Steps to ensure that USCIS sends a case to the NVC are as follows: First, the petition submitted must include a request for immigrant visa/consular processing. If the petition is submitted with a request for the applicant to adjust status in the United States, it is required to submit an I-824 to USCIS to initiate the transfer. Please note that USCIS does NOT automatically transfer the case to NVC. In addition, USCIS claims to have transferred petitions to the NVC that the NVC has not been able to locate due to the pandemic and the huge backlog of petitions. Later on in this article, best practices with communicating with the NVC will be addressed.
Processing times are still longer now due to the substantial number of backlogs. The DOS website www.usa.gov, is updated weekly with the time to process the following:
- Creating a case- This would include creating a visa case in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) system and sending the welcome letter to the applicant and legal representative if a G-28 for the beneficiary was submitted to USCIS. The welcome letter includes the Immigrant Visa Case number, invoice ID and the instructions for creating an account on the CEAC. It may take up to (7) seven days for the immigrant visa payment to update in CEAC.
- Case Review-Once all fees have been paid and the required documents uploaded to the CEAC account, processing will begin.
- Public Inquiry (formerly ‘Ask NVC’) form response time
Reductions in visa processing capacity is due to the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic and related host country restrictions. During this time, many embassies and consulates were only able to offer emergency services. Today, most consular sections are open and conducting immigrant and nonimmigrant visa operations, prioritizing urgent and emergency travel and travel that is in the national interest. Some embassies and consulates still face COVID-19-related restrictions, and many continue to face staffing challenges that began during the pandemic. DOS/NVC has acknowledged these delays and continues to work on improvements to reduce wait times for visa interviews while ensuring a secure and efficient visa process that protects national security.
All immigrant visa applicants use CEAC to pay the immigrant visa fees and submit the DS-260 Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration form. The applicant’s account will include instructions on how and where to submit documents.
Step 1: Choose an Agent. Once NVC has sent the Welcome Notice with the case number, an applicant will create an account and choose an agent.
Step 2: Pay Fees. Immigrant visa fee invoices are then issued after a case has been created.
Step 3: If Required, Submit I-864 and Financial Documents.
Step 4: Submit Visa Application Form DS-260 and Civil Documents. Once the fee has been paid and processed, the applicant may access and complete the DS-260 form through CEAC. NVC reports that applicants have 20 minutes to complete each page. Persistent, widespread reports, however, suggest that the actual timeout period is much less. NVC recommends frequently clicking the “Save” button at the bottom of the page to avoid losing data.
Saved applications can be viewed by returning to the CEAC and selecting “View/Edit” from the IV and Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa Summary Information screen. Once a DS-260 is submitted by clicking the “Sign and Submit Application” button, no additional editing is possible. It can only be unlocked if the consular section unlocks it for the applicant to make changes and re-submit.
NVC uses country-specific documents guidelines to determine the availability and acceptability of documents. NVC should send an email explaining the reason for any document rejection (i.e., unacceptability). If a document is unavailable, but the country-specific guidelines indicate that they are, or if a document is rejected without an apparent reason, use the online Public Inquiry Form explaining why you are or are not required to submit the document requested, along with supporting information, and request clarification from NVC.
Members should utilize the following tips for uploading scanned documents if an applicant is eligible to submit documents to the NVC through CEAC.
- Currently, each digital file uploaded to CEAC must be no larger than 2 MB. If the digital file is too large, compress it or scan it at a lower resolution (black and white) before uploading it. Zipped files or password-protected files are not accepted. The NVC has indicated since the November 2019 meeting with the Department of State Liaison Committee that it expects to increase this size to 4 MB but has not done so as of yet.
- Each document should be scanned and uploaded as a separate file. If a document has multiple pages, all pages should be scanned and uploaded together in a single file.
- NVC strongly recommends submitting tax transcripts, not tax returns, if applicable to a case.
- Visit state.gov/scan for more scanning tips, quality help, naming help, and document orientation issues.
- If an application is not eligible for document upload electronically, follow the instructions from NVC on submitting copies of documents by mail in a single package.
