Family-Based “Consular Processing”

Family-Based “Consular Processing”

If a family member of yours lives abroad and would like to earn status in the United States through you or another family member of yours, he or she may be eligible for what immigration attorneys refer to as “consular processing.”  This is the process by which a U.S.-based family-member applies for another family member to receive status to come to the United States.  (See section “Family-Based Petitions.”)  The process by which someone living abroad earns status through a family member to come to the United States is based out of a U.S. consulate, embassy, or other diplomatic office in his or her home country.  This is why it is called “consular processing.”  

How it Works

Most of the process of bringing a family member to the United States takes place within the United States, but at a certain point in the process, the materials are transferred to the U.S. consulate in the beneficiary’s home country, and the family-member beneficiary has to attend an interview and complete some other steps there.  When the interview is completed and the application for an “immigrant visa” is approved, that family member may then travel to the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident!  It is important to note, that if someone enters the United States illegally, and accumulates more than six months of “unlawful presence” here, that person will usually have to go back to his or her home country to process his or her application through the U.S. consulate there.  Since the late 1990s, it has become impermissible for someone with more than six months of unlawful presence (in most, but not all cases) to remain in the United States while an application benefiting him or her is pending.  Usually, at some point, the beneficiary family member will have to return to his or her home country to process his or her immigrant visa application at the U.S. Consulate. 

Lessons from the Past

For on this generation of Americans falls the full burden of proving to the world that we — we really mean when we say — we really mean it when we say that all men are created free and equal before the law. All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world but we don’t. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Bobby Kennedy

Law Day Address at the University of Georgia Law School, delivered 6 May 1961, Athens, Georgia

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