Practice Areas: Consular Processing & Waivers
A family member for whom an I-130 petition is filed and who is living outside the United States will have to "consular process", or go through the immigration process at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This process begins once the "priority date" is "current" (that is, a visa is available and the waiting period is over.)
This is also true for a family member for whom an I-130 petition is filed and who is living in the U.S., but who does not qualify to adjust his or her status inside the United States. That family member will have to leave the U.S. and complete the immigration process abroad.
For example, a foreign national who entered the United States illegally and at some later point married a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident may be eligible to get a green card through "consular processing." Assuming the foreign national is eligible to "consular process," that person will have to go back to his/her home country to have the immigration interview at a U.S. consulate. In this example, the foreign national will be denied the green card at the consulate interview because the individual is "inadmissible" under U.S. immigration laws due to the individual's prior "unlawful presence" in the United States, although it could be for other reasons as well. Assuming the foreign national is inadmissible for a ground that is "waivable," the foreign national can submit a waiver application at the time of the consular interview or at a time and place indicated by the consular official. The foreign national will have to remain outside the United States for the entire time the waiver application is processed.
Most waiver applications require a showing of "extreme hardship" to a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident family member (often referred to as the "qualifying relative.") The list of "qualifying relatives" is very narrow. Successful waiver applications are comprehensive, well-organized, exhaustively documented submissions.