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The Green Card Petition For Family Members Outside The United States

Posted by Giselle Ayala Mateus | Nov 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

A green petition for a family member that is outside the United States is called "Consular Processing". The name is explained by the fact that the process is completed, in part, after an interview with a consular office in the country of residence of the family member who wants to become a U.S. resident. Unlike the "adjustment of status" process, which is completed in the United States the consular process can be easier and more expedite in certain cases. Consular processing is common when the petitioner has filed a petition for a family member for whom a visa is not immediately available, like brothers or unmarried children (21 years or older) of U.S. citizens.  That said, let's see how does the Consular Processing works. 

First Step. The I-130 petition.

The first of the green card consular process is completed by the petitioner U.S. citizen or a resident in the United States. This is the I-130 petition of eligibility, which basically is intended to inform the authority that there is an intention to file a petition and that there is enough evidence for the authority to approve the eligibility of the family member outside the United States. To know what is the status of the case before approval, a person can research the case using the Receipt Number of the case. This is the number that appears in the communications sent by the USCIS when they receive the petition. 

Like I said before there are some family members whose visa is not available immediately. When a person makes a request for an immigration benefit, specifically, one that requires the concession of a visa, such a visa must be available. The government of the United States has a limited number of visas available when the applicant is in a certain category. The only visas that are immediately available are those for the spouse and children of U.S. citizens or residents. Other than that, the visas are organized by category and subject to availability. Such availability can be established with the Visa Bulletin. The visas are also organized in order of preference. 


First: (F1) Unmarried Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and Children, and Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents:  114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers:

A. (F2A) Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents:  77% of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75% are exempt from the per-country limit;

B. (F2B) Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents:  23% of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens:  23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens:  65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

 The I-130 approval 

Once the I-130 petition has been successfully filed and approved there are two possibilities that a person must wait until the visa is available or that the visa is available now and the petitioner can proceed with the rest of the consular process. To know whether one can continue or not is important to consider the category of the family member, the category order of preference, and the priority date of the I-130 petition. The priority date is the date that USCIS uses as a reference to inform the public whether visas are available. 

For instance, a U.S. citizen requests a green card for his sister. Said application was received on June 21, 1998. Currently, on November 27, 2020, the petitioner wants to know if his sister can finally complete her petition. According to the Visa Bulletin of November 2020, petitions received on or before June 22, 1998, are now available. This means that after filing the I-130 petition in 1998, this applicant's immigration process can continue now. 

If the visa is not available immediately, the petitioner must save with due care all documents, forms, and approval notices until the petition's priority date becomes current. In other words, until the date the visa becomes available. If the visa is immediately available a person can proceed with the rest of the consular process. 

Second Step. The National Visa Center. 

When a person files a petition for a family member outside the United States the papers are sent to the National Visa Center. The National Visa Center (NVC) is the unit responsible for conducting the second step of the consular process, which includes collecting visa application fees and supporting documentation. The NVC will notify the petitioner and the family member overseas when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available.

When the NVC notifies the parties of the application, NVC sends a new Case Number and Invoice Number. Additionally, the NVC indicates to the website address where the case can be looked up and where the documents must be submitted. The NVC notifies a  person when the petitioner must submit the immigrant visa processing fees (commonly referred to as “fee bills”). Ince the bills are paid, the petitioner and the family member beneficiary can continue with the presentation of the supporting documentation.

Completing form DS-260

Once the fee bills have been paid the applicant must complete the DS-260 form. Form DS-260 can only be completed at the Department of State indicated website. For this reason, it is very important that the applicant completes the form first in paper, so that any possible mistake or missing information can be properly adverted. Among others, form DS-260 asks questions about the past of the applicant, his plans in the U.S., and information related to the applicant's social media and online presence. It is also important to know that form DS-260 can be completed with the assistance of another person, but the applicant must be present while completed the applicant with assistance. 

The consular interview 

When all documents are submitted, the petitioner, the applicant, and the attorney, if any, receive a communication regarding the schedule of an appointment. For this appointment, the petitioner must present in physical form all documents, copies, and originals, and the medical examination required by the U.S. laws. The NVC will schedule a visa interview appointment for the family member applicant. Thereafter, the applicant must take the following steps before the interview date. 

Schedule and Complete a Medical Examination

The applicant is required to schedule a medical appointment with an authorized physician in the country where the client will be interviewed. This exam must be with an embassy-approved doctor, also referred to as the Panel Physician. Exams conducted by other physicians will not be accepted.  The doctor will need the following items to complete the medical exam forms:

  • The visa interview letter,
  • The applicant's passport,
  • Three (3) recently taken passport-sized color photographs, and
  • A copy of the applicant's immunization records, and
  • DS-260 confirmation page.

U.S. immigration law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations prior to the issuance of a visa. Current immigrant visa vaccination requirements are available here. 

When the examination is completed, the doctor will provide the applicant with exam results in a sealed envelope or send them directly to the U.S. Consulate. If the applicant is given an envelope to carry at the interview, the envelope shall not be opened. It must be handed to the Consular Officer during the interview. 

The approval of the petition and visa packet 

To have a better chance of success, those who hired an attorney receive free preparation sessions for the interview. Then, if everything goes well and the consular officer is satisfied by the interview and the documents, the petition is approved and the applicant receives a special packet by mail. Additionally, the applicant receives the visa bills that must be paid before traveling to the United States. Said packet shall not be opened. The applicant must carry the packet with him/her at all times and hand it to the patrol officer at the airport or port of entry. Then, the applicant is allowed to enter the United States to receive his green card. 

The Law Office of Giselle Ayala Mateus Can Help You!

Attorney's Flat Fee $2500 - $3500
  • Minimum initial payment of $1000 to open the case.
  • A $500 additional if the Client decides to hire the lawyer to go to the immigration interview.
  • Balance can be paid in monthly payments of $500.
  • Services include the preparation and presentation of the visa petition.
  • USCIS, NVC, and Department of State communications administration and additional Information.
  • Preparation of the client for the adjustment interview.
Price may vary if the beneficiary requires a waiver. 

About the Author

Giselle Ayala Mateus

Giselle Ayala Mateus is a NY attorney with comprehensive experience in transactional law, creative agreements, business formation, and immigration law. She is also the founder of FOCUS a not-for-profit project focused on supporting entrepreneurs and artists.


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