Green Card Process: Consular Processing for Family Preference Applicants

Most applicants for a family-based green card who live outside the United States go through a process known as ‘consular processing’. When applying under a family preference classification, applicants have to go through the ‘visa bulletin’ step.

Consular processing for family preferences.

Forms I-130, I-130A, G-1145.To: USCIS in the United States.

C. Sponsor’s request


Form I-130 is submitted by the sponsor to USCIS in the United States on the applicant’s behalf. Form I-130A is also submitted when the applicant is the spouse of the sponsor. Form G-1145 allows notification of the sponsor by email or text message of the proper filing of the I-130.

The NVC takes over.

D. The National Visa Center (NVC)

NVC - National Visa Center

The approved I-130 of a family green card applicant who lives abroad is transferred by USCIS to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC’s goal will be to make sure the applicant’s request and sponsor’s support are complete and ‘interview ready’.

Priority Dates against Visa Bulletin datesGetting close to being 'current'

E. Visa Bulletin Wait

F2A Graph

The NVC will set the approved I-130 aside. It will monitor the advancement of the visa bulletin dates in applicants’ immigration category and country of birth. When applicants’ priority date is ‘within sight’ of being current, the NVC step can start for real.

Form DS-261.To NVC through CEAC.

F. NVC step kick off

The step begins with the NVC sending a ‘Welcome Letter’ to applicants. The letter contains information allowing the applicant to chose an ‘agent’ and pay U.S. government fees. The payment of the fees has to be processed by the NVC before the rest of the actions can take place.

Form DS-260.To NVC through CEAC.

G. Applicant’s request

The long form DS-260, which contains detailed information about the applicant’s current circumstances and history, is submitted online by the applicant.

Form I-864.To: NVC.

L. Sponsor’s support

The sponsor submits an ‘affidavit of support’ to guarantee that the applicant will not become a ‘public charge’.

Form I-693.To: Consular Officer.

N. Doctor’s examination

Applicants can generally schedule their medical examination with a designated physician abroad when the NVC believe that the applicant’s request is complete.

The U.S. consulate takes over.

O. The interview

Department of State

When it feels like nothing is missing, the NVC transfers the applicant’s request and the sponsor’s support and other information to the consular officer and schedule an interview appointment. The consular officer, not the NVC, will make the decision on whether the family green card will be granted.

P. Travel to the United States

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Applicants travel to the United States with the packet they got back from the U.S. consulate, as well as temporary green card visa in their passport. Custom and border patrol (CBP) inspects and admits them into the United States, and retain the packet.

T. The final green card is received

The final green card is produced by USCIS and sent to the address that the applicant has chosen through USPS.

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