What Is Consular Processing?

American flag background - shot and lit in studio

Often I’m asked, “what’s the difference between consular processing or changing status in the United States?” Consular processing is often required when someone is either out of status in this country and is trying to get an employment type of visa, they’re going home to do provisional waiver, or for the first time in their life they’re applying for a green card, and they’re overseas and going to the consulate. Consular processing is processing your case through the consulate. It’s when you go to the consulate for an interview either to get an immigrant visa, meaning a green card, or a non-immigrant visa, such as an H-1B, a visitor’s visa, a student visa, any of the non-immigrant visas, that you want to come in temporarily to be here in the United States.

You would go for an interview at the consulate to see if you meet the qualifications, and if the consulate thinks that you are, they will issue you a visa. Remember, the consulate is not the Immigration Service. It’s the State Department. I remember, when I first started as an immigration lawyer, that was my “aha!” moment; understanding the difference between the consulate and US Immigration. The State Department issues you the visa, and when you come into the United States, you’re met at the border by Customs Border Patrol under the Department of Homeland Security, two different entities.

Consular processing will give you your visa at the State Department, and then when you come in to Immigration in the United Sates, you’ll be greeted by CBP, Customs Border Patrol, under the Department of Homeland Security. Consular processing in short is getting your visa at the consulate overseas.

The Law Office of Cheryl David practices immigration law throughout NYC. If you have questions as to whether consular processing is right for you, or you can maybe change your status in the United States instead of going home, please contact the office to discuss your situation and options.