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What is the National Visa Center’s (NVC) role in Immigration

What is the National Visa Center (NVC)?

The National Visa Center (NVC) is a government agency within the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs that is responsible for performing pre-processing tasks on behalf of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Embassies and Consulates. 

What Does the NVC do? 

The NVC plays an important role in the immigration visa application process. After the USCIS approves a visa petition submitted to it by a visa applicant, the USCIS will forward the approved petition to the NVC. Once the NVC receives an approved visa petition from the USCIS, the NVC will work with the visa applicant on his or her visa application package to ensure that the application is properly filled out and all necessary fees are paid, and then forwards the application package to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

In sum, the NVC’s work includes: 

  • Collecting two immigrant visa processing fees;
  • Reviewing forms and documents submitted to NVC in support of the visa application;
  • Scheduling visa interviews at embassies and consulates overseas once applicants have submitted the requested documents;
  • Providing applicants with interview instructions; and
  • Sending completed case files to the interviewing consular officers so they are ready for the interview

Coordination with U.S. Embassies and Consulates

The NVC acts as an intermediary between the USCIS and U.S. Embassies and Consulates. When an immigrant visa application is approved by the USCIS, the next major step for visa applicants is to attend an interview with a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate near or in the applicant’s home country.

Before a visa applicant can interview at a U.S. Consulate, the consular officers conducting the interview must receive specific documents from the applicant in order to determine whether the applicant will be issued a visa. The NVC is responsible for ensuring that the applicant has filled out all of the required documentation and that the consular officers have received the documentation before the interview. 

What Does the NVC Not Do? 

The NVC does not handle Adjustment of Status cases brought by petitioners who are already in the United States. The NVC only handles cases that go through consular processing for applicants who are living outside the United States. Instead of being sent to the NVC, Adjustment of Status cases are handled by the local USCIS office listed on the Form I-130 application. 

When Will the NVC Receive my Application? 

Generally, there are six steps an applicant must complete before his or her application package will be reviewed by the NVC and a consular interview is scheduled: 

  1. Choose a person who the NVC will send instructions and feedback;
  2. Pay processing fees online;
  3. Complete the online Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application; 
  4. Have the petitioner complete a Form I-864 Affidavit of Support and collect supporting financial documents;
  5. Collect supporting civil documents, such as birth, marriage and police certificates;
  6. Submit all of these forms and documents to NVC

In order to avoid delays, it is important that applicants submit the entirety of their application package to the NVC all at one time. If a document is missing from an application package, the NVC will send the applicant’s agent a letter asking for the missing information. Once the entire application package is submitted, the NVC will send the applicant a letter that they are in line for the next available interview appointment. When an applicant receives this letter, they are deemed “documentarily qualified.” 

Important Tips for Submitting Your Application Package to the NVC

The U.S. Department of State provides the following suggestions for the submission of application packages to the NVC: 

  • Only submit photocopies of application documents and civil documents (such as birth, marriage, and naturalization certificates and passports); 
  • Keep original copies of application documents and civil documents to bring to the visa interview;
  • Submit all pages of the Affidavit of Support form, even if some pages are blank; 
  • Submit all documentation to NVC in one package using the NVC-provided document cover sheet that contains a barcode; 
  • Do not send multiple packages to the NVC because it delays the NVC in reviewing your documents.

How Long Will My Application Be at the NVC?

The length of time your application will take to be processed at the NVC will depend largely on whether you are applying for a visa subject to a statutory limit or not. Generally, petitions for immediate relatives of Green Card holders or U.S. citizens do not spend much time at the NVC because there is no statutory limit on the amount of immigrant visas issued to immediate relatives. 

Family-based and employment-based immigrant visas will likely spend a lot more time at the NVC because these visas are subject to a statutory limit and there are usually more applicants than there are visas available. 

When Will My Consular Interview Be Scheduled? 

After the NVC receives a completed application package approved by the USCIS, it typically takes several weeks before an applicant can attend their interview appointment. Applicants receive an interview date in the order in which their application package is received by the NVC and they become “documentarily qualified.” If an applicant is applying for a visa that is subject to a statutory limit, an interview will only be scheduled if the statutory limit has not been reached, leaving a visa available for the applicant 

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, wait times for interviews have lasted much longer, especially for U.S. Consulates and Embassies located in countries where health and safety regulations prevent Consulates and Embassies from operating at full capacity.

Under normal operating procedure and timeframes, the NVC has suggested applicants wait 90 days after they become documentarily qualified before contacting the NVC about the date of the consular interview. With delays caused by COVID-19, this timeframe is likely longer. Applicants can check the operating status of the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their country at the State Department’s website. 

Eventually, the NVC will send an applicant an appointment letter that will provide the date and time of consular interview, as well as where on the NVC website to read important interview instructions prior to attending the interview. Before attending an interview, applicants must schedule and complete a medical examination with a doctor approved by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

How Can I Check my Application Status with the NVC?

The NVC provides current processing times for applications on the State Department website. These are general processing timeframes for the processing of application packages, but do not indicate when the interview at an Embassy or Consulate will ultimately be scheduled. If your application package should have been processed within the general timeframe provided by the NVC, you can submit a Public Inquiry Form 

Applicants can contact the NVC over email at [email protected] to request the status of their application. The Department of State requests that applicants follow the guidelines listed below when sending your email: 

  • Include your NVC Case Number in the subject line of your email; 
  • Provide the applicant’s name and date of birth as well as the petitioner’s name and date of birth; 
  • Attorneys sending the email should include the name of the law office requesting the information; 
  • Emails regarding petitions for employment-based visas should include the name of the company or organization sponsoring the applicant; 
  • Each email should ask only about one case. 

Additionally, applicants or petitioners can call the NVC at 1-603-334-0700 Monday – Friday, 7:30am – 12:00am eastern standard time.

Inquiries can also be made through the mail at the following address: 

National Visa Center

Attn: WC 

31 Rochester Ave. Suite 200

Portsmouth, NH 03801-2915

Application forms, documents, and photographs can be sent by mail to the NVC at: 

National Visa Center 

Attn: DR 

31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100 

Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

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