Green Cards Through Marriage: Should You Apply In The US or Abroad?

One of the main questions we get asked by clients who are aiming to get green cards through marriage is:

“Should we apply for the green card in the United States OR at the Embassy overseas?” 

FYI: When you file outside the US, the process is called consular processing while in the US the procedure is known as adjustment of statusJust jargon for the purposes of this article.  No need to start studying the Immigration Act. Leave that to the professionals.

There is only one answer we give to this question:

Filing for your green card in the United States –whenever possible- is best.

Here are Four Important Reasons:

  1. Time.  When you file for green cards through marriage at an overseas office, such as a US Embassy or Consulate, you have to wait.  Usually a year to eighteen months, depending on what part of the world.  By contrast, the process In the US can take in as little as 3 months.
  2. Right to Representation at Interview. When you file for green cards through marriage at an office abroad, you are not typically going to have an immigration lawyer with you.  And in the rare case that the attorney travels a long way for the interview, our government will not generally allow your lawyer to be present during questioning.  On the other hand, in the States, immigration lawyers frequently represent married couples at green card interviews. Having a superior immigration attorney present can give you a huge advantage, for reasons I have discussed in many other blog posts.
  3. All the Hoops You Have to Jump Through When filing in the US, adjustment is accomplished with a one step process of preparing a stack of forms and sending them with appropriate fees to Immigration.  When you do consular processing, you have to deal with Immigration, then the National Visa Center and lastly the US Embassy or Consulate.  Three different agencies.  Papers being shuffled around the globe.  It’s just more linear to do it all here.
  4. Being together versus being apart. When filing in the US, the couple is already together.  When filing abroad, the long distance relationship, which is emotionally and financially draining, is prolonged.  Which one would you prefer?

Not everybody will be able to avail themselves of the domestic application. However, if you are able to file here in the States, you should choose that route for the reasons listed above. If you have any questions about getting a green card through marriage, please do not hesitate to contact me.



Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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