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Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status

Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status

Are you looking to get a Green Card? Are you perhaps wondering where the best place is to apply for it? Do you know what the differences are between consular processing and adjustment of status?


Let us help you understand the differences in consular processing vs adjustment of status. Use this information to help you decide which immigration route will be the best route for you.


What Are Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status?


There are many types of Green Card categories. Each category has its own eligibility criteria. But there are basically only two ways to apply for a Green Card. It’s either by adjustment of status or consular processing. Let’s take a look at the differences.


Consular Processing


Consular processing takes place abroad. It happens at a U.S. consulate, hence the name. People who want a Green Card who lives abroad must follow a consular processing route. They need to work with the U.S. consulate in their home country to apply for their immigrant visa. Let’s have a look at some pros and cons of consular processing.


Advantages and Disadvantages


These advantages and disadvantages may not be able to settle the debate regarding consular processing vs adjustment of status. But it may help you manage your expectations as you embark on your immigration attempt.


Consular processing advantages:


  • The U.S. consulate in your country could perhaps work very fast and minimize your waiting time
  • You can apply for a Green Card from your home country
  • You save money by not having to travel to the U.S. to file the application (if you were in your home country at the time of your application).


Consular processing disadvantages:


  • You can’t have an attorney in your interview
  • It’s difficult to satisfy the USCIS about your eligibility if you had a bad interview
  • Consular processing removes you from your family in the U.S. (if applicable)
  • People who have lived in the U.S. on a visa must travel back to their home countries and complete the application from there (it costs money to relocate for the time being)
  • Consular processing offers no right to appeal (you must reapply if you didn’t cause any grounds for ineligibility).

Which Applicants Must Use Consular?


People who live abroad who aren’t eligible for an immigrant visa yet need to apply for their Green Cards from abroad. Preferably from their home country. This will be through consular processing. Then there are also people who live in the U.S. on a temporary visa. If this is you, it could be a better idea to return home to apply for a Green Card. Avoiding removal procedures if your temporary visa runs out is imperative. It is, therefore, a better idea to apply for a Green Card via a consular processing route since it could take much longer than 8 months to get it. This timeframe most probably stretches beyond your allowed stay in the U.S. on your temporary visa.


Adjustment of Status


Adjustment of status is a very helpful way to apply for a Green Card. Especially for people who are already living in the U.S. on a K1 visa, for example. An immigrant visa already grants the beneficiary many privileges associated with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status.


Here are some advantages and disadvantages that could help show the differences in the consular processing vs adjustment of status debate.


Advantages and Disadvantages


This coin has two sides. Perhaps the advantages can convince you to live with the disadvantages. They are as follows.


Advantages to adjustment of status:


  • A current adjustment of status application acts like a visa which allows you to stay in the U.S. until your case reaches a decision
  • You are allowed to get an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) during this time
  • You get permission to travel abroad and return with “advance parole”
  • You are allowed to have an attorney at your interview
  • Even if you don’t get your Green Card after your interview, you have the right to appeal and present your application for a Green Card to an immigration judge (don’t get a fright if you are placed into removal proceedings, it’s normal)
  • Any time bars keeping you from reentering the U.S. only activates once you leave the U.S. If you apply through adjustment of status, you don’t have to leave the U.S. until the process is completed (if you get denied).


Disadvantages to adjustment of status:


  • It’s only available to people already in the U.S.
  • It could possibly take longer than a consular processing
  • It requires more expensive processing fees than consular processing.


The downside is small when compared to the upside. Some people would argue to rather opt for an adjustment of status as opposed to choosing consular processing to file for a Green Card. It’s up to you and your situation. Your circumstances will determine the best option for you.


General Thoughts


Consular processing is obviously the only route available to someone who isn’t eligible for an immigrant visa. The U.S. immigration officials don’t like it when you apply for a temporary visa (nonimmigrant visa) and a Green Card at the same time. They perceive this as you seeking a way to prematurely enter the U.S. Play your cards right, don’t become overeager, and remain positive throughout the consular processing procedures.


Adjustment of status is probably the easier route of the two. It naturally would be since you require (in most cases) an immigrant visa to be eligible for it. People who hold immigrant visas already went through a type of screening test, because you had to prove your eligibility for the visa. This places you in a category of people who are also likely to be eligible for a Green Card. So, in essence, get an immigrant visa if possible because it will ease your immigration attempts.


Though these remarks may sound like they settle the question posed at the start, your unique situation will ultimately settle the consular processing vs adjustment of status battle.


Forms and Expenses


Your immigration attempts will require a few processing fees. Here are the forms and expenses associated with each of the Green Card application routes.


Consular Processing Forms and Expenses



This totals to $1’200. It is maybe cheaper than adjustment of status, but it still holds more disadvantages.


