When it’s time to apply for a green card or resident visa, there are two options to consider: filing an adjustment of status or applying for consular processing in your home country. These pathways have very different requirements, waiting periods, and risks.
Adjustment of Status
If you are already living in the United States, you can apply for an adjustment of status. This allows you to change your status to permanent resident without needing to return to your home country.
This option is often much less costly than consular processing, as you do not have to return to your home country and remain there for four to six months while waiting for your application to be approved. Additionally, this route permits families to stay together while individuals work through the immigration process. Additionally, you may be able to apply for an Employment Authorization Document if you wish to work while waiting for a final decision on your visa.
One disadvantage of the adjustment of status process is the wait time. The processing time for an adjustment of status is one to two years. If your application is denied, you are able to challenge the denial and go through the appeals process.
Restrictions on Adjustment of Status
The adjustment of status process isn’t available to everyone. Generally, people in these categories must adjust their status via consular processing:
- Those who are here on a K-1 fiancé visa, as they can only go through the adjustment of status if they marry their sponsor
- People admitted for permanent residence on a conditional basis, including those who entered on a spousal visa and have been married for less than two years and investors; once the conditions are met, adjustment of status is an option
- Those traveling through the United States en route to a different country
- Foreign national crewmen
- Those who have entered under visa waivers as nonimmigrants
- Those who have worked without proper authorization while in the United States
- Applicants who are out of lawful status
- Applicants who have not maintained their lawful status continuously since entering the United States
These restrictions are very specific, and there are many exceptions to consider. Find out if an adjustment of status is available to you by working with the immigration attorneys at Sandoval & James. We’ll be able to look at the details of your situation and recommend a plan of action.
Considering Consular Processing
Consular processing requires that you file your application for lawful permanent residence at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. This process involves submitting the proper documentation, going through a comprehensive medical exam, and completing a consular interview.
Consular processing is, in most cases, considerably faster than applying for an adjustment of status. Compared to the wait time of one to two years for an adjustment of status, most applications that go through consular processing are completed in four to six months.
Due to the wait associated with an adjustment of status, some applicants have chosen to go through consular processing instead of applying for an adjustment of status within the United States. This can be risky, as it requires that you return to your home country and remain separated from your family and work until your application is approved. Furthermore, if your visa application is denied by the consulate, you generally cannot appeal the order. There are some exceptions, but a denial is typically a final decision.
Those who are not currently in the United States lawfully should explore their options before deciding to return home to apply for a visa at the U.S. consulate. This often leads to being barred from re-entry to the United States. The team at Sandoval & James can help you compare different routes to lawful status and find a solution that accommodates your needs.
Whether filing an adjustment of status or going through consular processing is the better option for you, you can feel confident when you have Sandoval & James on your side. Contact us now to schedule your initial consultation.