Filing a Family Green Card Application by Consular Processing

How to file a Green Card application for family members who live abroad as a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder)

Overview

Click on each step to view the details

How Long Does it Take?

Most applications take 7-15 months.

How much does it cost?

Immigrants Like Us does not charge anything to help you prepare and file your application, but you will need to pay government fees of $1,400 for the majority of applications.

What if I have questions?

We recommend using this guide as it lines up more neatly with the forms and services provided by Immigrants Like us. However, if you need additional guidance, this guide from the State Department is helpful supplement.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

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1. Pay the Form I-130 filing fee

This fee is $535, and can be paid by money order, personal check, cashier’s check and credit card. If you’d like to pay by credit card, you must fill out Form G-1450 and include it with your paperwork. Checks and money orders should be made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” and state “Form I-130” on the memo line.

This fees changes periodically, and we do our best to keep it updated. You can confirm the current filing fee here.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

How do I schedule the exam?

Use the USCIS “find a doctor” tool or call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to locate a nearby civil surgeon authorized to perform immigration medical exams. Let the doctor’s office know that you are contacting them to set up a medical exam appointment for immigration purposes.

What should I bring to the exam?

Having all of your documents ready before your appointment will help the medical exam go smoothly. Here’s what you’ll need to bring with you:
● Your immunization or vaccination records
● A copy of your medical history
● Copies of any previous chest X-rays, if any
● A letter from your regular doctor outlining the treatment plan for any health problems you have
● A government-issued photo ID, such as your passport, state ID, driver’s license, travel permit, or work permit
● Payment for the medical exam fee (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment for acceptable payment options)
● Your health insurance card, if any (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment if they accept your insurance)
● A blank copy of Form I-693

What happens during the medical exam

During the medical exam, the doctor will review your immunization and medical history with you. They will ask both general and specific questions about your health. You’ll also get a basic checkup (or “physical”). Unless you’re instructed to come back to the doctor’s office, the doctor will provide your medical exam results in a sealed envelope at the end of your appointment. Do not break the seal or open the envelope.
In addition, the doctor will look for specific conditions that fall into the following categories:
● Communicable diseases (including tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea)
● Drug abuse or addiction
● Physical or mental disorders associated with harmful behavior
● Conditions that make it impossible for you to support yourself
The doctor will perform the following tests to screen for these conditions:
● Tuberculosis test
● Blood and urine tests
● Vaccination screening
● Drug and alcohol screening

OPTIONAL Form G-1145

(e-notice authorization if you want to receive an email when USCIS accepts your application)

OPTIONAL Form G-1450

(credit card charge authorization if you want to pay by credit card)


Form I-130A

(if this application is for a Marriage Green Card)

Proof of valid marriage (provide the following)

  • 10-15 photos of the couple together in a variety of settings over the course of their relationship (they should not all be from the same trip, for example).
  • It is a good idea to have someone write a letter in support of the legitimacy of the marriage, especially if you have been together for fewer than two years. You can use this template to help you/them prepare the letter(s). The person writing each letter will need to sign it in front of a notary who will then need to notarize the letter(s).

Proof of termination of prior marriage(s), if any (provide one of the following for each prior marriage for both spouses):

  • Divorce papers
  • Death certificate of former spouse
  • Certificate of annulment

Proof of official name change, if any (provide one of the following):

  • Marriage certificate (usually sufficient)
  • Court order of name change
  • Adoption papers


2. Assemble your forms and supporting documents

Your completed petition packet needs to include these forms and the supporting documents listed under each. Be sure to sign all forms in the relevant places. In general, the forms and their supporting documents should be assembled in the order shown below.

It is a good idea to include a cover letter that lists all of the forms, supporting documents, and fee payments in your petition packet. This will help USCIS keep track of your documents as they process your petition. You can find a sample cover letter here. Note that this sample may need to be edited to match your specific petition, but the basic format will work for most petitions.

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OPTIONAL Form G-1145

(e-notice authorization if you want to receive an email when USCIS accepts your application)

OPTIONAL Form G-1450

(credit card charge authorization if you want to pay by credit card)


Form I-130A

(if this application is for a Marriage Green Card)

Proof of valid marriage (provide the following)

  • 10-15 photos of the couple together in a variety of settings over the course of their relationship (they should not all be from the same trip, for example).
  • It is a good idea to have someone write a letter in support of the legitimacy of the marriage, especially if you have been together for fewer than two years. You can use this template to help you/them prepare the letter(s). The person writing each letter will need to sign it in front of a notary who will then need to notarize the letter(s).

