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Navigating Consular Processing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Immigrant Visas, What is Consular Processing?

Consular processing is a method used by individuals outside the United States to obtain a U.S. visa when they are eligible for immigrant status (such as a green card). This process typically applies to individuals seeking immigrant visas, including family-sponsored immigrants, employment-based immigrants, and diversity visa (DV) lottery winners.

Here’s an overview of the consular processing steps:

  • Petition Filing:
    • A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member or employer must file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the intending immigrant.
  • Approval of Petition:
    • Once the petition is approved, USCIS forwards the approved petition to the National Visa Center (NVC).
  • Case Processing by the National Visa Center (NVC):
    • The NVC reviews the petition, collects necessary documentation, and assigns a case number. They also determine visa availability based on the visa bulletin.
  • Fee Payment and Application Submission:
    • The intending immigrant and any eligible family members must pay the required fees and submit the necessary visa application forms and supporting documents.
  • Appointment Scheduling:
    • The NVC schedules an appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the intending immigrant resides.
  • Medical Examination and Visa Interview:
    • Before the visa interview, the intending immigrant must undergo a medical examination. The visa interview is conducted at the U.S. embassy or consulate, where the consular officer determines the eligibility for a visa.
  • Visa Issuance or Denial:
    • If approved, the consular officer issues an immigrant visa. The immigrant can then travel to the U.S. and receive a green card upon entry. If denied, the reasons for denial are provided.
  • Travel to the U.S.:
    • After receiving the immigrant visa, the individual can travel to the United States. Upon arrival, they become a lawful permanent resident.

How to complete Form DS-260

Form DS-260, the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, is an online form that must be completed by individuals seeking an immigrant visa to the United States. The form is used for consular processing, and it collects information about the visa applicant and their eligibility for a U.S. immigrant visa. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to complete Form DS-260:

  • Access the Form:
    • Visit the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website.
    • Select “Immigrant Visa” and then choose the appropriate visa category.
  • Login:
    • Use the case number provided by the National Visa Center (NVC) and the invoice ID number to log in to the CEAC system.
  • Start the Form:
    • Click on the “Start Application” button to begin the DS-260 form.
  • Complete the Sections:
    • The form consists of various sections, and you’ll need to provide information on personal details, address history, family details, education and work history, and more.
    • Carefully fill in all the required fields. Fields marked with a red asterisk (*) are mandatory.
  • Upload Supporting Documents:
    • You may be required to upload supporting documents such as a passport photo, civil documents (birth certificates, marriage certificates), and other relevant documents. Follow the specific instructions for each document.
  • Review and Edit:
    • Before submitting the form, carefully review all the information you’ve entered. Make sure there are no errors or omissions.
    • Use the “Back” button to go back and make corrections if needed.
  • Sign and Submit:
    • Once you are satisfied with the information provided, electronically sign and submit the DS-260 form.
    • Remember that all applicants, including children, must have a separate DS-260 form.
  • Print Confirmation:
    • After submitting the form, print the confirmation page for your records. This page will include a confirmation number.
  • Payment of Fees:
    • Pay the required immigrant visa fees as instructed by the National Visa Center. Fees are typically paid online through the CEAC system.
  • Monitor Status:
    • After submitting the DS-260 form and paying the fees, you can monitor the status of your visa application through the CEAC website.

It’s essential to follow the specific instructions provided on the CEAC website and by the National Visa Center. If you encounter difficulties or have questions about the form, consider consulting with an immigration attorney or seeking guidance from the U.S. embassy or consulate handling your case. Remember that accuracy and completeness are crucial to a smooth visa application process.

What documents must be submitted with Form DS-260?

