Frequently Asked Questions About Consular Processing for an Immigrant Visa

By Scott M. Borene*

1. Why apply for an immigrant visa via consular processing?

An individual may be required to apply for an immigrant visa abroad at a U.S. consulate because he or she is not eligible to apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence in the U.S. Otherwise, an individual may opt to apply for an immigrant visa abroad because processing times at certain consulates may be much quicker than the current processing times for adjustment of status applications at the appropriate USCIS office in the U.S.

2. How does one determine which U.S. consulate will accept an immigrant visa application?

Generally, an immigrant visa applicant should apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate in the country where he or she resides or where he or she last resided, if currently in the U.S. An individual also may apply for an immigrant visa at a consulate in another country if he or she presently resides within its jurisdiction and intends to remain there throughout the entire process. If an individual is currently in the U.S. and will experience hardship by returning to his or her home country for consular processing of an immigrant visa, he or she may apply for an immigrant visa at any other consulate that will accept the application.

3. What is the general procedure for applying for an immigrant visa via consular processing?

In order to apply for an immigrant visa abroad, an individual must usually first be the beneficiary of an approved employment-based or family-based or other immigrant visa petition. If an immigrant visa is not immediately available, the approved immigrant petition is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC), where it remains until an immigrant visa number is available. If an immigrant visa is immediately available, the approved petition is sent to the NVC for further processing. The role of NVC is discussed in greater detail below.

4. What role does the National Visa Center (NVC) play in the process?

The National Visa center (NVC) acts as an intermediary agency between the USCIS and the U.S. consulate abroad that will be processing the immigrant visa application. Once an immigrant petition is approved, the petition will be sent to the NVC and eventually forwarded to the consulate. The NVC will send the applicant a packet of initial forms to be completed and instructions on documents that must be obtained before an interview can be scheduled at the consulate abroad. Once these documents are completed and the required documents obtained, the NVC will notify the appropriate consulate which will notify the applicant of the interview appointment and medical appointment.

5. Is there a financial requirement?

As is the case with any individual who seeks to become a permanent resident of the United States, each immigrant visa applicant must prove that he or she will not become a public charge once he or she becomes a U.S. permanent resident.

6. Are immigrant visa applicants required to attend an interview?

Yes. An interview is required as part of the immigrant visa application process. The consulate will provide the applicant with information regarding the interview process as it may vary among consulates.

7. Is a medical examination required?

Yes. Again, the consulate will provide the applicant with information regarding the medical appointment procedure and vaccination requirements.

8. What role does an immigration attorney play in the process?

An immigration attorney can assist in the preparation of forms and provide legal advice regarding the general process or regarding any issues that may arise. Most consulates do not allow the attorney to attend the actual interview with the client at the consulate.

9. How long does it take to obtain an immigrant visa via consular processing?

Processing times vary among consulates, changing frequently. Recently, processing times have ranged from less than 30 days to several months depending upon multiple factors. In addition, some applicants may be subject to more extensive background security checks, which can significantly delay the application process. An individual should check with the appropriate consulate regarding its current processing times for immigrant visas.


*Scott M. Borene is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Borene Law Firm, P. A. The immigration lawyers now with Borene Law Firm have more than 70 years of combined professional experience helping clients with U.S. and global visa and immigration projects. Scott Borene was selected by other lawyers as 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Immigration Law as noted by The Best Lawyers in America and Minnesota Monthly magazine. He has been repeatedly recognized as one of the Top 20 Lawyers in the World “most highly regarded by other lawyers” in corporate immigration law. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America and acknowledged as an Immigration Law Super Lawyer. He is often called upon to act as an “expert’s expert” to advise other experienced immigration lawyers on complex immigration matters. Scott Borene is a past Director and a past Member of the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the world’s largest professional organization of immigration lawyers. In 2002, he was the founder and Conference Chair of AILA’s Global Immigration Summit in New York City, the world’s largest conference of global immigration lawyers. He has written many articles on immigration law and is a frequently invited expert speaker on immigration topics at AILA National Conferences and other major national and international legal conferences. He is the Editor-in-Chief of many leading professional reference books for immigration lawyers including The Global Immigration Guide: A Country-by-Country Survey and The Global Immigration Guide: Crossing Borders for Business, AILA’s most comprehensive books on Global Immigration. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Immigration Options for Academics and Researchers (2005), AILA’s leading Expert Occupational Handbook on immigration issues in higher education. He is the author of Dr. Yes – Some Practical Strategies for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Immigrant Visa Cases of Health Care Professionals. Scott Borene attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a National Merit Scholar. After graduation from Harvard, he attended William Mitchell Law School in Minnesota. Scott Borene has more than 30 years of experience helping employers obtain work visas for key international talent. Scott Borene can be reached at

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