Married and living abroad? Consular processing might be for you

Attorney Daphne Hankins specializes in bringing family together, no matter where in the world they might be. Barred in the United States and based in Seoul, South Korea, she handles cases from all over the world. For questions about how to bring your loved one to the United States e-mail her at Daphne@HankinsImmigration.com or call her at +82 010 3184 6858.  

If you’re living in Korea or outside of the United States, there’s a chance you’re contemplating marrying someone you’ve met in your new home. You might want to return to the US one day, but what many don’t realize is that now is the perfect time to start the immigration process for their loved one.

If you’re trying to choose between a fiancé visa or marrying your spouse and petitioning, see this article.

If you’re in the US, you’d normally petition for your spouse and when that’s approved, apply for adjustment of status / their green card. But if you live abroad, consular processing fulfills the same function faster and cheaper than the I-485. This means that you can jumpstart your spouse’s path to citizenship long before you ever return home.

Are you eligible for consular processing?

If you are a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident living outside of the US, you are eligible for consular processing.

What is consular processing, really?

Consular processing is the process of getting a marriage based green card. The entire procedure takes between 11 and 17 months and costs $1,200 if you’re living abroad. This price is all inclusive.

What makes it different from your standard green card process is that it’s an option for those living abroad. The United States Center for Immigration Services (USCIS) transfers your case to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is run by the U.S. State Department.

The NVC will forward your case to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s spouse’s country of residence.

You’ll file your DS-261 online, which tells the State Department how to contact you. The next step is often the one couples struggle the most with. You’ll need to submit supporting documents which include:

  • An affidavit of support
  • A public charge questionnaire
  • Any additional supplemental documents the NVC requests.

For spouses living abroad, you’ll need to provide evidence that you intend to return to the US soon. You must also show that you have a job waiting for you, have enough liquid asset to meet the minimum financial requirement, or have a joint sponsor who agrees to take on the legal obligation of financially supporting your spouse in case you’re unable to.

Next, your spouse will have a medical examination by a State Department-approved doctor, then schedule a fingerprinting appointment at a visa application support center.

Once this is done, the green card interview is scheduled.

The Green Card Interview

This is the final step in the green card application process, and for many the most stressful and difficult part. It’s wise to go into the interview with an organized file and an idea of what questions the officer will ask.

The spouse living abroad attends the interview in their home country. The sponsoring spouse is sometimes not allowed to attend.

If the consular officer is sufficiently convinced that the marriage is not fraudulent, they may approve the green card application on the spot. But the officer may also:

  • Request for Evidence (RFE): ask for additional documentary evidence that your relationship is authentic. For example, requesting additional utility bills, bank statement, affidavits from your friends and family, etcetera.
  • Additional Review: the officer will review your case and then send you the decision in the mail.
  • Second Interview: the officer will invite you to return for a second interview to discuss certain areas of your relationship or background.
  • Denial: If the officer believes that the marriage is not bona fide the case may be outright denied. A denial may be on the spot. Factors that lead to denial include insufficient documents, issues uncovered in a background check, or immigration history issues. More often than not, the officer will give you a chance to clear up such issues before making a final decision.

Once you’ve been approved, your spouse has six months to enter the United States before the visa expires.

To ensure that you get the best possible result for your case, have an attorney guide you through the process and ensure that you’re prepared for all situations. For help with spousal petition and consular processing, contact Daphne@HankinsImmigration.com or call at +82 10 3184 6858.