Navigating U.S. Immigration: Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing Explained
When it comes to pursuing lawful permanent residency in the United States, individuals often find themselves faced with two primary paths: the Adjustment of Status (AOS) process and Consular Processing. Both routes lead to the same destination—an opportunity to obtain a green card and build a new life in the U.S. However, the journey, requirements, and considerations can vary significantly.
Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of Status is a process through which eligible individuals who are already present in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa can apply to change their status to that of a lawful permanent resident. This process is advantageous for those who wish to avoid departing the U.S. for Consular Processing.
To apply for Adjustment of Status, certain criteria must be met. Generally, you need to be physically present in the U.S., maintain valid nonimmigrant status, and have an immigrant visa number immediately available. You also need to fulfill medical and security requirements. It's important to note that individuals who have entered the U.S. without inspection or have violated their nonimmigrant status might not be eligible for AOS.
The process typically involves these steps:
Filing Form I-485: This is the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. It's essential to submit accurate and complete information along with the required documentation.
Biometrics Appointment: Applicants need to attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photographs, and signatures for background checks.
Adjustment Interview: Some applicants are required to attend an interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer. During the interview, they need to answer questions about their background, immigration history, and intentions.
Wait for a Decision: USCIS will review the application, conduct necessary checks, and make a decision. If approved, Applicants will receive a green card in the mail.
Consular Processing involves obtaining an immigrant visa through a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad before obtaining a green card. This process is often chosen by individuals who are outside the U.S. or those who are ineligible for Adjustment of Status.
Eligibility for Consular Processing varies depending on the immigrant visa category. Once the appropriate immigrant visa petition has been approved, you will need to wait for a visa number to become available in the preference category that applies to you.
Consular Processing generally includes these stages:
Immigrant Visa Petition: A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member, employer, or other qualifying sponsor must file an immigrant visa petition for the Applicant.
National Visa Center (NVC) Processing: After the petition is approved, the case is transferred to the NVC. The Applicant then needs to submit fees, forms, and supporting documents.
Visa Interview: Once the NVC completes its processing, the Applicant attends an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. A consular officer will evaluate the application, conduct an interview, and determine eligibility.
Visa Issuance: If approved, the Applicant will receive an immigrant visa in their passport, which allows them to travel to the U.S. Once in the U.S., they will need to go through the inspection process at the port of entry and pay the USCIS immigrant fee.
Choosing between Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing depends on various factors, including your current location, immigration history, family situation, and eligibility. Adjustment of Status might be preferable if you're already in the U.S. and meet the criteria. On the other hand, Consular Processing might be the only option if you're outside the U.S. or ineligible for Adjustment of Status. While both routes lead to obtaining a green card and lawful permanent residency, their processes and requirements differ significantly.
If you would like to make an informed decision about which path aligns best with your goals and aspirations for a new life in the United States, contact one of our attorneys click HERE.