If you are getting your U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card) through the procedure known as "consular processing," you will, as the final step before entering the United States, need to attend a personal interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The consular officer will review your paperwork, speak with you, and make a decision on your application.
Normally, these interviews are held at the consulate serving the district in which you live. You can see which consulates and embassies are in your country by going to www.usembassy.gov.
Ultimately, which consulate you go to will not be up to you to decide. The National Visa Center (NVC) will, when a visa is about to become available to you, advise you of your interview location. Most likely it will be at the consulate nearest your residence, but not necessarily.
Nevertheless, you are probably curious now. And in many situations, the person or company who files a visa petition on your behalf (Form I-130 for family sponsors or I-140 for employment-based sponsors) is expected to name the consulate at which you will receive your visa.
There are three situations in which you might not be easily able to predict where your interview will be held. These include if you:
We’ll address each of these situations below.
If you will be leaving the United States in order to consular process (either by your choice or because you are not eligible for adjustment of status), you will be expected to attend your interview at the consulate serving the last place where you lived in another country.
What if the last place you lived was not the country of which you are a citizen? You also have the option of having your immigrant visa decided upon in your country of citizenship.
In fact, it’s possible for you to go to any consulate that will accept your case, if you can show that you would experience hardship if you had to return to your last country of residence for your visa interview.
But proving sufficient hardship will not be easy. Medical reasons, advanced age, or a dangerous political situation in the country might do it – while personal inconvenience, high cost, or the difficulty of taking time off from work will likely not. Unfortunately, no matter how high the hardship, the consulate in question can say “no” if, for example, it’s too busy.
If your job or lifestyle involves moving from place to place, with no fixed address, which consulate you’ll go to will be determined by factors such as:
Another possibility is for you to simply request to attend your immigrant visa interview at the consulate serving the area where you are physically present. To do this, you would need to show that you have a visa or other permission from the authorities of that country allowing to remain there until you receive the U.S. immigrant visa.
If you live in a country with which the United States has no diplomatic relations, or where the political or security situation is so tenuous that the existing consular staff cannot handle immigrant visa applications, you are what’s sometimes referred to in immigration law lingo as “homeless.” That means you will have to find another country that will let you stay there for long enough to process your immigrant visa application.
The State Department keeps a list of which consulates it expects to handle the immigrant visa applications of natives of certain specified countries. See the Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM 42.61 Exhibit I for the list.