Adjustment of Status (AOS) and Consular Processing are two distinct paths to obtaining lawful permanent residency (a green card) in the United States. Here are the main differences:

Adjustment of Status (AOS)

  • Location: AOS is the process used by an individual who is already in the United States to obtain a green card without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing.
  • Applicability: It is generally used by individuals who entered the U.S. legally and are eligible to apply for a green card because they have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member, or an employer willing to sponsor them, among other categories.
  • Process: The individual files Form I-485 with USCIS and waits for it to be processed while remaining in the U.S. During this period, applicants can also apply for a work permit and advance parole, which allows them to travel in and out of the country.
  • Interview: Typically, the applicant must attend an interview at a local USCIS office.

Consular Processing

  • Location: Consular Processing is the procedure used by individuals outside the United States or those who prefer to process their green cards through a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country or current country of residence.
  • Applicability: It is mandatory for individuals who are not in the U.S. or those who are in the U.S. but choose to or must go through the process from abroad (e.g., due to their current immigration status or because they are not eligible for AOS).
  • Process: The U.S. employer or family member starts the process by filing a petition with USCIS. Once approved, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC) and eventually to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate. The applicant completes a visa application, submits required documents, pays the fees, and attends a medical examination. Eventually, they will be called for an interview at the consulate.
  • Interview: The interview takes place at the U.S. embassy or consulate, and if approved, the applicant receives a visa to travel to the U.S. Upon entry into the U.S., they become a lawful permanent resident.

Main Differences:

  • Location of the Applicant: AOS is for individuals already in the U.S.; Consular Processing is for those outside the U.S. or who need to go abroad for processing.
  • Processing Agencies: AOS is handled entirely by USCIS; Consular Processing involves the Department of State and its consulates, as well as initial processing by USCIS.
  • Travel During Process: AOS applicants can travel with advance parole while their application is pending; Consular Processing applicants should not enter the U.S. during the process until they have their visa.
  • Availability Based on Status: Some applicants may not be eligible for AOS and must use Consular Processing depending on their immigration status or if they have certain violations of immigration law.

Each process has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the best option depends on the individual circumstances of the applicant. An immigration lawyer can provide guidance on which process is more suitable for a particular case. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a consultation

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