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Comparing consular processing and adjustment of status

If you want to work in the U.S., there are two ways you can apply for permanent resident status (to get your green card): adjustment of status and consular processing. In this post, we examine the core differences between these two application methods.

Regardless of which application method you choose, your first step is to ensure that you are eligible for a green card. Review these criteria before proceeding any further.

Consular processing

If you currently live outside of the U.S., you can apply for an immigrant visa from your home country. In this case, you’ll have an in-person interview at the U.S. consulate in your country. Depending on the consulate, you may not be allowed to take a lawyer with you to the interview. Decisions for consular processing applications are final—there is no appeals process.

Adjustment of status

With adjustment of status, a candidate can apply while already in the U.S. For employment-based applications, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to have a USCIS interview, but if you do, you have the right to take your attorney with you. While the application is pending, you’ll be able to get a provisional work authorization approximately 90 days after you apply. If your application is denied, you can appeal the decision—and stay in the country during the appeals process.

If you currently live in the U.S. but are ineligible for apply for adjustment of status, returning to your home country and applying via consular processing may be an option. However, it is important to note that if you have resided in the U.S. unlawfully for longer than six months, you may encounter problems when you apply for this visa. The U.S. could bar you from re-entering the country for up to 10 years. If you’re in this position and you’re looking for a way to reside legally in the U.S., it is highly advisable to consult with an immigration attorney before you leave the country to understand what options are available to you.

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