There are two methods of obtaining permanent resident status. An individual who has an approved immigrant petition and an immigrant visa number may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate overseas for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States to become admitted as a permanent resident. Alternatively a person can apply for “Adjustment of Status.” This is where an eligible person who is already in the United States can apply for permanent resident status without having to first return to his/her home country.

A visa is a conditional authorization given by a country for a person who is not a citizen of that country to enter its territory and to remain there for a specified period of time. The United States maintains consulates in other countries for the purposes of representing the interests of United States citizens in that country, and also generally the interests of the United States. Processing citizenship applications falls under these responsibilities. This immigration route is referred to as “consular processing.”

Consular processing involves:

  1. Determine your immigration basis

The first step in consular processing is to determine if you are qualified. Most immigrants become eligible for permanent residence through a petition filed on their behalf by a family member or employer. Others become permanent residents through first obtaining refugee or asylum status or through a number of other special provisions.

  1.  File the petition

You will need to have an immigrant petition filed on your behalf. There are three general ways to qualify:

  • Family Based
  • Employment Based
  • Special Classes of Immigrants

In some cases, an I-130 Petition may be filed for an immediate relative; a spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen with a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. These situations may include:

  • Members of the military
  • Emergency situations
  • Situations involving the health or safety of the petitioner
  • When in the national interests of the United States


  1. Wait for a Decision

USCIS notifies the petitioner when a decision is made. If the petition is denied, the notice will include the reasons and any right to appeal. If the petition is approved and if you are living outside of the United States or living in the United States but choose to apply for your immigrant visa abroad, USCIS will then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center until an immigrant visa number is available.

If you are interested in consular processing, consult with an experienced immigration attorney. It is always a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney when you prepare an immigration petition for advice and assistance on the best way to do so to increase your opportunity for success. Also, an attorney can assist you in identifying and collecting the best evidence to support your petition.