The final stage of the immigration, or “green card”, process is to “register” to become a permanent resident. This can be done either through an application to adjust status to permanent residence filed with the USCIS, or through an application for an immigrant visa filed with the Department of State’s National Visa Center and processed at the U.S. consulate in your home country. The following chart may help applicants decide which is the most appropriate for their specific situation.
|Green Card Process Details||Adjustment of Status (AOS)||Immigrant Visa Consular Processing (IVCP)|
|Concurrent Filing||Concurrent filing of I-140 Petition and AOS Applications is available.||Not available. Must have approved I-140 Petition in order to proceed.|
|Employment Authorization||AOS applicants, which may include a principal applicant’s spouse and children under the age of 21, may apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) based on the pendency of the adjustment of status.|
AOS applicants relying on the EAD for employment authorization will also require an advance parole (AP) travel document for international travel.
*Please note that processing times on EAD/AP documents can vary widely, and take as long as 4-6 months.*
However, applicants with valid non-immigrant work visas like O-1, H-1B, J-1, et cetera may continue to work and travel without interruption, and will not need the EAD/AP card.
|International Travel||With the exception of those maintaining H or L status, AOS applicants must obtain an AP travel document prior to departing the U.S. Those maintaining H or L status may travel using their valid H or L visa.|
*Travel while the application for advance parole is pending will result in the denial of the parole application, even if the applicant is otherwise authorized to travel.*
|Applicants for IVCP may travel without restriction if they have valid visas for travel.
*Please note that scheduling of the consular interview is done by the consulate, not by the individual applicant. Rescheduling interviews, while possible, cannot guarantee one’s preferred choice of dates.*
|Job Portability||Employment-based adjustment applicants may change to a “same or similar” position with a different employer once their AOS application is pending more than 180 days. This is known as “adjustment of status portability.”||Not available.|
|Dependents||Applicants must be physically present in the U.S. to file an AOS. If family members (spouse and children under 21) are living overseas, only those present in the U.S. will be eligible to file AOS. It is always simplest to file for a family’s green cards if all members are in the same place.||Applicants residing in the U.S. may elect to file through IV consular processing. This may be a good solution for those with eligible family members living outside the U.S.|
|Presence in the U.S.||One must be physically present in the U.S. to file an adjustment of status application. It is recommended that AOS Applicants maintain an underlying non-immigrant status while their application is pending, such as H-1B, O-1, etc.||Consular processing applicants are not required to be present in the U.S. or in their home country while their application is pending.|
|Interviews||Interviews are now required for employment-based AOS Applicants, and processing times are highly variable depending on the local USCIS field office.|
Adjustment of status does not require any international travel for the interview.
|IVCP requires travel to the applicant’s home country for 7-10 days for the medical exam and interview. All applicants, including derivative spouse and children, must attend the interview.
If there is a delay in processing an immigrant visa following the interview, the foreign national could be delayed outside the U.S. until the problem is resolved. If an applicant does not have a non-immigrant visa that permits dual intent (or the ability to apply for one) with which to re-enter the U.S., they may have to wait for the immigrant visa in order to enter the U.S.
|Switching Green Card Processes||Switching from the AOS to Consular Processing after the I-140 is filed requires filing an additional petition with USCIS. This can add a lengthy wait while USCIS processes the request to send the approved I-140 Petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center.||Switching from Consular Processing to AOS is simpler, as an applicant can simply advice the National Visa Center that they will proceed with AOS. If an applicant is not sure which process will be best at the time of the I-140 filing, it may make more sense to request IVCP.|
|Total Green Card Time Frame||AOS Application adjudications are highly variable at this time, because USCIS Local Field Offices schedule interviews at different rates.|
Processing times can currently be anywhere from 8-15 months from filing.
|Interviews are usually scheduled within 4-6 months of filing the green card application with the National Visa Center, subject to availability at a specific consulate.|