U.S. for a period of time which, in the aggregate, exceeds 180 days (though there are some exceptions to ineligibility to adjust)


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