Consular processing and adjustment of status are two different ways to apply for a green card (lawful permanent residence) in the United States.
Consular processing is a process for obtaining a green card through a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This process is typically used by individuals who are outside the United States or who are unable to apply for a green card within the United States.
The process starts when the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves an immigrant visa petition for you and sends your case to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the U.S. From there, the NVC will then send your case to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate, where you can apply for an immigrant visa. Once you have been issued an immigrant visa, you can travel to the United States and be admitted as a lawful permanent resident.
On the other hand, Adjustment of status is a process for applying for a green card within the United States. It is typically used by individuals who are already in the United States and are eligible to apply for a green card without having to return to their home country.
To apply for adjustment of status, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with the USCIS. If your application is approved, you will be granted status as a lawful permanent resident of the United States and you will be issued a green card.
One of the main differences between consular processing and adjustment of status is the location of the application process. Consular processing takes place at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, while adjustment of status takes place within the United States. Thus, whether you pursue consular processing or adjustment of status will usually depend upon where you are physically located when you apply. In turn, this may depend upon your personal circumstances relating to the timing of your immigration to the U.S. For example, while you are married to a U.S. citizen who is sponsoring you for permanent residence, you may have a need to remain in your home country for a time in order to wind down your business, sell your home, or make arrangements for other relatives before you relocate to the U.S.
Another difference is that consular processing requires the applicant to have an approved immigrant visa petition and to be eligible for an immigrant visa, while adjustment of status does not require the applicant to have an approved immigrant visa petition or to be eligible for an immigrant visa. However, both consular processing and adjustment of status require the applicant to meet certain eligibility requirements and to provide supporting documentation.
It is important to note that not everyone is eligible to apply for a green card through adjustment of status. Factors that may affect your eligibility include your immigration status, the way you entered the United States, and your criminal history. It is a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative for assistance with the process.
If you need help deciding whether to obtain your permanent residence through consular processing or adjustment of status, contact U.S. Immigration Lawyer Sean D. Hummel to schedule a consultation.