What is the Difference Between Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status?

Both adjustment of status and consular processing are processes to obtain a Green Card. The main difference between consular processing and adjustment of status is whether the visa applicant is inside or outside the United States when he or she begins the application process.

Adjustment of status (AOS) is available to applicants who are already in the United States on a temporary basis through a nonimmigration visa to gain permanent residency status and receive a Green Card while staying in the United States throughout the adjustment process.

Consular processing is available to applicants who are not in the United States at the time they petition for a Green Card. Under consular processing, applicants must apply for a Green Card at a United States Department of State consulate or embassy.

Whether an applicant is applying for a visa through AOS or consular processing, he or she will typically need someone else to submit the visa petition on the applicant’s behalf at the beginning of the process.

What is the Process for Adjustment of Status?

Individuals living inside the United States who qualify under a Green Card eligibility category may seek a Green Card through adjustment of status by following the steps below:

Determine Green Card Eligibility and File Petition

The first step to adjust status is to determine eligibility under one of the Green Card categories. After Green Card eligibility is determined under one of the Green Card categories, a petition must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by a qualified individual on behalf of the visa holder or family member seeking to adjust their status. For example, individuals in the United States on an employment visa should have their employer file the appropriate petition on the visa holder’s behalf, and a spouse of a United States citizen should have the citizen spouse file the appropriate petition on the immigrating spouse’s behalf.

File the Appropriate Immigrant Petition for the Green Card Category

Different Green Card categories require certain immigrant petitions to be filed for the adjustment of status application with the USCIS. Individuals seeking to adjust their status under the family-based Green Card category must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, while individuals seeking to adjust their status under the employment-based Green Card category must file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Refugees and asylees must use Form I-730.

File the Adjustment of Status Petition

After the USCIS approves the immigrant petition, individuals must then file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Certain immigrant visa categories, such as immediate family members and most employment-based visas, allow Form I-485 to be concurrently filed with the immigrant visa petition, while others require the immigrant petition to be approved first before filing Form I-485.

Visa Availability and Family Members

The speed with which an individual will be granted an immigrant visa will depend on the availability of visas in their Green Card category. The availability of visas in any given Green Card category can also depend on the individual’s circumstances and his or her country of origin. It is important to note, however, that individuals applying as immediate family members (such as a spouse or child) will not have to wait for visa availability.

Attend Biometrics Services Appointment

After filing Form I-485 and paying applicable fees, the applicant will receive a confirmation letter from USCIS showing that Form I-485 was received. USCIS will then mail the applicant a notice of the date, time, and location of his or her Biometrics Services Appointment.

At the Biometrics Services Appointment, the applicant will be required to provide his or her fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature in order to verify his or her identity, obtain additional information, and conduct a background and security check. The fee for the Biometrics Services Appointment is $85.

Attend Interview

The USCIS may also require an applicant to attend an in-person interview where the applicant will be asked questions about their desire to live permanently in the United States and their qualifications under the applicable visa category.

If, after the interview, the USCIS still needs further information or evidence in support of the application, the applicant will receive a formal request in the mail stating what evidence the USCIS is requesting.

Check Case Status and Receive Green Card

Applicants can monitor the status of their application online through the USCIS website or by calling the USCIS.

Individuals whose applications are approved by the USCIS will first receive a written notice of approval in the mail, followed by the physical Green Card identification document sometime later.

What is the Process for Consular Processing?

Individuals living outside the United States who qualify under a Green Card eligibility category may seek a Green Card through consular processing by following the steps below:

File an Immigrant Visa Petition

In order to begin the process, an individual must seek an immigrant visa based on the immigrant visa category that matches his or her circumstances. Petitions are filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Relevant immigrant visa categories include family-based (such as spouses, children, and parents, Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative); employment-based (Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker); special categories (Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant); and humanitarian programs. Most categories require an individual already living in the United States, such as a spouse or employer, to submit an immigrant visa petition on the foreign national’s behalf.

Receive Petition Decision

After a petition is filed with, the USCIS will notify the applicant of its decision. If the petition is approved, the USCIS will forward the approved petition to the United States Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will notify the applicant of updates regarding the visa, including when an immigrant visa number is available, when to submit processing fees, and supporting documentation. Applicants can track their status on the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) and submit other necessary documentation.

Submit Affidavit of Support and Financial Documents

Through the CEAC, an applicant must also submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This form indicates that an individual already living in the United States is accepting financial responsibility for the individual coming to live in the United States. The U.S. sponsor who is accepting financial responsibility for the applicant must also submit documentation evidencing his or her finances.

Complete Online Application

After Form I-864 and financial documents are submitted and all fees are paid, the applicant must submit Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application using the CEAC. Once Form DS-260 is submitted, the applicant must print the confirmation page to bring with them to the consulate interview.

Attend Interview at Consulate or Embassy

After an individual’s immigrant visa petition is submitted, he or she will need to attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them where a U.S. official will ask questions relevant to the individual’s desire to live in the United States permanently.

After Immigrant Visa is Granted

Once an individual’s visa petition is approved and an Immigrant Visa is granted, he or she will receive a sealed Visa Packet that must be brought to a United States port of entry when the individual seeks entry into the United States, and must not be opened prior to arrival at the port of entry. So long as the individual has paid all United States Citizenship and Immigration Services fees, the individual’s Green Card should arrive by mail to the individual’s United States address within 45 days of arrival in the United States.

How Much Does it Cost to Adjust Status?

Immigrant Visa Petition

The cost to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is $535. The cost to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker is $700. There is no fee to file Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.

Biometrics Services Appointment

The cost of the Biometrics Services Appointment is $85. However, individuals under the age of 14 or over the age of 79 do not have to pay this fee. Individuals who have been admitted to the United States as refugees also do not have to pay the Biometrics Services Appointment fee.

Form I-485

The cost to file Form I-485 can vary depending on age and Green Card category. For most applicants the cost is $1,140. However, individuals who are under the age of 14 applying with Form I-485 of at least one parent must only pay $750. Individuals who have been admitted to the United States as refugees do not have to pay anything to file Form I-485.

How Much Does Consular Processing Cost?

Immigrant Visa Petition

The cost to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative is $535. The cost to file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker is $700. There is no fee to file Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support & Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application

The cost to file Form I-864 is $120 and the cost to file Form DS-260 is $325. These fees will be paid together.

U.S. Immigrant Fee

The immigrant fee is $220.