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Tips for Processing an Immigrant Visa Petition at the National Visa Center

Tips for Processing an Immigrant Visa Petition at the National Visa Center

All approved I-130 immigrant visa petitions are forwarded by the USCIS to the National Visa Center or NVC. The NVC is responsible for gathering additional forms, supporting documentation, collecting visa fees, conducting preliminary background clearances and generally preparing the approved immigrant visa petition for final adjudication by the processing post. Compared to USCIS processing, NVC processing is relatively complicated and many applicants who are handling their cases without the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney run into problems at this stage. This article is not a step-by-step guide to NVC processing but provides some valuable tips and “Dos and Don'ts” for NVC processing.

Need help with NVC processing?

NVC processing is complicated and the NVC does not provide clear instructions for easily navigating the process. Failure to properly navigate NVC processing can result in significant delay in the processing of your case and even denial. If you would like assistance with NVC processing please contact me today.

How to Contact the NVC

You can contact the NVC via mail, fax or email. We have provided the contact information for all forms of communication below. However, the preferred and recommended method for contacting the NVC is via email and I strongly suggest you use this method. It is faster and it is what the NVC preference.

Contacting the NVC by Email

The NVC general case inquiry email is NVCINQUIRY@state.gov. Here are some tips for sending an email to the NVC:

  • Limit your email inquiry to one case. If you have an inquiry about another case, send it in a separate email
  • Include your NVC case number in the email subject line
  • Include the beneficiary and petitioner's full names and dates of birth in the email
  • Make your inquiry brief and to the point. Don't provide unnecessary background information. The NVC gets thousands of emails each day so make your email easy to understand and deal with and you will get a faster response

Contacting the NVC by Mail<

The mailing address for sending SPECIFIC QUESTIONS about a case to the NVC is:

National Visa Center
ATTN: WC 31
Rochester Avenue, Suite 200
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2915

The mailing address for sending FORMS, DOCUMENTS & Photographs to the NVC is:

National Visa Center
ATTN: DR 31
Rochester Avenue, Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914

Contacting the NVC by Phone

You may reach the NVC by phone by calling (603) 334-0700. An automated voice response system is available 24/7/365 but you will need your NVC case number or USCIS receipt number to use the system. If you would like to speak to a real person, live customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. Through midnight Eastern Standard Time. When speaking to customer service you will need your USCIS or NVC case number as well as the beneficiary and petitioner's full names and dates of birth.

DO Pay NVC Fees Online

Most I-130 cases processed by the NVC require that the applicant pay the immigrant visa fee and affidavit of support fees directly to the NVC. This is the first step in NVC processing and your case will not move forward until the fees have been paid. Once the NVC receives your approved petition from the USCIS you will receive a letter or email notifying you that the case has been received. This letter will also include your NVC case number which is the case number you should refer to from this point forward when dealing with the NVC or the consulate abroad. The letter or email will also include invoices for the visa fee and affidavit of support fee with instructions for paying the fees. You may mail a check for the fees or make payment online. I strongly recommend that you pay these fees online. All you need to pay the fees online is a bank account.

How do I pay the NVC fees online?

Follow these steps for paying your NVC fees online:

  • Visit the NVCfees web page.
  • Select “petitioner” from the drop down menu that says “I am the”
  • Enter your NVC case number where indicated
  • Enter the Invoice Identification Number from one of your NVC fee bills
  • Click “sign in”
  • Once you are signed in, click on the “select” link next to one of the invoices and follow the instructions for making payment. (*You will need a US checking or savings account number and routing number
  • Print out a receipt for the payment and follow these steps again for the other invoice
  • After you have made the payments, wait a few days and then return to the fees web page and sign in again. You should find that the transactions have been accepted. If the transactions have been accepted, click on one of the invoices and select the option to print out the document cover sheet. Repeat this process for the other invoice.

Once you have paid the NVC fees and have the document cover sheets you will need to follow the instructions on the NVC website and mail the required civil documents and affidavit of support documents to the NVC along with the document cover sheets.

DO NOT wait for the NVC to contact you after you have paid the fees.

The NVC will not contact you after the fees have been paid with further instructions or requests. Just follow the instructions on the NVC website. I provide links in the section above.

