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Consular Processing: Steps for Applying for a Marriage-Based Green Card from Outside the U.S.

Complete Guide to Navigate Consular Processing for a Marriage Based Green CardAre you applying for a green card while living outside the U.S.? This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about consular processing for a marriage-based green card. Follow these steps to navigate the process successfully and reunite with your spouse in the United States.

Understanding Consular Processing for a Marriage-Based Green Card

Consular processing is the method used to apply for a green card when you are outside the U.S. This is essential for foreign nationals married to U.S. citizens or green card holders who want to live permanently in the U.S. The process involves several stages, starting with the U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse submitting a petition.

Complete Step by Step Consular Process Guide

Step-by-Step Guide to Consular Processing

Step 1: Filing Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative

The journey begins with the U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse completing Form I-130 and submitting it to USCIS. This form proves the legitimacy of the marriage.

Key Elements of the I-130 Petition:

  • Proof of the petitioner’s U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.
  • Evidence of a bona fide marriage, such as joint bank accounts, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family.
  • Check out our guide to the Form I-130

Step 2: USCIS Approves I-130 Petition and Case Transfer

USCIS processes the I-130 petition, which can take several months. Once approved, the case is transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC), part of the U.S. Department of State. The NVC assigns a case number and begins pre-processing.

Step 3: Paying Fees and Submitting Affidavit of Support

Next, the petitioner pays the required fees and submits Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support. This form is a legally binding document where the U.S. spouse agrees to financially support the immigrant spouse.

Step 4: Submitting Civil Documents

The NVC will request various civil documents, including:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Police clearance certificates from countries where the applicant has lived for six months or more
  • A copy of the applicant’s passport

Step 5: Completing DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application

The applicant fills out the DS-260 form online, providing personal details, marital information, and any previous immigration history. After submitting the DS-260, applicants receive a confirmation page to bring to the consular interview.

Step 6: Interview Scheduling

Once the NVC is satisfied with the provided documents, it will schedule an interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. The wait time varies by location.

Step 7: Attending the Medical Examination

Before the interview, the applicant must complete a medical examination by an authorized physician. The results are sent directly to the consulate or brought in a sealed envelope to the interview.

Step 8: Attending the Consular Interview

During the consular interview, the applicant will answer questions about their marriage, background, and plans in the U.S.

Tips for a Successful Interview:

  • Bring the interview notice page and all original civil documents.
  • Be ready to discuss the relationship in detail.
  • Be truthful and concise in responses.

Step 9: Receiving the Visa and Traveling to the U.S.

If the consular officer approves the application, the applicant receives an immigrant visa, allowing them to travel to the U.S. Upon entry, the applicant is granted permanent resident status. The green card will be mailed to the U.S. address provided.

Step 10: After Arrival: Obtaining the Green Card

Once in the U.S., the new permanent resident should:

  • Apply for a Social Security number, if not already obtained.
  • Wait for the green card to arrive by mail.
  • Start important activities like obtaining a driver’s license and opening bank accounts.

Required Documents for a Marriage-Based Green Card via Consular Processing

Applicants must provide:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Police clearance certificates
  • A copy of the applicant’s passport
  • Form I-130 and DS-260 confirmation pages

Average Processing Time for a Consular Process Green Card for a Spouse

Processing times vary but generally range from several months to over a year, depending on the consulate and individual circumstances.

Tips for a Successful Application

  • Stay Organized: Keep track of all documents, deadlines, and correspondence with USCIS and the NVC.
  • Double-Check Everything: Ensure all forms are complete and accurate before submission.
  • Use SimpleCitizen: Our platform offers experienced professionals and powerful software to guide you through the process. We’ve helped people like you for over 10 years. Get started today!
  • Seek Professional Help: If the process seems overwhelming, consider hiring an immigration attorney.


Consular processing for a marriage-based green card involves several steps. By understanding each stage and preparing well, applicants can navigate the process successfully and reunite with their loved ones in the U.S. Stay organized, follow instructions carefully, and remember that SimpleCitizen is here to help if you need it. We wish you a smooth and successful journey to obtaining a green card.

Updated on July 2, 2024

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