Proof of termination of prior marriage(s), if any (provide one of the following for each prior marriage for both spouses):

  • Divorce papers
  • Death certificate of former spouse
  • Certificate of annulment

Proof of official name change, if any (provide one of the following):

  • Marriage certificate (usually sufficient)
  • Court order of name change
  • Adoption papers


Form DS-260

this is an online form that will be completed on the National Visa Center website. Some IHO users complete a questionnaire with us that is designed to guide them through the online form, and some do not. If you completed this questionnaire and we sent you the answers, you should use them to complete the DS-260 online when it is time to file. NOTE: You may need to update some time-specific answers (jobs, addresses, and trips in particular) if there is a long delay between filing your I-130 and DS-260 forms.

Checklist of Supporting Documents

3. Mail your petition packet to USCIS

Mail your I-130 fees, as well as the forms and supporting documents listed under “Petition Packet Forms” above, to one of these addresses depending on the home state of the U.S. Citizen or Green Card holder who is petitioning for the immigrant. It is a good idea to send your packet with tracking so that you can keep tabs on it. Do not include Forms DS-260, I-864, or their supporting documents with your packet.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

OPTIONAL Form G-1145

(e-notice authorization if you want to receive an email when USCIS accepts your application)

OPTIONAL Form G-1450

(credit card charge authorization if you want to pay by credit card)


Form I-130A

(if this application is for a Marriage Green Card)

Proof of valid marriage (provide the following)

  • 10-15 photos of the couple together in a variety of settings over the course of their relationship (they should not all be from the same trip, for example).
  • It is a good idea to have someone write a letter in support of the legitimacy of the marriage, especially if you have been together for fewer than two years. You can use this template to help you/them prepare the letter(s). The person writing each letter will need to sign it in front of a notary who will then need to notarize the letter(s).

Proof of termination of prior marriage(s), if any (provide one of the following for each prior marriage for both spouses):

  • Divorce papers
  • Death certificate of former spouse
  • Certificate of annulment

Proof of official name change, if any (provide one of the following):

  • Marriage certificate (usually sufficient)
  • Court order of name change
  • Adoption papers


Form DS-260

this is an online form that will be completed on the National Visa Center website. Some IHO users complete a questionnaire with us that is designed to guide them through the online form, and some do not. If you completed this questionnaire and we sent you the answers, you should use them to complete the DS-260 online when it is time to file. NOTE: You may need to update some time-specific answers (jobs, addresses, and trips in particular) if there is a long delay between filing your I-130 and DS-260 forms.

Checklist of Supporting Documents

4. Watch for notices about your petition

You will receive a variety of notices throughout the application process. These will be mailed to the mailing address(es) you provided on your petition, and will provide you with updates on your case status, requests for more information, and notices of upcoming tasks and events. A standard petition will receive the following notices:

Receipt Notice

  1. What is it?: USCIS will send you a notice stating that they have received your application. This notice will include a unique code called a “Receipt Number” that consists of 3 letters and 10 numbers, such as ABC1234567891. Look for it in the notification letter, Form I-797C (officially called the “Notice of Action”), that you received when USCIS accepted your Form I-485. You can use this code to track the status of your application by following these instructions.
  2. When should you receive it?: 2-3 weeks after filing your application.

Requests for Evidence (RFEs)

  1. What are they?:: If USCIS needs any additional information to support your application, they will send you a notification of this the this.
  2. When should you receive them?:2-3 months after filing your application
  3. What should you do if you get an RFE? Respond as quickly as possible by following the steps in the Request and the guidelines in this article.

I-130 Petition Approval Notice

  1. What is it?:: When USCIS approves your petition, they will send you a notice stating this. This notice will also contain a “Priority Date” - which is when you will be able to submit your Green Card Application.
  2. When should you receive them?:The timing varies from 5 months to 13 years, but most Immigrants Like Us petitions are approved 5-12 months after filing.

5. Wait for your Priority Date

Your “Priority Date” is when you can apply for a Green Card. This date is determined by the relationship between the Immigrant (Petitioner) and the U.S. Citizen or Green Card holder applying for them (Beneficiary), as well as by the number of Green Cards available and the processing backlog.

