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Legal Guide: Consular Processing for Family Petitions

Consular Processing is one of the various ways to apply for an immigrant visa (green card) through a U.S. embassy or consulate in a foreign country. This process occurs when someone is outside of the United States and is trying to immigrate legally.

Family Petitions in the Consular Process

Consular Processing is also a term used during family-based petitions. If you are petitioning for your wife or child, or your parents that are outside of the country and trying to obtain their green card, then you’re in the consular process.

The process involves the beneficiary going to the U.S. consulate of their country, which most countries have. However, some countries, like Venezuela, do not have a consulate, so the family member will have to do the process in neighboring countries. Although, if you are the petitioner of the loved one trying to immigrate to the U.S., then you are allowed to go through the consular process within the U.S. 

Consular Processing


We will discuss consular processing in terms of family-based petitions. 

  • Form I-130 submission: Consular processing usually starts after Form I-130 is submitted. Once you have submitted this form, the first block of the immigration process has been completed and it goes to what we call the National Visa Center, which is the body of immigration that handles all the applications outside the United States.
  • Make sure to have a petitionary: This is the person who will be petitioning for what we call the beneficiary or the immigrant that is trying to obtain their lawful residency. There must also be a valid relationship between the petitioner (you) and the beneficiary (person trying to obtain a green card).
  • Legally Binding Relationship: The relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary must be legally binding. One example would be a civilly married couple.

Family Sponsorships in Consular Processing

Consular Processing is required for any family members that you are trying to petition to enter the United States. Whether it be a spouse, child, or sibling, they are all required to undergo this process.

What if my loved one is currently in the U.S. illegally? People that arrived in the U.S. without passing inspection must go back to their native country to do consular processing. For example, if you are trying to petition for your spouse and they arrived without inspection from Mexico, then they will have to return for the process to begin. 

Entering with a visa: People who come to the U.S. with a visa and do not have an immediate relative as their petitioner must also do consular processing outside of the U.S.

For example, if you came into the U.S. with a visa, but your spouse is only a resident, then you will have to return to your country to do consular processing. This is because spouses are not considered immediate relatives.

Every Case is Unique

Below are two examples of consular processing scenarios involving entering the United States without inspection and applying for consular processing while traveling on a tourist visa. It is important to remember that every case is unique and is assessed as such.

  • If you have entered the U.S. without inspection and decide to return to your country and come back without inspection a second time, then you will obtain what is called a Permanent Bar.
  • If you are currently in the process of consular processing and want to come into the United States and apply for a tourist visa or use your tourist visa, you can do it but tread carefully. In the end, it is the immigration officer who looks at your record and decides if you are allowed entry back into the U.S. with a tourist visa while you are traveling. The immigration officer also has the right to invalidate your visa.

It is also important to remember that there are certain factors that won’t help your case. For example, if you have a bad criminal record, like a felony, or if you have a permanent bar, it is recommended that you should not consider leaving the United States.

Likewise, the chances of you being successful in your case are extremely high when you hire an immigration attorney or law firm that specializes in these cases. With their expertise, an attorney will know how to navigate your case to obtain your green card.


Consular Processing is a way to obtain permanent residence (green card) in the United States and is the pathway used in family-based petitions. Whether you are the petitioner or beneficiary, it is important to understand the full consular process and remember an immigration attorney will do what’s best for your specific case.

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