Eligible foreign citizens can apply for an immigrant visa or green card with either Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status. Both application methods are available for those living in the United States on a different type of nonimmigrant visa, but anyone living outside the United States seeking an immigrant visa must choose Consular Processing.
Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of Status allows the applicant to complete his application for immigrant visa in the US, through a USCIS office, instead of returning to his home country to complete the visa process. The USCIS Adjustment of Status process requires fingerprints and a physical examination by a USCIS approved physician in the United States.
Advantages of Adjustment of Status
- Adjustment of Status may avoid issues of admissibility; you do not have to depart and re-enter the United States.
- USCIS decisions may be appealed; you may be able to remain in the US until a final decision is reached.
- You may apply for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or Advance Parole (AP) travel document that do not require a visa for traveling while your application is pending.
- You do not need to maintain your nonimmigrant status such as H or L.
- Under the law AC21, you can change positions with same employer or keep the same position at another location with the same or similar occupation classification if your I-485 application has been pending for 180 days.
- No interview is required for employment based applications.
- No police certification is required.
Disadvantages of Adjustment of Status
- The approximate processing time for Adjustment Of Status is 1 to 2 years.
- If you have any criminal or immigration violations, you may not be eligible for Adjustment of Status.
- If USCIS denies your application, you must file another application for obtaining an immigrant visa.
Consular Processing allows the applicant to apply for an immigrant visa at a US Department of State consulate abroad. Once visa petition Form I-130 (family based) or Form I-140 (employment based) is approved, the applicant may submit his immigrant visa application to the US consulate or embassy in his resident country. After approval, USCIS will send the petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), and the applicant will be interviewed at a US consulate or embassy after submitting his application for immigrant visa.
Advantages of Consular Processing
- The Consular Processing process is quicker than the Adjustment Of Status process, with an average processing time of 6 to 12 months.
- Processing concurrently with family members who are currently living abroad.
Disadvantages of Consular Processing
- You cannot apply for a work permit and advance parole with Consular Processing.
- You must continue to maintain nonimmigrant status such as H or L in order to work while your application is pending.
- Consular Processing requires police certificates from every country in which you have lived for one year or more.
- Appointment availability depends on the individual consulate.
- You cannot apply for Employment Authorization Document while the application file is pending.
- You will be interviewed at a US consulate, whereas there is no interview for employment based Adjustment of Status.
- Consular processing requires a medical exam by a certified physician.
Change from Adjustment of Status to Consular Processing
Selecting either Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing does not lock you in to that process. You can change from Adjustment of Status to Consular Processing if needed. You have to file Form I-824, application for action on approved petition, after the approval of Form I-140 or Form I-130. This may take up to 1 year to transfer the file from USCIS to NVC.
Change from Consular Processing to Adjustment of Status
For transferring a file from Adjustment of Status to Consular Processing, you only need to file Form I-485 noting the change with USCIS. USCIS will send a letter requesting confirmation of Adjustment of Status. The Consular Processing will be cancelled and the file transferred from the NVC to the USCIS Service Center adjudicating the application. This will add several extra months to the actual processing time.
- You may not apply for both Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing at the same time for the same I-140 petition. You must only choose one.
- Applicant of Form I-485 should maintain H1B or L1 nonimmigrant status when I-485 is pending, so that the applicant can work through EAD.