Green Card (Immigrant Visa Processing/Consular Processing) Outside of the United States


After an immigrant petition (family-based or employment-based) filed in the United States is approved by USCIS, and the petition requested immigrant visa processing, (instead of adjustment of status), it is forwarded to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.

The NVC has a significant role in the next steps of the immigrant visa process by providing instructions to petitioners, sponsors, and visa applicants throughout the documentation gathering; reviewing required Affidavit of Support forms from sponsors to ensure compliance; and receiving fees, application forms, and other required documents from visa applicants.

Upon receipt of the approval notice from USCIS, the National Visa Center will send an acknowledgement to the beneficiary that the approval notice has been received by the National Visa Center. 

If the foreign national’s priority date is not current, the NVC will contact the foreign national beneficiary and hold the petition until the priority date is current. 

If the foreign national beneficiary’s priority date is current (or they are not subject to a preference category), the National Visa Center will first invoice the foreign national beneficiary for the applicable immigrant visa fees. Once the immigrant visa fees are paid, the NVC will issue document cover sheets for the foreign national beneficiary to submit the visa application and supporting documentation.

What documents need to be submitted to the National Visa Center?

The following is a list of documents that should be submitted to the National Visa Center, as applicable to the foreign national’s situation: 

  • Visa Application Forms: DS-260 (available online after the Immigrant Visa Fees have been paid)
  • Birth Certificates
  • Court and Prison Records
  • Deportation Documentation
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Marriage Termination Documentation
  • Military Records
  • Petitioner Documents
  • Photocopy of Valid Passport Biographic Data Page
  • Photographs
  • Police Certificates
  • Adoption Documentation

Additional information on the specifics of the above-referenced documents can be found here

What happens after the documents are submitted to the National Visa Center?

After receiving and reviewing the visa application and supporting documentation, the NVC will request additional information, if necessary, and subsequently hold the visa petition until an immigrant visa interview can be scheduled at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate having jurisdiction over the foreign national beneficiary’s place of residence. 

About one month prior to the foreign national’s visa interview appointment, the foreign national beneficiary will receive an appointment letter containing the date and time of the interview, along with instructions for obtaining a medical examination.

What should the foreign national do before the immigrant visa interview?

  1. Review the information sent by NVC noting the date, time, and location of the immigrant visa interview.
  2. Prepare and complete the Medical Examination prior to the immigrant visa interview by a approved civil surgeon.
  3. Ensure that all required Original Documents will be available at the time of the interview.  Copies of these documents should have been previously submitted to the NVC and will be sent to the Consulate by the NVC. 
  4. Obtain the required Photographs.
  5. Review the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General - specific Interview Guidelines. 

What happens during the immigrant visa interview?

During the interview, the interviewing officer will review the documents, ensure there are no admissibility issues, question the applicant on any concerns/issues they may have relevant to the foreign national’s eligibility for an immigrant visa, etc. 

What happens after the immigrant visa interview?

After the interview, if approved, the foreign national should receive their immigrant visa which they can use to enter the United States as lawful permanent residents.  Pursuant to INA §221(c), an immigrant visa is valid for a maximum period of six months. Therefore, the foreign national should plan on entering the United States within six months after being issued their immigrant visa.

Prior to entering the U.S., the foreign national should pay the immigrant visa fee of $165 USD online.  This fee is required to be paid so that USCIS will eventually send the foreign national their lawful permanent resident card once they enter the U.S. with their immigrant visa. 

Once admitted into the United States, a U.S. Customs & Border Protection officer will stamp the alien's passport with a temporary Form I-551 (i.e. green card), which will evidence the alien's lawful permanent resident status until his or her permanent Form I-551 (green card) is available. The foreign national may use the passport stamp for employment authorization and/or travel permission also until the green card arrives in the mail. 

 Rev. March 2017