status or consular processing?
a couple seeking to get married has one individual who is a U.S. citizen,
then the foreign national spouse will be able to obtain permanent
residency fairly quickly. This is because Congress has deemed the spouse
of an U.S. citizen to be an immediate relative. Each year, only a limited
number of green cards are available. However, immediate relatives are not
subject to this limited supply. They can apply for a green card
For this type of couple, there are two main ways of obtaining permanent
residency. One is for foreign spouses who are currently in the U.S.,
called adjusting one’s status. The other is for foreign spouses who are
currently overseas waiting in his or her home country. That process is
known as consular processing.
There are important points to consider for each method. Adjustment of
status has a primary advantage in that it permits the couple to remain
together while the permanent residency application is being processed.
This is a significant issue for the two given their status as newlyweds.
During the adjustment of status process, the foreign spouse can apply for
a work permit so that he can work and contribute to the financial support
of the two.
A drawback to adjustment of status is the lengthy duration it currently
takes to get an approval. Local INS offices are severely backlogged and
approval may take up to three years. Furthermore, adjustment of status is
not an entitlement or a right-- it is up to the discretion of the INS. If
the foreign spouse has violated his nonimmigrant status or committed some
other violation of INS regulations, his application for AOS may be denied.
Consular processing occurs overseas at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Given the smaller volume of immigration petitions, these offices are
generally able to process expeditiously the paperwork the foreign spouse
needs to enter the U.S. The foreign spouse will obtain from the embassy or
consulate an immigrant visa that he will use to gain entry. The
disadvantage to this option is that during the pendancy of the application
at the embassy or consulate, the couple usually will be apart, unless the
U.S. citizen is able to stay for the duration of the processing
If a couple has the foresight to plan ahead, heartache and much
frustration can be avoided by strategizing and selecting the most
appropriate route to permanent residency. Which option should be used,
however, will depend on the circumstances of the couple.