Consular Processing of United States Visa Applications

The following article is written in an effort to provide some brief insight into Consular Processing and how an American attorney may be able to assist in visa matters pending before Consular Posts at United States Missions abroad.

Some US Citizens belabor under the mistaken notion that the whole American immigration process either occurs exclusively in the USA at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or exclusively overseas at a American Mission under the jurisdiction of the American Department of State. In reality, the United States immigration and visa obtainment process is sort of bifurcated under most circumstances.

An example of this bifurcation is best demonstrated through an explanation of the Immigrant spouse visa process for the foreign spouse of a United States Citizen. Many immigrant spousal visa cases begin at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) where a petition for immigration benefits must be adjudicated and be approved prior to being sent to the American National Visa Center (NVC) for further processing. The receipt of an immigration case file by the NVC is the point at which the bifurcation of the immigration process is most evident as the USCIS operates under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security while the NVC operates pursuant to the authority of the Department of State.

After an approved obtaining a US visa petition is received by the Department of State it is generally processed at a United States Mission abroad (US Embassy, US Consulate, American Institute, etc.) which has appropriate consular jurisdiction. In some situations, a US visa application may be refused pending production of further documentation in support of said application. This usually occurs pursuant to section 221(g) of the American Immigration and Nationality Act. Under certain circumstances, remittance of requested documents usually results in issuance of a visa. In other cases, a Post’s fraud prevention unit may scrutinize a visa application. In some cases, an United States visa application could be denied based upon a finding of inadmissibility. Under such circumstances a visa may never be granted or, more commonly, the only way to ultimately obtain a visa may rest upon the approval of an I-601 waiver petition.

Those thinking about their immigration options sometimes ask “How would an Immigration attorney be able to help with Consular Processing?” In many cases, attorney familiarity with Department of State procedures, rules, and regulations can have a tremendously positive impact upon a given case. Some are under the mistaken impression that Consular Processing attorneys have a “special relationship” with personnel at an American Mission abroad. Nothing could be further from the truth as a licensed American attorney’s role during the consular processing phase of the immigration process is to act as the Petitioner and/or Beneficiary’s representative before the government, this role does not imply that American attorneys have any type of influence in a pending immigration case overseas.

Those thinking of retaining a professional to assist in an immigration matter are well advised to check the credentials of those claiming expertise in American immigration as only a licensed attorney may advise and represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State.

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