Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing: What’s the Difference?

laptop with Permanent resident card of USA website

If you’re an immigrant seeking permanent residence in the United States, there are two methods: Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing. While both approaches lead to obtaining a green card, significant differences exist between the two processes to secure permanent residence in the U.S. Keep reading as the following blog breaks down the differences between these methods and learn how our knowledgeable Essex County Green Card Attorneys can help you decide which option is best for you.

Who Can Apply for Adjustment of Status?

Firstly, Adjustment of Status is applying for permanent resident status while you are in the U.S. In the past, when an immigrant was applying for permanent resident status, they would be required to go to their home country to apply for a green card. However, today, you can apply for a green card without leaving the country. Adjustment of Status is available to eligible people based on the type of visa they entered the U.S. with, including family-based or employment-based visas.

To apply for Adjustment of Status, you must file form I-148, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and provide supporting documents. USCIS officials will review your case to determine whether an interview is necessary. When a decision is made regarding your application, USCIS will send you a written decision notice. If your petition is approved, you will receive an approval notice and your Permanent Resident Card later. If the petition is denied, the decision notice will explain the denial and whether you can appeal the deicsion. Generally, you are not permitted to appeal the deicsion to deny an adjustment of status application.

Who Can Apply for Consular Processing?

Consular processing involves applying for a green card at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. Essentially, you must leave the U.S. and attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. This process is available to those applying from outside the U.S. You must file form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, and provide supporting documents to apply for this process. If your petition is approved, you will receive a pack of information called the “Visa Packet.” Do not open this packet. When you arrive in the U.S., you will give your Visa Packet to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. If you have paid the USCIS immigrant fee, you will receive your green card within 90 days of arrival.

Which Option Is Best for You?

If you are already in the U.S. and eligible for Adjustment of Status, it may be your best option. However, consular processing may suit you if you are outside the U.S. and ineligible for Adjustment of Status. The advantage of Adjustment of Status is that you can remain in the U.S. while your application is pending and continue working there while waiting for your green card. The advantage of consular processing is that it’s usually much quicker than the Adjustment of Status.

If you’re seeking permanent resident status in the U.S., please don’t hesitate to contact a proficient attorney from the Law Offices of Christopher T. Howell, Esq., who can help guide you through the process.