When applying for permanent residence, it is critical to understand and distinguish between the two different agencies charged with processing green card applications. In general, after a petition is approved-whether though family or employment-an applicant must choose whether to pursue consular processing or adjustment of status (assuming that one’s priority date is current). Put simply, consular processing refers to a process where an individual appears for an interview at a US consulate abroad. These types of cases are handled primarily through the Department of State through the National Visa Center, which collects certain documents and forms before forwarding them to the US consulate. In contrast, the adjustment of status procedure takes place inside the US. The case is filed with and adjudicated domestically by USCIS.
Naturally, there are pros and cons to each process, some of which depend on the applicant’s individual circumstances, e.g., the person’s legal status in the US, his/her age, how the person entered the US, timing considerations, etc. That being said, there are some general observations that are worth noting, especially during a time like this. For one thing, the consulates are temporarily closed due to COVID-19. This is obviously a problem for those pursing the consular route. Once they eventually open, an individual will still need to determine whether he/she falls under the President Trump’s proclamation placing a moratorium on immigrant visas. Although the order is scheduled to expire soon, the President may decide to extend it and possibly expand its contours. For a list of who and who is not exempt from the order, please see our earlier entries.
On the other hand, the adjustment of status process is not currently impacted by the President’s order. There are scores of people applying for and receiving their green cards now through USCIS. Furthermore, since adjustment of status applicants remain inside the US, they are able to stay with their petitioners instead of being separated from them for possibly a year or more. In many cases, an individual may also be eligible for their green cards sooner through the adjustment of status process. This is so because the Dates for Filing priority dates in many preference categories are currently running quicker than Final Acton Dates (which apply to consular cases) in the Visa Bulletin. Bear in mind, however, that an individual must still satisfy certain criteria in order to establish eligibility for adjustment of status. Some common requirements include but are not limited to lawful entry, current legal status, and a current priority date. Should any of these issues prove problematic, an applicant may need to consider alternatives such as consular processing.
For more information on the differences between consular processing and adjustment of status, and which avenue is appropriate for you, please contact our office. The above is general information only and not intended to be construed as legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions, please consult with an attorney.