Comparison of Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing

Downtown San Diego from Coronado

Individuals often have questions about the choice of securing lawful permanent residence status through Consular Processing (CP) or Adjustment of Status (AOS). This general summary may be of assistance in helping to resolve many of the questions applicants have regarding the two processes. Ultimately the individual must choose one or the other. Both have advantages and disadvantages and there is no right or wrong choice. Please note that once a choice has been made, however, it is not practical to change back to the other process in most cases.


Adjustment of Status

Advantages of AOS include:

  1. No requirement to travel abroad;
  2. Right to legal counsel and to challenge a denial;
  3. Ability to remain in the United States while the case is pending and obtain employment authorization for the principal, spouse and children;
  4. An interview is not required for most employment-based cases and the permanent resident card (also known as a “green card”) arrives in the mail. Certain family-based cases will require an interview.
  5. Job portability in employment-based cases. Once an AOS has been pending for 180 days at the USCIS, the green card is “vested” in employment-based cases and the individual may be able to continue their green card case as long as they are still employed in the same or similar job or occupation, but not necessarily with the same employer. The Immigrant Petition (I-140 petition) must be approved before an individual may benefit from this law. This is not available if CP is chosen.


Consular Processing

The advantages of CP are:

  1. If the dependents (spouse and children) of the primary applicant reside outside of the U.S., it is faster for the entire family to process their immigrant visa applications together at a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate. Otherwise, the family must wait abroad for the primary applicant to complete AOS (receive the green card) before they can be granted their immigrant visas. This can result in a significant delay for the dependents.
  2. Filing fees for CP are less than for AOS.

The potential disadvantages of pursuing CP include:

  1. Required to travel to one’s home country on short notice in order to complete an interview at a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate;
  2. Need for police clearances from each country lived in for six months or more since turning 16 years of age (for a limited number of countries this is waived);
  3. Completion of a medical exam in the home country and potential delays encountered in waiting for those results to be transmitted to the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate;
  4. No right to legal counsel and limited opportunity to challenge a denial; and
  5. Independent employment authorization cannot be obtained while processing through CP.


Processing Times

The processing times of CP and AOS vary, depending on the jurisdiction and on a variety of factors. With the lengthy adjudication of AOS cases, it is important to note that a change of employment may be permitted where the application remains unadjudicated for at least 180 days if the individual is eligible to utilize the 180 day rule discussed above.

We hope this summary will be helpful in conducting your personal analysis as to which option to choose.

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