US Immigrant Visa Consular Process

Read About US Immigrant Visa Application Process And Documents Checklist

Applying For Immigrant Visa

STEP 1: Application For Immigrant Visa Processing

Applying for Immigrant Visa is the last step in the process for becoming a permanent resident of the U.S. for those who cannot or wish not to adjust status. When USCIS approves your relative petition, it will send the petitioner a Notice of Action, Form I-797 Approval Notice. USCIS will also forward the approved petition to the National Visa Center, which will contact the intending immigrant (or that person’s agent) when an immigrant visa number becomes available.

STEP 2: Follow Instructions From National Visa Center (NVC)

An approved petition is forwarded by USCIS to the National Visa Center unless it is indicated on the petition that the alien is in the U.S. The NVC handles the fee collection, document review and schedules interviews for immigrant visa cases for all U.S. Embassies and Consulates (except Guangzhou, China which schedules its own interviews).

Once a visa number is available, the NVC will send an Instruction Package and Fee Bills for Immigrant Visa Applicants (Packet 3) to the foreign national or U.S. agent.

A. The foreign national or U.S. agent must pay the Fee Bills (the fees can be paid online or by mail). There are two fees for each applicant in the family- the Immigrant Visa Processing Fee and the Affidavit of Support Fee.

B. Once the fees are submitted, the intending immigrant or the agent will receive instructions to complete the Affidavit of Support and/or immigrant visa application (DS-230, Parts I and II). Each member of the intending immigrant’s family immigrating with the foreign national must complete the forms in the package and return it to the NVC.

C. Each applicant must also submit original or certified copies of supporting documents to the NVC. These documents include:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Court and Prison Records, if applicable
  • Deportation Documentation, if applicable
  • Marriage Certificates, if applicable
  • Marriage Termination Documentation, if applicable
  • Military Records, if applicable
  • Petitioner Documents:
  • i. If the applicant is a parent of a U.S. Citizen, the applicant must include the original or certified copy of the Petitioner’s Birth Certificate and Marriage Certificate(s)

    ii. If the applicant is a brother or sister of a U.S. Citizen, the applicant must include the original or certified copy of the Petitioner’s Birth Certificate; NVC may also request the Marriage Certificate of the parents

  • Photocopy of Valid Passport Biographic Data Page
  • Photographs: 2 passport style color photographs
  • Police Certificates: Each applicant over the age of 16 must obtain a Police Clearance Certificate from each and every municipality that the applicant resided in for more than six months since the age of 16.
  • Adoption Documentation, if applicable

D. The NVC will inform the State Department Visa Office once all the documents are received and the processing is completed and request that they allot a visa number to the foreign national and his or her family

E. The NVC will schedule an immigrant visa processing appointment for interview that the foreign national and his or her family must attend. This will be at the US Consulate that issues the immigrant visa. If there is no problem, you and your family will be issued immigrant visas.

STEP 3: Interview At The U.S. Consulate Abroad

Once the immigrant visa is available to the foreign national, and all the paperwork has been processed, the NVC will schedule the applicant for an interview. After the interview the consular office will complete processing of the foreign national’s case and decide if the beneficiary is eligible for an immigrant visa.

A. Supporting Documents And Forms For The Interview At The Consulate

The following documents may be required of each foreign national that has an immigrant visa interview:

1. Approved I-130 petition (family based) or I-140 (employment based)

2. Evidence that foreign national’s last residence outside the U.S. was in the country where the immigrant visa is being processed

3. Medical Report from an approved panel physician

4. Passport for all applicants which must be valid for at least six months beyond the visa issue date

5. Proof of Relationship with spouse and children: this may include marriage certificate (along with proof of termination of previous marriages, if applicable), birth certificates etc.

6. Any documents or information that were missing from the list above

B. Processing Time

From the date the immigrant visa becomes available, an average of 3 to 5 months processing time is expected – of course, this varies depending on both processing times at the NVC as well as how busy the U.S. Consulate is.

C. After The Immigrant Visa Is Granted

Once the foreign national is granted an immigrant visa, the consular officer will send him or her a packet of information. This packet is known as a Visa Packet and it should not be opened. Upon the foreign national’s arrival to the United States, he or she should give this Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry.

NOTE: The foreign national will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, which gives him or her the authority to live and work in the United States permanently.

Immigrant Visa For Dependent Spouse And Unmarried Children

All family based and employment based preference categories provide that the spouse and unmarried children under 21 of the principal applicant receive derivative status, and they can be issued immigrant visas if they will be accompanying or following to join the principal applicant.

Dependents of immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens are not eligible for “follow-to-join” and must have a separate petition filed on his or her behalf.

US Immigrant Visas Possible Problems

A. Cannot Waive Interview Requirement

In most cases there is no procedure through which a consular officer can waive the immigrant visa interview. This may require that the applicant and his or her family will have to travel to the U.S. consulate nearest their home that issues immigrant visas.

NOTE: Not all consulates can issue US immigrant visas. This means that an applicant may have to travel a great distance even if there is a U.S. consulate in their hometown.

B. Cannot Enter The US Unless Immigrant Visa Is Available And Has Been Issued

Although the process of Adjustment of Status can be slower compared to Consular Processing, the main advantage of Adjustment of Status is that the foreign national (applicant) is (safely) inside the U.S., is allowed to stay in the U.S. throughout the process, and can accept employment. On the contrary, foreign nationals who apply for their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate have to wait outside the U.S. until the immigrant visa becomes available and is issued to them.

C. Aged-Out Children

In order for dependent children to become permanent residents of the United States along with their parents, their immigrant visa applications must be approved and they must enter the U.S. before their 21st birthday. If the child turns 21 before both these steps occur, the child is said to “age-out”. The Child Status Protection Act of 2002 was enacted to address the problem of minor children losing their eligibility for immigration benefits if they have otherwise aged-out, or turned 21 years old, while waiting for action by USCIS or the Department of State (DOS). The CSPA was not intended to benefit an applicant who aged-out solely due to the unavailability of a visa number but for applicants who were affected by processing delays.

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