Consular Processing is the process where an individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available, applies at a U.S. Department of State Embassy or Consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident.

Consular Processing is a multi-step process that involves first filing a petition in the United States with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and then, upon approval of the petition, a second filing with the National Visa Center (NVC) of the Department of State (DOS) and the scheduling of an interview at a US Consular post abroad.

The Steps below are below:

Step 1: Submit a Petition

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident petitioners residing in the United States must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This can be done either electronically or through the traditional paper process through the mail.  Your immigrant petition must be approved by USCIS before your case can proceed to the National Visa Center.

Step 2: Begin National Visa Center (NVC) Processing

After USCIS approves your petition, they will transfer your case to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. The first step in this processing is the creation of your case in the DOS’ system. Once this is complete, the NVC will send you a Welcome Letter by e-mail or physical mail. With the information in this letter, you can log in to the DOS Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to check your status, receive messages, and manage your case.  

Once you submit your fees, forms, and supporting documents to NVC, they will review your case to ensure you provided all the documentation required to schedule the immigrant visa interview. Interviews are based on the availability of appointments offered at the Embassy/Consulate.

To determine which cases NVC is currently reviewing, please refer to the NVC Timeframes page on this link.

Step 3: Pay Fees

The first thing you need to do after receiving your NVC Welcome Letter is pay your processing fees. There are two processing fees:

  1. Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee
  2. Affidavit of Support Fee.

To pay your fee, log into your case in CEAC and click the ‘PAY NOW’ button under Affidavit of Support Fee or IV Fee on your summary page.

Step 4: Complete Online Visa Application (DS-260), Affidavit of Support, and Submit Civil Documents

After you pay your fees and the status in CEAC is updated to ‘PAID’, you and each qualified family member immigrating with you must complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (Form DS-260). 

An Affidavit of Support, also called the Form I-864, is a document an individual signs to accept financial responsibility for the applicant who is coming to live in the United States. The person who signs the Affidavit of Support is also called the “sponsor.” The petitioner must complete Form I-864; however if the petitioner’s income is insufficient, a joint-sponsor may agree to also complete an I-864 on the applicant’s behalf.

An Affidavit of Support is legally enforceable. The sponsor’s financial responsibility usually lasts until the applicant either becomes a U.S. citizen, or can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work (usually 10 years) under the Social Security Act.

By signing Form I-864, the petitioner (including any joint sponsor(s)) is agreeing to use their resources, if necessary, to financially support the beneficiary and any dependent(s). If the beneficiary and dependent(s) receive any designated federal, state, or local means-tested public benefits, under U.S. law the agency providing the benefit “shall request reimbursement” from the signatory of the I-864.  

After you complete your DS-260(s) and Affidavit of Support, you and each family member immigrating with you MUST collect the civil documents required to support your visa application.

Your civil documents MUST be issued by the official issuing authority in your country. Please refer to the Document Finder to learn about the civil document requirements for each country.

Please note that all documents not written in English, or in the official language of the country from which you are applying, must be accompanied by certified translations. The translation must include a statement signed by the translator stating that:

  • The translation is accurate, and
  • The translator is competent to translate.

Important Notice on Missing Documents: If a required document is unavailable per the country-specific guidelines, you do not need to scan the document into your CEAC. However, if you cannot obtain a required document for another reason, you must submit a detailed written explanation to NVC when you scan your other documents. During your visa interview, the consular officer will determine whether you must obtain the missing document before a visa can be issued. As a general rule, any document that is listed as “available” on the country-specific guidelines must be reviewed by a consular officer. Failure to obtain all required documents will delay your case.

Step 5: Scheduling Interview at Consular Post

After the National Visa Center (NVC) schedules your visa interview appointment, they will send you, your petitioner, and your agent/attorney (if applicable) an email noting the appointment date and time.  After you receive an interview Appointment Letter from NVC, you must take the following steps BEFORE the interview date.

