Once you are the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and an immigrant visa number is immediately available to you, you may apply for an immigrant visa. If you are outside of the United States, you may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as consular processing.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do i know if I’m eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence?
In order to apply for a green card, you must be eligible under one of the categories listed. Please see Adjustment of status for all Green Card Eligibility Categories.
What is the first step to obtaining an immigrant visa through a U.S. Consulate?
When you know what category you believe best fits your situation, you usually will need someone else to file an immigrant petition for you. For example, if you are applying for a green card based on your family relationship, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident qualifying relative must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS. If you are applying for a green card based on employment, the your U.S. employer must file a Form I-140 Petition for Alien Worker with USCIS.
**Note: Certain special categories allow you to file the immigrant petition on behalf of yourself.
What do I do once an immigrant petition is filed?
Once your immigrant petition is filed with USCIS, you must wait for a decision. USCIS will notify the petitioner (the person who filed on your behalf) whether the petition has been approved or denied. If USCIS denies the petition, the notice will include the reasons for denying the petition and whether you may appeal the decision.
If the petition is approved and you live outside the United States, USCIS will then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center. The petition will remain there until an immigrant visa number is available for you.
Will the National Visa Center let me know when there is a visa available for me?
Yes. The National Visa Center (NVC) is responsible for collecting visa application fees and supporting documentation. The NVC will notify the petitioner and you (the beneficiary) when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. They will also notify you when you must submit immigrant visa processing fees and supporting documentation.
Will I have an interview?
Yes, once a visa is available or your priority date is current (earlier than the cut off date listed in the monthly visa bulletin), the consular office will schedule you for an interview. The consular office will process your case and decide if you are eligible for an immigrant visa.
Do I need to contact the National Visa Center directly for any reason?
You do not need to contact the National Visa Center about your petition; they will contact you for the information they need. You should, however contact the NVC if
- you change your address
- you were under 21 but have now reached the age of 21; or
- you change your marital status.
These changes may affect your eligibility or visa availability.
What will happen if my immigrant visa is granted?
If you are granted an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you a packet of information. This packet is known as a “visa packet.” Do not open this packet. You will also need to pay a USCIS immigrant fee. USCIS uses this fee to process your immigrant visa packet and produce your green card. It is recommended that you pay the fee online after you receive your visa packet and BEFORE you depart for the United States.
When you arrive in the United States, you should give your Visa Packet to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The CBP officer will inspect you and determine whether to admit you into the United States as a lawful permanent resident. If the CBP officer admits you, you will then have lawful permanent resident status and be able to live and work in the United States permanently.
When will I receive my physical green card?
If you have paid the USCIS immigrant fee, you will receive your Green Card in the mail after you arrive in the United States. If you do not receive your green card within 45 days of your arrival, you will need to call the USCIS contact center.
If you did not pay the USCIS immigrant fee before you arrived in the United States, you will need to pay the fee before USCIS will send you a Green Card.