consular processing vs adjustment of status

Consular Processing vs Adjustment of Status

There are two paths to applying for a US green card depending on your circumstances. The first is consular processing which is the only option when you reside outside the US and want to apply for a visa. But, you have two options if you currently live in the US: adjustment of status or consular processing. In this post, I’ll be comparing the pros and cons of whether consular processing VS adjustment of status.

Interestingly, consular processing can take 4 to 6 months to complete which is actually faster than adjustment of status. Adjustment of status within the US can take up to several years depending on the number of applications received.

Consular processing is also more likely to approve your green card application. You might be thinking “how could consular processing be easier than adjustment of status?”. Keep in mind that consular officers can’t deny your application based on a “feeling” or discretion. They must have an actual reason that they have denied you.

Some valid reasons for CR1 denial:

  • didn’t prove a bona fide marriage
  • may become a public charge
  • are inadmissible to enter the US

But an immigration official that is reviewing your adjustment of status doesn’t need a valid reason for denial. They can just have a gut feeling about you and they feel that you are not eligible for the green card.

Note that you live outside the US, your only choice is consular processing.

Choosing Consular Processing vs Adjustment of Status

If you already live in the US, you have the option to choose between consular processing or adjustment of status. You are not required to leave the United States to complete the application process unless you are found inadmissible. By choosing adjustment of status, you avoid triggering a possible 3 or 10 year bar.

Being found inadmissible is an entirely different animal and you’d need to file for the I-601A waiver before an interview can be scheduled.

So, if you are not inadmissible should you choose consular processing or adjustment of status? Honestly, it depends on whether you want to travel to your home country for the interview or wait a little longer within the US for an interview.

Green Card Denied

If you still can’t decide on which route to take, I’d recommend adjustment of status because if you are ever denied you’ll have the option to challenge the decision in Administrative Appeals Court within the US. There is no such option if you are denied by the consulate abroad.

Visa denial at the consulate will result in your case being sent back to USCIS which will then review and decide whether your initial petition was valid. It’s a longer process to request additional review and you may be required to attend another consular interview.

Travel Costs

Another thing you should consider is the time and money you’ll spend traveling to the location of the consulate office abroad. Since you currently live in the US, it doesn’t make sense to spend more money just to attend an interview. But, if you already were planning a trip home then it may make sense to go this route.

Sponsor Employment on I-864

Adjustment of status also allows the sponsor to change jobs without affecting the affidavit of support. The important thing is that the new job is in the same profession as the previous one. The sponsor can’t change jobs in the first 180 days from the time of adjustment of status but after that there is no issue to doing so.

Work and Travel Authorization

Adjustment of status allows the applicant to have their EAD (I-765) and Travel Document (I-131) approved before the adjustment of status interview is scheduled. This is a big plus if you want to begin working as soon as possible in the US and have the ability to travel freely while you wait.

Some people find that waiting process is bearable when they can work and make money while they wait. Some applicants file for an EAD card then promptly apply for consular processing but this can be seen as taking advantage of the system.

Consular and AOS Processing of I-130 Petition

When submitting your I-130 (family based green card), you should specify which route you’d like your case processed. To do this, you need to write:

Will not do adjustment of status, please send approved petition to NVC

Make sure to write it in red pen at the bottom of your application. This way USCIS will send the case either to the consulate abroad or to a local USCIS office in the US.

Once the petition is approved and you choose adjustment of status you can send the adjustment of status I-485 application and supporting documents to USCIS to process. Since USCIS already has the I-130 petition, they’ll take care of everything going forward.

Now, if you’ve already started the consular processing and want to complete adjustment of status instead, you should notify the consulate of your decision so you don’t waste their time.

The rest of the process for adjustment of status is the same and you’ll be able to continue to live and work in the US during this time period.

Final Thoughts on Consular Processing vs Adjustment of Status

As someone who has completed the adjustment of status, it was definitely a lot easier to wait for it once I got the EAD card. This allowed me to work and not obsess over when my green card would be approved. So, if you have the choice between consular processing and adjustment of status I would pick the latter.

Unfortunately, for those of you who are applying for the I-130 petition abroad you won’t get the option to choose. Your interview will be done the US consulate in your home country and you won’t be able to enter the US until your visa is approved. But look at the bright side, you have your family and friends with you and can continue to work and go to school until you’re ready to move.

Knowing what both options mean for your individual case is important when deciding. If you have decided to use an attorney to help your with your green card application, they would only be able to attend the adjustment of status interview with you. If this is a deal breaker for you, then consular processing may not be right for you.

For many of us, processing times are very important. We all want to get our visa or green card in the shortest amount of time with little delays. Although adjustment of status takes more time to complete, you won’t be separated from your family during this waiting period.

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