The various relationship types (preference categories) are:

  • Immediate Relative: Spouses, unmarried children (under age 21), and parents (sponsoring child age 21+) of U.S. Citizens. Green Cards are typically available immediately for this category.
  • Family Preference 1: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters (age 21 or over) of U.S. Citizens. Green Cards are typically available six years after filing for this category.
  • Family Preference 2A: Spouses and unmarried children (under age 21) of permanent residents. Green Cards are typically available two months after filing for this category.
  • Family Preference 2B: Unmarried adult sons and daughters of permanent residents. Green Cards are typically available five years after filing for this category.
  • Family Preference 3: Married sons and daughters (any age) of U.S. Citizens. Green Cards are typically available twelve years after filing for this category.
  • Family Preference 4: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. Citizens. Green Cards are typically available thirteen years after filing for this category.

You can track processing times for each relationship “preference type” by following the instructions here.

Once a visa is available, USCIS will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.

Most applications prepared by Immigrants Like Us are in the Immediate Relative and Family Preference 2A preference categories. If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

Receipt Notice

  1. What is it?: USCIS will send you a notice stating that they have received your application. This notice will include a unique code called a “Receipt Number” that consists of 3 letters and 10 numbers, such as ABC1234567891. Look for it in the notification letter, Form I-797C (officially called the “Notice of Action”), that you received when USCIS accepted your Form I-485. You can use this code to track the status of your application by following these instructions.
  2. When should you receive it?: 2-3 weeks after filing your application.

Requests for Evidence (RFEs)

  1. What are they?:: If USCIS needs any additional information to support your application, they will send you a notification of this the this.
  2. When should you receive them?:2-3 months after filing your application
  3. What should you do if you get an RFE? Respond as quickly as possible by following the steps in the Request and the guidelines in this article.

I-130 Petition Approval Notice

  1. What is it?:: When USCIS approves your petition, they will send you a notice stating this. This notice will also contain a “Priority Date” - which is when you will be able to submit your Green Card Application.
  2. When should you receive them?:The timing varies from 5 months to 13 years, but most Immigrants Like Us petitions are approved 5-12 months after filing.

6. File Form DS-261

Once your Priority Date is current and USCIS has sent your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), the NVC will notify you by mail that you need to file the online DS-261 “Online Choice of Address and Agent” Form. This notification will also include your case number, which you will use from here on out in the application process.

DS-261 is a relatively simple form that tells the State Department how to communicate with you, and there is no fee to file it.  You can file Form DS-261 here. You will login to this portal by using the case number you received from the NVC.

The State Department may take up to 3 weeks to process your DS-261.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

How do I schedule the exam?

Use the USCIS “find a doctor” tool or call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to locate a nearby civil surgeon authorized to perform immigration medical exams. Let the doctor’s office know that you are contacting them to set up a medical exam appointment for immigration purposes.

What should I bring to the exam?

Having all of your documents ready before your appointment will help the medical exam go smoothly. Here’s what you’ll need to bring with you:
● Your immunization or vaccination records
● A copy of your medical history
● Copies of any previous chest X-rays, if any
● A letter from your regular doctor outlining the treatment plan for any health problems you have
● A government-issued photo ID, such as your passport, state ID, driver’s license, travel permit, or work permit
● Payment for the medical exam fee (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment for acceptable payment options)
● Your health insurance card, if any (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment if they accept your insurance)
● A blank copy of Form I-693

What happens during the medical exam

During the medical exam, the doctor will review your immunization and medical history with you. They will ask both general and specific questions about your health. You’ll also get a basic checkup (or “physical”). Unless you’re instructed to come back to the doctor’s office, the doctor will provide your medical exam results in a sealed envelope at the end of your appointment. Do not break the seal or open the envelope.
In addition, the doctor will look for specific conditions that fall into the following categories:
● Communicable diseases (including tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea)
● Drug abuse or addiction
● Physical or mental disorders associated with harmful behavior
● Conditions that make it impossible for you to support yourself
The doctor will perform the following tests to screen for these conditions:
● Tuberculosis test
● Blood and urine tests
● Vaccination screening
● Drug and alcohol screening

7. Pay the Immigrant Visa filing fees

The State Department may take up to 3 weeks to process your DS-261. You will know that the form has been processed when fee invoices appear in the Consular Electronic Application Center. You will login to this portal by using the case number you received from the NVC.

Once these invoices are available, you will need to pay two fees online for a total of $445: the State Department’s application processing fee ($325) and the financial support form fee ($120). You will pay these fees via the invoices in the Consular Electronic Application Center.

