Adjustment of Status vs. Consular Processing

If the person is outside the U.S., the only way to immigrate to the U.S. is to go for consular processing. However, the person already in the U.S. can go either for Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing. Please review both the options very carefully before going for one or the other, as individual circumstances may vary.

Recent delays in I-485 processing have encouraged lots of candidates to apply for consular processing abroad, as it is faster and easier.

Consular processing has a much shorter processing time of around 4 to 6 months, compared to several years in Adjustment of Status. Consular processing has a much lower risk of refusal as consular officer many not deny an immigrant visa based on discretion, as it may be the case with adjustment of status. More details about consular processing refusal.

For some people already present in the United States, adjustment of status may be the preferred method since the Adjustment of Status applicant whose case is denied may challenge such denial through the administrative and/or judicial appellate processes. Denial of a visa at a U.S. Consular post, however, is essentially a non-reviewable, non appealable order; there are limited exceptions that may permit review. Once the adjustment application has been pending for 180 days, the principal applicant may change employers within the same occupational classification.

In addition, Visa processing at a consular post abroad also involves the additional time and expense of traveling overseas and may further prolong the separation between family members. Some people may combine it with the vacation, but for most people, they will have to take time off from the work and their work schedule may make it difficult. The Adjustment of Status applicant may reside in the United States, obtain employment authorization, and a travel document until his/her case is processed, reviewed, and completed by the USCIS.

A person who is already legally in the U.S. can remain in the U.S. until the time of interview and medical examination at a consular post. Even if the person is outside U.S. at the time of applying, he/she can come to the U.S. if he/she has valid non-immigrant visa. Persons who go for consular processing would need to go to their home country for usually about 1 week to 10 days for the medical examination and interview.

Consular processing can be done even if you are using EAD, as long as you didn't file I-485 just for the sake of getting EAD and then promptly apply for CP. That way you abuse both the systems and invite otherwise avoidable problems.

If 180 days have passed since the person has filed employment based I-485, it is possible to change the employer under AC21 law. It is also possible to get a new job offer in similar profession by the time USCIS asks for the job verification. However if you get laid off and you are going the consular processing route, you will have to start the entire process all over again.

Can't decide immediately?
When an I-130 (Family Based) or I-140 (Employment Based) immigrant petition is filed, if you are not sure whether you would like to do adjustment of status or consular processing or want to have options open, the best way is to write at the bottom of the petition (with red color pen so that it is easily noticeable) something like "Will not do adjustment of status, please send approved petition to NVC".

Once the petition is approved, if you decide to do Adjustment of Status, just file it with USCIS, and no time is wasted. If you decide to do consular processing, NVC is already processing the application for you.

Switching from Consular Processing to Adjustment of Status
All you have to do is just file Adjustment of Status application with USCIS. As USCIS already has your original petition, they will take care of everything and you don't need to do anything else.

If you have already started your consular processing, as a matter of courtesy, you should inform the consulate that you have decided to switch to adjustment of status. You should also inform the NVC about the same, as it helps them to streamline their file storage.

Switching from Adjustment of Status to Consular Processing
  • If you specified Adjustment of Status in I-130 (Family Based) or I-140 (Employment Based) immigrant petition, you have to file Form I-824 to have the file sent to NVC. This may take up to 1 year to transfer the file from USCIS to NVC.

  • Attorney Certified I-140 procedure. This is a much faster procedure that may take just 2 to 3 months from initial submission.