Upon the approval of an Immigrant Visa petition by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an applicant has the option to process the last step of the permanent residence application at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in his or her country of last residence or nationality.

To pursue consular processing, an individual must be the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 Immigrant Visa petition. and an immigrant visa must be available. If an applicant wishes to proceed with the consular processing option, the following is a brief outline of the major points of immigrant visa processing at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Upon approval of an Immigrant Visa petition by USCIS on behalf of an applicant who has chosen consular processing, the immigrant visa file will be transferred to the State Department’s National Visa Center (NVC), which serves as the liaison between the USCIS and the overseas consulate. The NVC will conduct initial processing of the application, and initial application documents must be submitted to the NVC in most cases. Filing procedures vary depending upon the consulate where final processing will occur. The NVC will issue a series of application documents and materials, known as “Packet III”. Before an applicant may file a Packet III with the NVC or consulate, the applicant must obtain all necessary application documents, including birth and marriage certificates, and financial records, if required. The applicant must also obtain police clearances for all countries where the applicant has resided for more than six months since the age of sixteen years.

Once the applicant has obtained all necessary supporting documents and has filed the Packet III application, the file will be finalized and transferred to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Thereafter, the Consulate will issue “Packet IV”, scheduling all applicants for a personal immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Packet IV also contains consulate-specific application information, including instructions concerning the scheduling of a required medical examination. At the time of interview, each applicant will be required to produce a completed medical examination report from a Consulate-approved physician. At the mandatory interview at the Embassy or Consulate, the consular officer will review each applicant’s immigration file, application materials and original supporting documents, and interview the applicant to determine whether or not the applicant is admissible to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident..

Assuming that all documents are in order and the applicant successfully completes the interview process, the consular officer will approve the application, and will issue an immigrant visa valid for six months. The applicant must enter the U.S. within that six-month period to complete the permanent resident application process. The applicant will be granted lawful permanent resident status upon his or her admission to the U.S. using the immigrant visa. At the time of admission, the applicant’s immigrant visa will be endorsed by an immigration officer and serves as a temporary Form I-551 (“green card” or permanent resident card) evidencing permanent residence status for one year. A physical permanent resident card is subsequently issued and mailed to the applicant.