There are many procedural aspects to consider for applying for a green card. If the foreign national is abroad, he or she will generally need to apply for and pick up an Immigrant Visa. This is generally a three step process where the U.S. citizen spouse files the I-130 petition with a USCIS Service Center in the United States. Once the petition is approved, the case is then forwarded to the National Visa Center, which is governed and operated by the U.S. Department of State. This is an important distinction in that the USCIS is governed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While the two Departments work together in the immigration process the standards and requirements may change.
The office that is called the National Visa Center (NVC) is in New Hampshire. In a sense, it is the document clearing house or the project manager of the process to apply for an Immigrant Visa. Once the applicant has filed all of the necessary forms and paperwork with the NVC, the case is forwarded to the U.S. Embassy. Their interview is scheduled, usually by the NVC, and the noncitizen spouse is instructed in what to bring to the Embassy interview.
If all goes well at the Embassy interview, there is generally a 4 to 7 day wait for the noncitizen spouse to receive the passport back with the Immigrant Visa. After he or she receives the passport back, it is usually accompanied by a sealed envelope that must not be opened. The noncitizen spouse is then asked to pay a “green card issuance” fee so that when he or she arrives at a U.S. airport and goes through customs the passport is stamped providing proof that the spouse is now a green card holder valid for 1 year. The fee that is paid will then result in the green card being mailed to the mailing address on record. As to the sealed envelope, this is given to the customs officer with the noncitizen spouse’s passport and Immigrant Visa.
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