It can take up to a week for the NVC to process your DS-261 payment.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

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8. File Form DS-260

It can take up to a week for the National Visa Center (NVC) to process your DS-261 payment. Once your payment has been processed, you can file Form DS-260 (immigrant visa application) in the NVC’s Consular Electronic Application Center. Some IHO users complete a questionnaire with us that is designed to guide them through the online form, and some do not. If you completed this questionnaire and we sent you the answers, you should use them to complete the DS-260 online. NOTE: You may need to update some time-specific answers (jobs, addresses, and trips in particular) if there is a long delay between filing your I-130 and DS-260 forms.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

Form DS-260

this is an online form that will be completed on the National Visa Center website. Some IHO users complete a questionnaire with us that is designed to guide them through the online form, and some do not. If you completed this questionnaire and we sent you the answers, you should use them to complete the DS-260 online when it is time to file. NOTE: You may need to update some time-specific answers (jobs, addresses, and trips in particular) if there is a long delay between filing your I-130 and DS-260 forms.

Checklist of Supporting Documents

9. Submit your supporting documents to the NVC

After you submit your DS-260, the National Visa Center (NVC) will send you a notice via mail or email confirming that they have received it. The NVC will usually send this notice on the same day that you file. You will then need to submit your supporting documents to the NVC as well.

You can find a list of the most commonly required supporting documents here.

Different consulates have different rules for submitting these documents. Depending on what the NVC tells you, you will either upload, email, or mail all of the supporting documents to the NVC.

A few key points to remember:

  • It’s important to submit these documents in the way the NVC instructs. Some U.S. consulates require physical copies, while others allow you to email or upload digital copies.
  • The consulate processing your application may require additional documents beyond what is listed above.  It’s always a good idea to carefully check the notice you receive from the NVC for any special requirements.
  • You must submit all of your supporting documents in one package if you are mailing them to the NVC.
  • You should submit copies of your official documents, not originals.
  • Bring the originals of your supporting documents to your Green Card interview at the U.S. consulate just in case.

After you submit everything to the NVC, they will gather all the forms and documents needed to process your Green Card application and forward them to the consulate/embassy that will be conducting your immigrant visa interview.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

10. Complete the required medical exam

The National Visa Center (NVC) will forward your case and supporting documentation to your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Within 1-2 months, that embassy or consulate will contact you to arrange an in-person interview, which will also typically be in 1-2 months.  Prior to the interview, you will need to see a State Department-approved doctor for a medical exam.

Notice of Interview appointment date

  1. What is it?: The last step of the Green Card application process is an interview with USCIS. USCIS will schedule this interview once they have finished processing your application and will send you notice of the date, time, and location.
  2. When should you receive it?: 3-6 months after filing your application.

Requests for Evidence (RFEs)

  1. What are they?:: If USCIS needs any additional information to support your application, they will send you a notification of this the this.
  2. When should you receive them?:2-3 months after filing your application
  3. What should you do if you get an RFE? Respond as quickly as possible by following the steps in the Request and the guidelines in this article.

Biometrics Appointment Notice

  1. What is it?: As part of your Green Card application process, you will be required to attend a biometrics (photo and fingerprinting) appointment. USCIS will schedule you for this appointment and send you notice of the date, time, and location.
  2. When should you receive it?: 2-3 weeks after filing your application.

Receipt Notice

  1. What is it?: USCIS will send you a notice stating that they have received your application. This notice will include a unique code called a “Receipt Number” that consists of 3 letters and 10 numbers, such as ABC1234567891. Look for it in the notification letter, Form I-797C (officially called the “Notice of Action”), that you received when USCIS accepted your Form I-485. You can use this code to track the status of your application by following these instructions.
  2. When should you receive it?: 2-3 weeks after filing your application.

How do I schedule the exam?

Use the USCIS “find a doctor” tool or call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to locate a nearby civil surgeon authorized to perform immigration medical exams. Let the doctor’s office know that you are contacting them to set up a medical exam appointment for immigration purposes.

What should I bring to the exam?

Having all of your documents ready before your appointment will help the medical exam go smoothly. Here’s what you’ll need to bring with you:
● Your immunization or vaccination records
● A copy of your medical history
● Copies of any previous chest X-rays, if any
● A letter from your regular doctor outlining the treatment plan for any health problems you have
● A government-issued photo ID, such as your passport, state ID, driver’s license, travel permit, or work permit
● Payment for the medical exam fee (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment for acceptable payment options)
● Your health insurance card, if any (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment if they accept your insurance)
● A blank copy of Form I-693

What happens during the medical exam

During the medical exam, the doctor will review your immunization and medical history with you. They will ask both general and specific questions about your health. You’ll also get a basic checkup (or “physical”). Unless you’re instructed to come back to the doctor’s office, the doctor will provide your medical exam results in a sealed envelope at the end of your appointment. Do not break the seal or open the envelope.
In addition, the doctor will look for specific conditions that fall into the following categories:
● Communicable diseases (including tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea)
● Drug abuse or addiction
● Physical or mental disorders associated with harmful behavior
● Conditions that make it impossible for you to support yourself
The doctor will perform the following tests to screen for these conditions:
● Tuberculosis test
● Blood and urine tests
● Vaccination screening
● Drug and alcohol screening

11. Attend your Green Card Interview

What is it?