Adjustment of Status Forms and Expenses


  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) – $535
  • Form I-130A (Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary) – $0
  • Form I-485 (Application to Adjust Status) -$1’140
  • Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) – $0
  • Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record) – $0
  • Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) – $0
  • Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) – $0
  • Biometric test (applicants aged between 14-78) – $85


This comes down to a total expense of $1’760. Just remember some forms may require no filing fees but the actual information may incur and expense. The medical examination appointment you might need to make in order to complete the Form I-693 could have fees associated with it, for example.


Processing Times


The processing times of immigration cases are extremely subjective. There are too many variables that could alter the waiting periods, processing periods, and availability of visas. However, that being said, let’s look at the possible time frames for consular processing vs. adjustment of status.

Please remember, these are estimates that don’t take your circumstances into account. You might have to wait longer.


Consular Processing Processing Times


Consular processing times depend largely on how busy the offices are. It also depends on your eligibility for an immigrant visa. Work with the U.S. consulate in your home country and you could only wait 4 months. But in some cases where more evidence is required to warrant your Green Card, you could wait more than 12 months to get your Green Card.


Adjustment of Status Processing Times


Adjustment of status may be easier but it can take longer than consular processing. The USCIS offices are very busy and you could wait between 8 to 14 months before you get your Green Card. A small price to pay though, considering you get to stay with your friends and family in the U.S.


Travel Considerations


This is a contentious time in your life. Your immigration attempts may limit your ability to travel. Make sure you take the following into account if you plan trips whilst applying for a Green Card on both consular processing and adjustment of status.


Consular Processing Travel Considerations


You can go to the U.S. on a temporary visa. But once you file a Form I-130 you notify the USCIS about your intentions to move to the U.S. permanently. The USCIS will, therefore, apply much scrutiny to your application for a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa. A temporary visa application must have proof of return to your home country, but a Form I-130 indicates the exact opposite.


Adjustment of Status Travel Considerations


An active adjustment of status application serves as a visa. You may remain in the U.S. but it doesn’t warrant a return through the borders. You need to file a Form I-131 to get advance parole. This will help you to reenter once you reach a U.S. border. Leaving without it may look like an abandonment of your application to adjust status.


Decisions and Appeals


This is where things get interesting in the consular processing vs adjustment of status battle. It might change your mind about your preferred method.


Consular Processing Decisions and Appeals


The consular officer conducting your interview makes the final decision. They may not make a decision based on their discretion. They must have concrete evidence or facts to base their decision upon. Any immigration violations, criminal records, or negative factors could possibly be overlooked if you follow a consular processing route.


This sword cuts both ways, though. Because you won’t get an opportunity to re-apply. Denied consular processing cases are non-reviewable.


Adjustment of Status Decisions and Appeals


A denied adjustment of status case usually gets a notice from the USCIS. The case could also be denied based on the discretion of the interviewers. Even if you are eligible the officer can deny your case based on one of the following negative factors:


  • Fraud in your initial application
  • Misrepresentation in your initial application
  • Preconceived intent to remain in the U.S. when entering on a nonimmigrant visa
  • Unlawful entry into the U.S.
  • Overstaying your permitted stay in the U.S.
  • Criminal record, misdemeanors, or felonies
  • Other ineligibility factors


There is an upside, though. You are still allowed to challenge the denial and present your case before an immigration judge before you are removed from the U.S.


Switching from Consular Processing to Adjustment of Status


It is possible, assuming that you are eligible for it. You can simply file a Form I-485 and inform the National Visa Center about your decision to change to an adjustment of status. Ask an immigration attorney how to complete this process.


Switching from Adjustment of Status to Consular Processing


This is definitely possible, but you need to make sure you file the correct documents. You can ask the advice of an immigration attorney to be sure. File a Form I-824 which indicates your decision to change your application method to consular processing. Please note, this may add another 6 to 12 months of waiting time to your current timeframe.


Consular Processing vs Adjustment of Status FAQ


This is a difficult decision. There are so many scenarios that can play out. What are you allowed to do? And what do you need to look out for? Let’s recap by answering some frequently asked questions.


May I travel to the United States so that I can adjust status?


You may only use a nonimmigrant visa for temporary purposes. Tourists and other short term visitors get a nonimmigrant visa. They don’t intend to stay and they must return before their permitted stay ends. You can only go to the U.S. on an immigrant visa to adjust status. Remember the 90-day rule, though. You shouldn’t adjust your status within the first 90 days of your stay in the U.S.


How do I switch from adjustment of status to consular processing?


File the correct documents as listed above and simply change your desired application method. It may cause you to wait longer for your Green Card, however. An immigration attorney will be of great assistance in this process.


How do I switch from consular processing to adjustment of status?


You must first of all be eligible for an immigrant visa. Get your papers filed, move to the U.S., and file your application to adjust status. Just remember the 90-day rule (don’t adjust status within the first 90 days of your stay in the U.S.).


Conclusion


There are many types of people eligible for a Green Card, but there are basically only two ways to apply for it. Use the information supplied above to settle your decision in consular processing vs adjustment of status and apply today.

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