Consular Processing vs. Adjustment of Status

There are essentially two paths for acquiring an immigrant visa and obtaining permanent residence in the United States: consular processing and adjustment of status.

If the applicant is outside the U.S., the only path for immigrating to the U.S. is to use consular processing. Consular processing refers to the process of applying for a visa through the U.S. consulate in a foreign country. Because consular processing generally has a shorter processing time (about 4-6 months), it is preferred by some applicants over adjustment of status. What's more, consular processing has a lower risk of refusal. Unlike USCIS officers, consular officers cannot refuse to issue a visa based on discretion. This means that the consular officer must have specific, factual evidence for denying an application. However, cases that are denied are generally non-reviewable. This means that it is a final decision.

If the applicant is already in the U.S., both consular processing and adjustment of status (AOS) are available options. Although the adjustment of status process typically takes longer, it has its advantages. If an AOS case is denied, the applicant may challenge the denial through the administrative and/or judicial appellate processes. Another reason many prefer the AOS process over consular processing is that there is no need to return to the home country. It avoids the travel expense and prolonged separation between family members in the U.S.

When it comes to consular processing and adjustment of status, there is no absolute better path. Do your research to learn which is the best process for your situation.
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