  1. Schedule and Complete a Medical Examination

You (and each family member or “derivative applicant” applying for a visa with you) are required to schedule a medical appointment with an authorized physician in the country where you will be interviewed. This exam must be with an embassy-approved doctor, also referred to as the Panel Physician. Exams conducted by other physicians will not be accepted. You must complete your medical examination, along with any required vaccinations, before your scheduled visa interview date. This link contains a List of U.S. Embassies and Consulates for country-specific medical examination instructions.

After your exam, the Panel Physician will either send the exam results directly to the embassy or give you a sealed envelope. If the doctor gives you an envelope, do not open it. Instead, bring it to your visa interview and give it to the consular officer.

  1. Register for Courier Service/Other Pre-Interview Instructions
  2. Gather Documents Required for the Interview

Every visa applicant, no matter their age, must bring certain documents to the interview, including photographs, and the original or certified copy version of all civil documents submitted to NVC. 

What happens if you forget to bring something on this list? The consular officer will not be able to complete the processing of your visa. You will have to gather the missing items and provide them to the embassy or consulate, and may have to come for additional interviews. Failure to bring all items on the above list can delay visa issuance.

Step 6:  Applicant Interview

Prior to the interview, ensure you have followed the U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview preparation instructions.

On the scheduled date and time of your interview appointment, go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with your printed visa application (DS-260) confirmation page. A consular officer will interview you (and accompanying family member beneficiaries) and determine whether or not you are eligible to receive an immigrant visa. As part of the interview process, ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken.

What to bring to the Interview

The applicant is responsible to bring all required original or certified copy civil documents to the visa interview. Failure to bring all required documents to the interview may cause delay or denial of the visa.  You must bring the following documents to the interview:

  • Appointment Letter – The interview appointment letter you received from NVC.
  • Passport – For each applicant, an unexpired passport valid for six months beyond the intended date of entry into the United States
  • Photographs – two identical color photograph(s) for each applicant, which must meet the general Photograph Requirements.
  • DS-260 Confirmation Page
  • Supporting Documents – original or certified copies of all civil documents you uploaded into CEAC. 

Your original documents will be returned to you when the interview has been completed. Any photocopies provided may be kept.

  • English Translations – If documents requiring English translation were not sent to NVC, you must obtain them and present them on the day of your interview. For more information please review the U.S. Embassy or Consulate interview preparation instructions. 
  • Visa Fees – If your visa application fees were collected by NVC, you do not need to pay again. However, if you or any family member did not pay all the necessary fees, you will be asked to pay any unpaid fees at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  

Failure to Appear for Interview - If you cannot appear at your scheduled interview, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible.  If you do not contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate within one year of receiving your interview appointment letter, your case may be terminated and your immigrant visa petition cancelled, and any fees paid will not be refunded.

Step 7: After the Interview

If your visa is approved, you will be informed how and when your passport and visa will be returned to you.

Passport and Visa 

Your immigrant visa will be placed on a page in your passport. Please review the printed information right away to make sure there are no errors. If there are any spelling or biographical errors, contact the embassy or consulate immediately.

What do you need to do before you travel?

You must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) after you receive your immigrant visa and before you travel to the United States. 

Please Note: USCIS will not issue a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551 or Green Card) until you have paid the fee.

When should you travel?

You must arrive in and apply for admission to the United States no later than the visa expiration date printed on your visa. An immigrant visa is usually valid for up to six months from the date of issuance unless your medical examination expires sooner, which may make your visa valid for less than six months.

What if your visa is denied?

If your visa is denied, you will be informed by the consular officer why you are ineligible to receive a visa. Based on U.S. law, not everyone who applies is qualified or eligible for a visa to come to the United States. Under U.S. law, many factors could make an applicant ineligible to receive a visa. For more information, please refer to Ineligibilities for U.S. Visas. In some instances, the law might allow you to apply for a waiver of the ineligibility. If you are able to apply for such a waiver, the consular officer will advise you on the steps to take. The NVC has a Visa Denials webpage for more detailed information.

In some situations the consular officer does not have sufficient information needed to process your application to conclusion, or you may be missing some supporting documentation. The consular officer will inform you if information or documents are missing and how to provide it.