There are various procedures for applying for a green card depending on where you are located—within the U.S. or abroad. You must go through consular processing if you are located outside of the U.S. With this process, you can submit your petition outside of the U.S. Your application will be handled by the U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy in the country where you are located.

What is Consular Processing?

The procedure by which foreign nationals can apply for a U.S. green card, either through employment-based immigration or family-based immigration, is known as consular processing. Through this process, your application must be submitted outside the U.S. to apply for permanent residence lawfully.

The application process must go through the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country. While your application is being processed, remember that you should not leave your country.

Benefits of Green Card Consular Processing

If your decision to apply for a green card is through consular processing, there are benefits you can enjoy. Here are some of its common advantages:

  • Timeline: The processing time for a green card with consular processing is faster. This is its main advantage. The process will take you, on average, between 5 and 13 months. By contrast, applying through USCIS can take between 1 and 2 years.
  • Confidence and comfort: There is confidence and comfort associated with green card applications through the consular process. This is due to the greater likelihood that applicants will be aware of the location and timing of their application.
  • Reduced filing fees: The cost associated with consular processing depends on the category of green card. Generally, the fees are considerably lower.

Green Card Consular Processing: Steps

As shown, there are benefits associated with green card consular processing. These benefits include an increased level of flexibility and convenience. When getting a green card through this process, below are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Determine your eligibility

Determining your eligibility status is the first step toward getting a green card through consular processing. Knowing this will give you an idea of the category to apply for. For most of the categories of U.S. green cards, it is required to have an organization, permanent resident, or U.S. national sponsor for your visa.

Family and employment are the two popular routes. You will likely need a sponsor for either category. Other routes may include asylum, refugee status, or investment.

  1. File an immigration petition

Your immigration petition will typically be filed on your behalf once it has been determined that you meet the criteria for consular processing. There are different steps to follow, depending on the category you qualify for.

  • Employment-based: If you’re attempting to obtain one of the green cards through the employment-based process, you’ll need to begin the application process by submitting a petition to USCIS.
  • Investor green card: The investor green card is similar to the employment-based category. It is also known as the “EB-5 green card,” a category requiring evidence of an investment in the U.S. worth between $800,000 and $1.05 million.
  • Family-based: For this category, you must have a lawful, eligible permanent residence or a qualifying family relationship in the U.S. ready to sponsor your green card.
  • Special categories: humanitarian programs or special case categories are other ways to qualify for a green card.
  1. Wait for a response from USCIS

Depending on your immigration status, you will need to wait while USCIS decides whether you submit the proper petition. If your petition is approved and you wish to apply for a visa, the approval will be forwarded to the assigned visa center until a visa number is available.

It’s also crucial to be aware that the designated consular office overseas and the National Visa Center are the two organizations involved in the immigration visa consular process.

  1. Get a notification from the National Visa Center

Both you and your sponsor will get a notification from NVC when the immigrant visa number is ready. The documents you need to submit and the time to submit them will also be included in the notice. The immigrant processing fee you are expected to pay will also be included.

The category of green card you are after will determine the details of your supporting documentation. However, completing a DS-260 or DS-160 nonimmigrant or immigrant visa application is generally required.

  1. Be present for the consular visa interview

The step that follows the availability of your visa number is your consular appointment. The consular office will schedule an interview, and you will be told what type of documents to bring along.

Note that the documents may be different among consular offices.

  1. Get your visa packet

You will receive your visa packet after the consular interview if you are given an immigrant visa. The packet is also called a visa packet, containing documents you are expected to travel with to the U.S.

It must be brought to the U.S. sealed, so make sure you don’t open it. You will also need to pay the USCIS immigrant fee as soon as you receive your packet.

  1. Receive your green card

Your green card may become available days after you enter. Getting it within 45 days is common, provided you have paid the required fee after getting your visa packet.

Nevertheless, your permanent resident status will be fine with the time it takes to receive the card.


Your petition may be submitted outside of the U.S. using consular processing. The process can be complex, but you can get help. You can meet with an immigration attorney to help you through the process if you are eligible for a green card.