Almost everyone must attend a Green Card interview as one of the final steps in their application process.  This interview has two goals:

  1. To establish whether the Beneficiary is eligible for a Green Card.
  2. To determine whether the information provided in the forms and supporting documents is valid.

For detailed information about what to expect at the interview, check out out this guide.

When is it?

The interview is the second to last step of the Green Card process. The timing depends on the relationship between the Petitioner and Beneficiary. In general, the interview will occur 3-6 months after you file the DS-260. The consulate or embassy conducting your interview will notify you of the interview date, time, and location by mail once they have received your application packet. The interview will typically take place at a U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you. The Green Card sponsor does not attend this interview.

What happens at the interview?

The consular officer conducting your interview will decide whether to grant you an immigrant visa. You may be told right away, or you may hear later. Decisions are usually made within a week, unless further information is required. If you are granted a visa, the consular officer will give you a packet of information known as a “Visa Packet.” Do not open this packet - the Customs and Border Patrol Agent will open it when you pass through customs.

You will now be able to enter the United States as an immigrant!

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

How do I schedule the exam?

Use the USCIS “find a doctor” tool or call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 to locate a nearby civil surgeon authorized to perform immigration medical exams. Let the doctor’s office know that you are contacting them to set up a medical exam appointment for immigration purposes.

What should I bring to the exam?

Having all of your documents ready before your appointment will help the medical exam go smoothly. Here’s what you’ll need to bring with you:
● Your immunization or vaccination records
● A copy of your medical history
● Copies of any previous chest X-rays, if any
● A letter from your regular doctor outlining the treatment plan for any health problems you have
● A government-issued photo ID, such as your passport, state ID, driver’s license, travel permit, or work permit
● Payment for the medical exam fee (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment for acceptable payment options)
● Your health insurance card, if any (check with the doctor’s office before your appointment if they accept your insurance)
● A blank copy of Form I-693

What happens during the medical exam

During the medical exam, the doctor will review your immunization and medical history with you. They will ask both general and specific questions about your health. You’ll also get a basic checkup (or “physical”). Unless you’re instructed to come back to the doctor’s office, the doctor will provide your medical exam results in a sealed envelope at the end of your appointment. Do not break the seal or open the envelope.
In addition, the doctor will look for specific conditions that fall into the following categories:
● Communicable diseases (including tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea)
● Drug abuse or addiction
● Physical or mental disorders associated with harmful behavior
● Conditions that make it impossible for you to support yourself
The doctor will perform the following tests to screen for these conditions:
● Tuberculosis test
● Blood and urine tests
● Vaccination screening
● Drug and alcohol screening

12. Pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee

In order to get your physical Green Card, you will need to pay a USCIS “Immigrant Fee.” The fee is currently $220, and you can pay it online here. It is a good idea to pay the fee as soon as you have your Visa Packet and before you enter the U.S. in order to speed up the process of receiving your Green Card.

This fee changes periodically, and we do our best to keep it updated. You can confirm the current fee here.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

No items found.

Form DS-260

this is an online form that will be completed on the National Visa Center website. Some IHO users complete a questionnaire with us that is designed to guide them through the online form, and some do not. If you completed this questionnaire and we sent you the answers, you should use them to complete the DS-260 online when it is time to file. NOTE: You may need to update some time-specific answers (jobs, addresses, and trips in particular) if there is a long delay between filing your I-130 and DS-260 forms.

Checklist of Supporting Documents

13. Enter the U.S.

Once you have your Visa Packet, you can enter the U.S.. When you arrive, you will give your Visa Packet to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. The CBP officer will inspect you and determine whether to admit you into the United States as a lawful permanent resident. If the CBP officer admits you, you will then have lawful permanent resident status and be able to live and work in the United States permanently.

If you need help with any part of the application process, you can reach us by clicking the button below.

14. Receive your Green Card!

You should receive your Green Card within 2-3 weeks of entering the U.S. if you paid the immigrant fee before you arrived. If not, you should receive your card within 2-3 weeks of entering and paying the USCIS Immigrant Fee.

Congratulations, you are now an official, card-carrying Permanent Resident of the United States!