Step 5: Documentarily Complete and Transfer to Post. Once NVC determines that a case is documentarily complete, it will generate an automatic notification in the applicant’s CEAC account that the case is documentarily complete. Applicants can also log into CEAC and review the summary page with information about the status and location of a case. NVC will then hold or schedule the immigrant visa interview based on a post’s availability. Once the immigrant visa interview has been scheduled, the case will be transferred to the post. All subsequent communication regarding the case, including rescheduling or transfer requests, must be made with the post and not with the NVC.
Checking for Case Updates in CEAC
CEAC can also be used to check for case updates. When NVC updates a case or needs additional information, a message will be posted to the applicant’s CEAC account and will email every email address associated with the account. Applicants processing online can confirm if their case is documentarily complete by logging into CEAC and reviewing the summary page. There are multiple places on this page to view the location and status of a case. On the top right of the page is a field that says, “Your case is currently at.” This field will note whether the case is at NVC, an embassy, or a consulate overseas. At the bottom of the summary page is a chart with information on each visa applicant’s status and financial sponsor. If everything says “Paid” or “Complete,” NVC has finished reviewing the case, and the case is pending approval for an interview by the embassy.
Communicating with NVC
NVC will typically only communicate when the case is first created, if there is a problem with any civil documents or when the case is complete. Below are best practices for contacting the NVC:
Public Inquiry Form
At this time, NVC only receives inquiries through it’s online form. The NVC confirmed that as of May 22, 2022, the 1-800 customer service number has been temporarily suspended. The NVC has also stopped the use of the email box since 2019. Attorneys must also use the public inquiry form.
Expedite (Emergency) requests
If the file is still at NVC, expedite requests for expedited processing or emergency appointments may be sent by email to: NVCExpedite@state.gov. The NVC does not adjudicate expedite requests. It forwards the request to the appropriate post for consideration. The discretion to approve or deny an emergency appointment lies with the individual post. Accordingly, time frames for responses will vary based on local conditions at post. The NVC asks that legal representatives wait at least 30 days before sending a follow-up inquiry on an expedite request on a case. NVC reviews emails in the order that they are received.
Please note, if a file is no longer with NVC and has been transferred to post for scheduling, members should contact the post directly requesting an expedited appointment, along with all supporting documents.
No contact from NVC more than 60 days from USCIS approval
If an Applicant has not received a Welcome Notice or other contact from NVC more than 60 days after USCIS approved a case designated for consular processing, attorneys may email NVCResearch@state.gov and include a copy of the I-797 approval notice, any correspondence with NVC and USCIS about the issue, and any other information that may help locate the case. NVC will then contact USCIS to locate the petition to have it transferred to NVC.
Transfers / Change of Venue
Requests to transfer a case to another post should be made through the Public Inquiry Form, providing all case-specific information and other evidence supporting the request to communicate. The NVC requires a physical address and proof of residence in the new jurisdiction. The applicant should be prepared to demonstrate physical presence in the consular district and permission to lawfully remain in the district for the time it takes to complete their immigrant visa case. If an applicant’s residency is in question, NVC will forward the request to the post to approve or deny the transfer request.30 If the case is already at the consular post, the request to transfer should be made to the intended receiving post.
One-Year Contact Requirement
INA 203(g) provides for termination of registration of the visa petition of any individual who fails to apply for an IV within one year following notification to the applicant of the availability of a visa for those applying on the basis of an approved I-130, I-140, and I-360 for applicants who are immediate relatives, family-preference immigrants, employment-preference immigrants, and special immigrants.
The Department of State has interpreted this requirement liberally and will accept certain forms of contact with the NVC on a specific case as sufficient to avoid termination. In the June 2022 AILA DOS Liaison Committee Q&As with NVC, NVC confirmed that the following are the most effective ways to maintain contact with the NVC to avoid termination:
- Pay a fee (tracked in CEAC for electronic cases) and take other qualifying action to apply for a visa for a subsequent year
- Submit a document that can be tracked in CEAC for electronic cases
- Use the Ask NVC Public Inquiry Form (Public Inquiry Form)
- Log into the CEAC account
- Complete form DS-260
If the NVC issues a termination warning notice in error, submit an online inquiry to the Public Inquiry Form as soon as possible, add “ATTN: PI Supervisor” on the question box at the bottom of the form, and attach proof of contact such as emails, screenshots of correspondence, receipts, confirmations, etc.
If you have any questions you should reach out to the experts at MC Law Group at (702) 238-1093.