When seeking lawful permanent residence (LPR) in the United States, applicants undergo one of two immigration procedures: adjustment of status vs consular processing. Several factors, such as geographical location or temporary visas, may determine which procedure you will proceed with, and some applicants may even be granted the right to choose between the two.

Individuals seeking lawful permanent residence and holding a valid immigration status, such as an F-1 student visa or an H-1B work visa and having an immediate family member or spouse that is a United States citizen, are eligible to choose between the two processes. If you are eligible to choose, we recommend reading further and reaching out to a knowledgeable immigration lawyer to make an informed decision before moving forward in your immigration process.

Consular Processing

Consular processing is one of the most common immigration procedures for those seeking lawful permanent residence while living outside of the United States. Applicants may only apply for consular processing in their country of origin, in a third country, if eligible, or in another country they work in. 

To be considered for consular processing, a family member or U.S. employer must submit a petition on your behalf, generally Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, or Form I-140, Immigration Petition for Alien Worker. Once you or your petitioner has received a priority date and a visa number, you can then apply for a United States immigrant visa while living abroad. Once the immigrant visa application is submitted, you must complete an interview with a consular officer at your local U.S. embassy or consulate. From there, they will contact you about further steps for retrieving your immigrant visa.

Consular Processing Timeline

Consular processing is completed through three different government entities which are U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the National Visa Center and your local United States embassy. The average timeline for consular processing ranges from four to eight months from the day of USCIS approval.

  • After a petitioner files all necessary documentation, immigrant petitions are approved or denied by USCIS. Processing time can be verified by visiting the USCIS website for the most up to date information.
  • Following approval of your petition, the National Visa Center (NVC) will guide you in preparing your visa application for your interview at your local U.S. embassy or consulate. 
  • Finally, your interview will be conducted at your local U.S. embassy. You can visit the Department of State Travel for more information regarding your visa appointment wait times.

Pros of Consular Processing

  • It may take less time to process a consular processing application than an adjustment of status application. Likewise, this depends upon an individual's local U.S. embassy or consulate. 
  • The application can be filed from your home country without having to travel to the United States. As a result, an individual can also save time and money.
  • Consular processing generally has lower filing fees.

Cons of Consular Processing

  • An individual must complete an interview with a consular officer. Appointments depend on the consulate or U.S. embassy’s availability.
  • Consulates do not allow individuals the right to have an attorney present during an interview. 
  • Unfortunately, if a U.S. consulate officer denies your immigration visa, most of the time you cannot appeal the denial decision. Although, if you have no evidence of ineligibility during the application process, you are welcome to reapply. 
  • During the consular processing, your family in the U.S. may be separated from you (if applicable).
  • As a result, people who have lived in the U.S. on a visa need to travel back home and complete their applications from there (relocating means spending money at present).

Adjustment of Status

Adjustment of Status is another immigration procedure developed to help those who already reside in the United States to become lawful permanent residents. To apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States, you must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

Adjustment of Status Processing Timeline 

Processing time can vary and can be verified by visiting the USCIS website for the most up to date information. The average wait time can range from 8 to 30 months based on their category

Adjustment of status processing time can be different based on the application category:

  • Employment-based adjustment of status 
  • Family-based adjustment of status 
  • Based on granted asylum more the one year ago 
  • Based on refugee admission more than one year ago 
  • based on an approved T visa application
  • based on an approved U visa application

Pros of Adjustment of Status 

  • Adjustment of status applications are like visas and allow you to remain in the country until your case is resolved
  • During this time, you are eligible to obtain a work permit and a travel document.
  •  Applicants and their family members are allowed to remain in the U.S. while awaiting a final decision. 
  • With advance parole, you are allowed to travel abroad and return to the United States.
  • If you have been denied, you have the right to appeal the decision and present your Green Card application to an immigration judge.

Cons of Adjustment of Status

  • An adjustment of status is only available for individuals who are already in the United States. 
  • In some cases, an adjustment of status may take longer to process 
  • In contrast to consular processing, it requires more expensive processing fees. 
  • A person may not qualify for an adjustment of status if they have been convicted of a crime or have committed an immigration violation. 

Processing times for an adjustment of status may vary depending on the details of your personal immigration case. We highly recommend that you reach out to an immigration attorney for further guidance. 

Adjustment of Status VS Consular Processing FAQs:

Who can choose between consular processing VS adjustment of status?

You are eligible to choose between adjustment of status or consular processing if you are seeking lawful permanent residency and have a valid visa, such as an F-1 student visa (Academic Student) or an H-1B work visa and if your spouse or immediate family member is a United States citizen.

What is consular processing?

Consular processing is an immigration process in which individuals seeking lawful permanent residence from a foreign country must file their paperwork abroad on behalf of a United States petitioner, most commonly a family member or employer. These documents are filed with a U.S. consulate within their own country.

What is an adjustment of status?

Adjustment of status grants individuals already living in the United States the opportunity to adjust their immigration status and file for lawful permanent residence without returning to their country of origin. 

How long does it take to get an interview for a US visa?

An interview is usually scheduled within three months after the National Visa Center receives all requested documentation. However, this timeframe is dependent on the consular section's operation and capacity.