The procedure for an intending immigrant to obtain Lawful Permanent Residence or a “green card” in the United States is called Consular Processing. Once the petition for a family member residing abroad has been approved, the next step will be for the priority date of the approved petition to become current. For immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the priority date will become current immediately and you will be notified by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) that your case has been transferred to the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For family members of a Lawful Resident there will be a mandatory wait time.
Once the visa is available, The National Visa Center receives the file and assigns a case number. The intending immigrant will be able to electronically submit Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application. Additionally, Form I-864, Affidavit of Support must be filed by the petitioner to demonstrate that the immigrant(s) will have sufficient financial support upon arrival to the United States.
The requirement that the family sponsor must prove is that their household income is at least 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. The guideline establishes the minimum income level based on the sponsor’s current number of dependents and includes the potential immigrant in such calculation. The minimal income levels can be found on immigration Form I-864P. The sponsor will need to include a copy of their most recent federal income tax returns, and will be required to provide their adjusted gross income for the previous three years. If the sponsor cannot meet the minimum income requirements, they can add a joint sponsor to make up the difference, or contribute financial assets such as money in the bank or property. Fortunately, the joint sponsor does not have to be a family member.
You will have the option of submitting all required documentation to the National Visa Center or bringing it to your interview. It is important to note that original documents are required at this stage, and many times a copy will not be sufficient. Once the National Visa Center reviews the applications and required documents, the file will be sent to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to the intending immigrant, and an interview date will be assigned. It is important to note that in many cases you will have to obtain police certificates for every country that you have lived for more than six months and every country that you have ever been arrested. You will also need to have a medical examination performed by a doctor that is approved by USCIS or the U.S. Consulate. The doctor will need to confirm to immigration that the immigrant does not have any significant communicable diseases and has received all necessary vaccinations.
For those who are getting their “green card” through marriage, it is recommended that you travel to the consulate or embassy and appear at the interview with your spouse. This may help demonstrate to the immigration officer that is conducting the interview that the marriage is legitimate, and increase the chances of approval. Many people going through consular processing are anxious to reunite with their loved one in the U.S. and it is advisable that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney so that your case is not denied or delayed. Filling out all the applications correctly the first time, providing all the correct documentation from the beginning and being!