When completing Form DS-260, you may be required to submit supporting documents to provide evidence of the information you have provided in the application. The specific documents can vary based on the type of immigrant visa you are applying for and your individual circumstances. However, common documents that applicants may be asked to submit include:

  • Passport:
    • A copy of the biographical page of your passport, which includes your photo and personal information.
  • Civil Documents:
    • Birth certificate: Typically, you’ll need to provide an original or certified copy of your birth certificate.
    • Marriage certificate: If applicable, submit a marriage certificate.
    • Divorce or death certificates: If you were previously married, provide divorce or death certificates as applicable.
  • Police Certificates:
    • Obtain police certificates from the relevant authorities in each country where you have lived for six months or more since turning 16. This includes both your home country and any other countries where you have resided.
  • Military Records:
    • If you have served in the military, you may need to provide military records.
  • Adoption Documents:
    • If you are adopting a child, provide adoption documentation.
  • Court and Prison Records:
    • If you have a criminal record, provide court and prison records.
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864):
    • For family-sponsored visa categories, the U.S. petitioner must submit an Affidavit of Support to demonstrate the ability to financially support the immigrant.
  • Financial Evidence:
    • Documents demonstrating financial stability, such as tax returns, W-2 forms, or employment verification letters.
  • Medical Examination Results:
    • The results of the medical examination conducted by an approved panel physician.
  • Photographs:
    • Passport-style photographs meeting specific requirements may be required.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the specific documents required can vary depending on the visa category and the U.S. embassy or consulate processing your application. The National Visa Center (NVC) will provide instructions on the required documents for your case.

Before submitting any documents, make sure to carefully read the instructions provided by the U.S. embassy or consulate and follow their guidelines. Additionally, it can be helpful to consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that you provide the correct and complete documentation.

How to prepare and complete Form I-864

Form I-864, officially known as the “Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” is a document required for many family-based immigrants and some employment-based immigrants to show that they have adequate financial support in the United States. The form is typically filed by a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident who is sponsoring an immigrant.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to prepare and complete Form I-864:

Before You Begin:

  • Read Instructions:
    • Obtain the latest version of Form I-864 and read the accompanying instructions. The instructions provide important details on completing the form and required supporting documents.
  • Gather Supporting Documents:
    • Collect the necessary supporting documents, including proof of income, tax returns, and any additional documentation requested.

Steps to Complete Form I-864:

  • Section 1:
    • Provide your personal information, including your name, address, and contact details.
  • Part 1 – Basis for Filing Affidavit of Support:
    • Select the appropriate box that indicates the basis for filing (e.g., sponsoring an immediate relative, family-sponsored preference, employment-based preference).
  • Part 2 – Information on the Immigrant You Are Sponsoring:
    • Enter the information about the immigrant you are sponsoring, including their name, address, and A-number (if known).
  • Part 3 – Sponsor’s Household Size:
    • Indicate the number of people you are sponsoring and include yourself, your dependents, and the immigrants you are sponsoring.
  • Part 4 – Sponsor’s Employment and Income:
    • Provide information about your employment and income. Attach supporting documents, such as recent tax returns, W-2 forms, and proof of current employment.
  • Part 5 – Sponsor’s Contract:
    • Sign and date the form. If applicable, have a joint sponsor also sign and provide their information.
  • Part 6 – Sponsor’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Certification:
    • Review the statements, provide your contact information, and certify that the information is true and correct.
  • Part 7 – Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature:
    • If an interpreter assisted in completing the form, provide their information, and have them sign and certify the form.

After Completing the Form:

  • Review and Double-Check:
    • Carefully review the completed form to ensure accuracy and completeness.
  • Attach Supporting Documents:
    • Attach all required supporting documents as specified in the instructions.
  • Make a Copy:
    • Make a photocopy of the completed and signed form and all supporting documents for your records.
  • Mail the Form:
    • Mail the original Form I-864 and supporting documents to the address provided in the instructions or as directed by the specific USCIS office handling your case.


  • Use black ink and write clearly.
  • Ensure that all required fields are completed.
  • Be accurate and truthful in providing information.
  • Keep copies of all documents for your records.
  • If needed, seek guidance from an immigration attorney.


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