FAQ: Immigrant Visas and Consular Processing

Nhu-Y Le
October 30, 2023

Introduction to Consular Processing

What is a visa?

You need a valid visa to enter the U.S. With BDV Solutions you will be applying for an employment-based, EB-3 unskilled immigrant visa.

What is the difference between non-immigrant and immigrant visas?

  • A non-immigrant visa (such as an F-1 student visa or B-2 tourist visa) is issued by a U.S. Consulate to a foreign national who only intends to stay in the U.S. temporarily, and who will leave the U.S. at the end of their temporary trip (such as study or tourism).  
  • An immigrant visa is issued by a U.S. Consulate to a foreign national who intends to live permanently in the U.S. and receive a green card. An EB-3 Unskilled visa is an employment-based, immigrant visa.

Can I get my EB-3 Unskilled visa as soon as USCIS approves the I-140?

It depends. If your priority date is current in the U.S. Visa Bulletin, NVC will notify you to complete the DS-260 and your EB-3 visa interview can be scheduled. If your priority date is not current, your visa interview cannot be scheduled yet and you must wait before you can receive your visa.  

Is premium processing available for the immigrant visa process?  

No. The I-140 petition can be filed with premium processing with USCIS, but there is no premium processing for the NVC and Consular immigrant visa process.

Visa Bulletin and impact to immigrant visa processing

What is the U.S. Visa Bulletin?

The Visa Bulletin is issued every month by the Department of State. It shows which green card applications can be filed, and which filed applications can move forward to green card issuance, based on when the LC was filed. The Visa Bulletin also lets you estimate how long it will take before you get your green card.

What is a priority date, and why does it matter?

The priority date is the date your Labor Certificate was filed. Think of the priority date as your place in line, because it determines when your green card application can be filed and when your green card can be issued. If your priority date is not current for green card filing on the Visa Bulletin (meaning that your priority date is after the cutoff date), the employer can file the I-140 petition, but you will not yet be able to file your actual green card application.

What is retrogression?

When the number of green card applications exceeds the expected number of filings, the Visa Bulletin may go into retrogression, or reflect cut-off dates for your priority date (your place in the green card line) that move backward. This happens as the government tries to balance the demand to stay within the visa cap for each category of visa.

Immigrant visa process for your spouse and children

Can my children obtain a green card?

Applicants for green cards may include their unmarried children under the age of 21 on their green card applications. To decrease the risk of children “aging out” (i.e., turning 21 before approval of the green card), the U.S. government created the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) which locks in the child’s age in what is known as the “CSPA age”.

To qualify for CSPA:

  1. Your child must be unmarried; and
  2. The I-140 must be filed before your child turns 21.

If the above qualifications are met, then the CSPA age is calculated by applying this formula:

Age at time of visa availability - Pending time of I-140 = CSPA Age

Let’s apply this formula to an example.

  • Let’s say you have a child who is 20 years and 2 months old when your I-140 was filed.  
  • Your priority date did not become current under the “Dates for Filing” chart in the Visa Bulletin until 12 months after I-140 filing. This means that your child’s “age at time of visa availability” is 21 years and 2 months old. (20 years and 2 months + 12 months = 21 years and 2 months)
  • Let’s also say that it took 5 months from I-140 filing to I-140 approval, meaning “pending time of I-140" is 5 months.  

Now apply the CSPA formula:

21 years and 2 months – 5 months = CSPA age of 20 years and 9 months.

This means that, in this example, your child has not aged out and would be eligible to apply for a green card.

Immigrant visa interview

What documents do I need to bring to my visa interview at the U.S. consulate?

The list will include such documents as a valid passport, birth certificates, your I-140 approval notice, your DS-260 confirmation, and your sealed immigration medical exam.

Do I need an immigration medical exam before my visa interview?

Yes. Each consulate provides instructions and referrals to qualified immigration medical doctors in your country. You will need to bring proof of your vaccination history to the exam. Once the exam is complete, the doctor’s office will give you the exam report in a sealed envelope. You will bring that sealed envelope to your visa interview.

After immigrant visa interview

How long until I receive my immigrant visa after the interview?

Consular procedures can differ by country. But, in general, the Consulate will issue a visa to be placed in your passport, either at the appointment or to be picked up a few days afterwards. The Consulate will give you a sealed envelope to present to CBP at the airport where you arrive in the U.S.

What is administrative processing?

When you attend your visa appointment at the U.S. Consulate, your visa request can either be approved, denied, or you can be issued administrative processing.

Administrative processing means that the government needs additional time to review your background before issuing the visa. There could be a host of reasons why administrative processing is issued, ranging from your name matching the name of a person of interest, to you working on sensitive technology (ex: drone research).

Also, administrative processing is relatively common and, on its own, does not mean that you will not receive the visa. Most administrative processing cases are cleared in several weeks.

Working for your EB-3 sponsor

When do I need to start working for my EB-3 sponsor?

You will have 2 months to move to the U.S. after your visa approval, and then you will be expected to start work as soon as possible after your move, taking some time, of course, to receive your Social Security card, get settled in, and find transportation and housing. BDV’s Client Services team will assist you with the relocation process to start working for your sponsor. Because your sponsor has a chronic labor shortage, you cannot delay starting work.

How long do I have to work for my sponsor once I am in the U.S.?

When you sign your contract with BDV, you agree to work for your sponsor for at least 12 months. Many of our sponsors provide opportunities to grow within their companies, so you may stay longer than 1 year and receive promotions or take a job within your field of expertise inside that company. The possibilities are endless! Don't limit yourself to just one year at your company, and think of it as a place to grow.

U.S. Citizenship

How long do I need to reside in the U.S. until I can apply for U.S. citizenship?

In general, you will need to wait five years from the date you receive your permanent residence/green card until you can naturalize as a U.S. citizen.

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