DO Understand and Anticipate the NVC Processing Steps

Understanding the steps and procedures is half the battle with NVC processing. The NVC does not really make this process easy because it does not tell you what you need to do and when you need to do it. You just have to follow the instructions on it's website which aren't the best. The following is a list of the steps for NVC processing that should give you a good overview of what to expect:

  1. The petitioner receives a fee payment request or fee bill by email or mail.
  2. The petitioner pays the fees online and prints out the Document Cover Sheets
  3. The petitioner completes the necessary forms (usually forms DS-230 Part I; DS-230 Part II; and I-864) and compiles the required supporting documentation (only with a duplicate copy to the NVC)
  4. The NVC will then review all of the forms and documents for completeness. If the forms are not complete or some required documents are missing the NVC will send the petitioner a letter or email requesting information. This part of the process generally takes between 2 and 3 weeks.
  5. The case is considered completed and qualified for consular processing once all of the forms and documents have been received and are complete and the security advisory opinions have been obtained by the NVC.
  6. If a visa number is immediately available for the applicant the case moves forward. If not, the NVC holds the case until it receives a visa number from the visa office.
  7. Once a visa number is available, the NVC schedules an interview for the applicant and sends out an appointment letter with instructions to obtain the required medical examination.
  8. The completed case is then forwarded to the processing post abroad for final adjudication.
  9. DO review the consular instructions

    Each consular post has a website where they post instructions for applying for an immigrant visa. Be sure to review these instructions on the website of the consular post which will adjudicate your application.

    DO contact the NVC if the instructions they send don't make sense

    If you receive instructions or a request for additional information that do not make any sense be sure to contact the NVC visa email. Also let the NVC know if the instructions on the NVC website are different than those on the consular post's website.

    DO inform the NVC if you are applying with other family members

    If you are applying with other family members and would like the cases to be processed by the consulate together be sure to contact the NVC by email and let them know.

    DO familiarize Yourself with what documents the NVC will request

    The NVC is responsible for collecting the forms and supporting documentation for most immigrant visa petitions. Many of the documents you need to provide must be originals and the documentary requirements are very specific. The following is a list of the documents and forms that are most commonly required:

    • Agent of Choice form DS-3032
    • AOS Fee payment
    • IV Fee payment
    • I-864 Affidavit of Support – and all supporting documents (tax returns, proof of income, letters of employment, etc.)
    • DS-230 Part I
    • DS-230 Part II
    • Civil documents – e.g., birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.
    • Police certificates. For specific instructions on how to obtain a police certificate visit the website of the processing post or visit this page on the Department of State website, select the processing country from the drop down list and then scroll down to the section on police certificates.
    • Photographs

    Note on original documents

    Remember, many of the required documents must be originals or government issued certified copies. If you cannot obtain an original of a document, let the NVC know you have a copy, and you are seeking the original. If the NVC is requesting something that is not available, contact the NVC and explain why the document will not be provided. The NVC will transfer cases to posts after 60 days, even when original required documents are outstanding, if all fees have been paid, the applicant(s) has submitted a DS-230, all required police certificates have been returned, and the petitioner has submitted an Affidavit of Support (if applicable). EXCEPTIONS: The exceptions to this rule are fully qualified posts, which include Accra, Ankara, Baghdad, Brazzaville, Ciudad Juarez, Casablanca, Damascus, Kingston, Mexico City (F4 cases only), Montreal, Port-au-Prince, Santo Domingo, and Sana’a. For these posts, all original required documents must be received by the NVC before the case will be transferred to post.

    DO Stay in contact with the NVC

    Cases which are pending at the NVC and have been inactive for a period of 12 months will be closed and returned for lack for processing. Additionally, all fees and documents expire after one year from last contact with the applicant or petitioner. As long as the petitioner or applicant continues to contact the NVC at least annually, the case should not go into the termination process. Any logged contact including e-mails or telephone calls referencing the case number should restart the one-year clock.
    Important Tip:Be sure to keep your own records of all contact with the NVC. In the event that your case it wrongfully terminated for lack of progress you will have to present proof that you made contact with the NVC in the last year in order to save your case from termination.

    DO contact the NVC if the beneficiary adjusts status

    If the beneficiary adjusts his or her status in the United States before the appointment date at the consular posts be sure to let the NVC know.

    DO NOT contact the NVC after the case has been transferred

    Once the NVC has completed its work on your case and forwarded it the the adjudicating post, do not contact the NVC about your case. All inquires should be sent to the adjudicating post at this time.

    The NVC does not maintain files and does not normally reschedule appointments once a case has been transferred to post. Any questions regarding new appointments or documents in a case file should be directed to post.

    If you would like assistance with NVC processing of your immigrant visa petition please contact me today.

Phil

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