Since over 1 million people immigrate to the US each year, visa processes are a well-oiled machine. If you’re looking to move to the US with a spouse, you can apply via a process called consular processing.
Here, we’re going to tell you what this means and how you can prepare the paperwork for your application. Read on for a simple consular processing checklist.
What Is Consular Processing?
Consular processing is a core part of immigration law. It is the process that a person outside of the US takes when applying for a US visa. This process is different than Adjustment of Status (AoS), the process that those already inside the US take to apply for a green card.
Those applying for visas via consular processing need to wait in their home country for the visa application’s approval. Only after approval can they move to the US.
If you plan to undergo consular processing to get a CR1 or IR1 visa, you will submit your application to the US embassy of your home country. You do not visit the United States during the application process.
What Types of Visas Does Consular Processing Grant?
A CR1 visa is a conditional visa for spouses who have been married for less than 2 years. At the 2-year mark, those in possession of a CR1 will need to reapply to remove the conditions. They’ll then get a 10-year permanent resident green card.
IR1 immediate relative visas are meant for those with more than 2+ years of marriage. There are 0 conditions, so the visa lasts for 10 years.
Both CR1 and IR1 visas are for those whose spouse is a US citizen. Note that the children of US citizens do not need any paperwork because they were automatically born with citizenship
Consular processing also can grant visas in the F2A category. This category includes F21 spouse and F22 child visas. These are for those whose sponsor is another green card holder rather than a citizen.
Consular processing is also important for those filing for employment visas or humanitarian programs. Note, however, that people can live and work in the US on most spouse visas, too. It’s important to do your research and talk with an attorney about what you’re specifically applying for.
Gather Documents for Your Application
The first step to preparing consular processing documents is to gather the documents you’ll need for the application process. This paperwork includes:
- Your birth certificate
- Documentation of adoption (if applicable)
- Marriage certificates
- Marriage termination documents for previous marriages (if applicable)
- Court and prison records if you have been convicted of a crime in the past
- A photocopy of your passport’s biographic data page
- Military records (if applicable)
- Police certificates for any and all countries you have previously lived in
- Documents pertaining to your petitioner/prospective sponsor (their birth certificate, identifying documents, etc)
Make electronic copies of these documents and store them on a secure computer. This will keep you organized and stop you from losing them. Place the original hard copies in a special folder so you can access them and bring them to the embassy later.
General counsel legal services can help you hear. Experienced lawyers will help you gather and store documents. This will keep you organized and ready to begin the petition filing process.
File Your Immigration Petition
You then will need to file your immigration petition. There are a few types of petitions you may need to file. The one you choose depends on your reason for immigration.
Note that immigration petitions are generally filed by the person who is sponsoring you. You can rarely file these forms alone.
A family-based immigration petition requires your sponsor (usually your spouse) to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Like your documents, this can be sent to USCIS via electronic avenues or by mail.
Most employment-based immigration petitions require your employer to file your petition. This petition will usually come in the form of I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.
However, if you plan to start a business and have already invested a significant amount of money into it, you can file Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur. This is something you would file on your own.
Some people also immigrate to the US for humanitarian programs. You may not need a petition at all in these cases. However, there are other requirements that you likely must meet, so do your research and make an educated decision.
Send Your Documents to the US Government
Send the identifying documents with the petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) department.
The USCIS will approve your application and transfer you to the National Visa Center. At this point, you can begin pre-processing.
You will get a mailed document that lets you log into the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). This letter will let you get updates as the government reviews your documents and your case. You’ll be able to ask questions and check your case status from anywhere you want.
Your legal fees will likely total around $1200. Your case will usually last between 6-12 months. At this point, you will be awarded your visa.
Go to Your Local Embassy
Finally, you must go to your local embassy for an interview.
The appointment process for consular processing is different for every country. Some nations allow you to make appointments online. Others choose your appointment for you.
This is also why it is important to have an attorney help navigate the process. They can give you advice for your specific home country.
It’s important that you prepare for your interview the right way:
- Get a medical examination by an authorized physician
- Register for courier service
- Gather all your documents to bring to the interview
If you forget to bring any required documents, you will not be granted a visa immediately. You will need to come back later with the appropriate paperwork.
Go into the embassy at your appointment time and talk with a representative of the US immigration department. You must bring your spouse and any qualified married children that will be living with you, too.
They’ll ask you some simple questions that you should answer honestly. You’ll show them your appointment letter, passport, photos of yourself, and DS-260 confirmation page.
Hire an Immigration Attorney Today
Now that you know the immigration process for those outside the US, it’s time to begin these legal proceedings. An immigration lawyer can help you organize your important documents and undergo consular processing the right way.