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Adjustment of status or consular processing? 

 

If 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 immediately. 

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 time. 


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.


 

   
   

 

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