Immigration Lawyer Chicago/National Visa Center (NVC) Processing Time: NVC Timeframes and How to Check NVC Case Status
When you go through the process of applying for a green card, you will be working with multiple government agencies, one of which is the National Visa Center (NVC). The National Visa Center processes applications and petitions after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your immigrant petition.
When searching for NVC processing times, the applicant must consider the type of visa they are applying for. Certain visas, like family preference and employment-based green cards, have numerical limits. Some visas are part of a lottery system. All visas have their own regulations and eligibility requirements that must be considered even before the application/petition reaches the National Visa Center.
In regard to your immigration process to the United States, the purpose of the National Visa Center is that it is for pre-processing your application before the process moves to your U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
One major pattern that has arisen in the past few years is longer USCIS and NVC processing times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are applying for a green card from your home country or somewhere outside the United States, you will go through consular processing. If you apply legally from within the United States, you will go through Adjustment of Status (AOS).
Consular processing involves the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the National Visa Center, and the Department of State Consular Office in your home country. Depending on the type of status you are applying for, it is possible that the NVC will be in charge of your entire application. In many cases, however, you will find that your initial USCIS case was sent to the Department of State.
Within the past few years, USCIS and NVC processing times have seen an increase due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you are wondering how your current application has been impacted by the pandemic, contact our attorneys today. And further down this page, we will talk more about what to do if your case is taking a significant amount of time.
Your specific type of immigration visa plays a huge role in your NVC processing time. It is important to note that consular processing—applying for a green card from your home country—is usually a quicker process than Adjustment of Status.
If your consular processing involves USCIS, then you must first apply through USCIS.
When submitting your application to USCIS, you can easily check your processing time by looking at the USCIS Check Case Processing Times page. You’ll input the type of form you are applying or petitioning for and the USCIS field office or service center.
You can also check your case status using the USCIS Case Status Online tool.
USCIS has two different methods for calculating the amount of time it will take to process your application:
Both methods involve the number of months.
Each form has its own processing time. For example, in 2021, the time for the most general Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status, was 12.9 months. In comparison, in early 2022, the time was 26.2 months.
The application time for T Nonimmigrant Status Form I-914 was 18 months in 2021 and 15.2 months in early 2022. These numbers are the median processing times, which means they fall right in the middle of the amount of time it took to process the forms.
There is quite a variance between all forms, which is a factor you must consider, especially if your immigration or nonimmigrant status requires submitting multiple forms.
If you are interested in seeing the monthly processing times from the past few fiscal years, visit the USCIS Historic Processing Times page.
Another processing time factor is where you are submitting your USCIS form(s). The location you send your form is, again, dependent on the type of form you are submitting. It’s important to know which service center you submit your form to. Each service center will have different backlog times.
Be sure to hang onto your receipt notice when USCIS receives your submitted form. The receipt notice is called Form I-979C.
Once USCIS processes your application, they will send it to the National Visa Center. That forwarding typically takes between one to two months.
The National Visa Center is the step in between USCIS and the embassy/consulate. If you are applying for a family or employment-based visa, then there are limits on the number of visas granted.
Both of these visa categories have a certain number of visas, so the wait times can be very long. If this is the case, you will receive a priority date that you need to follow before your visa is fully processed.
Your priority date is the date that your original immigrant visa application was filed. When your priority date matches with the National Visa Center’s Visa Bulletin, then your immigration process can continue.
You can find your priority date on the Form I-797, Notice of Action Letter you received from USCIS.
The National Visa Center publishes the NVC visa bulletin every month. They release the date for the type of visa, country, and visa limits.
It’s extremely important to pay attention to your priority date and to stay current with Visa Bulletin monthly releases. When your given priority date reaches the matched Bulletin date (or is about to match up), then you will be contacted by the National Visa Center. They will send you an invoice regarding your application fees as well as collect all of the evidence that supports your eligibility for the visa you are applying for.
It’s essential that you keep all documentation sent to you from USCIS and the NVC. We also recommend making copies of everything they send. After the NVC reaches out to you, you will be able to set up an interview at your embassy/consulate.
Sometimes the NVC processing time for your priority date and the NVC Visa Bulletin date can take years—and even decades, sometimes—to match up. If your date does not meet the cut-off date, also referred to as “becomes current,” the National Visa Center will continue to hold your petition.
The NVC time frame is dependent on many factors, including the type of visa, your country/region, and the limit on the number of your visa for that particular year. Once your visa is ready for processing, the next steps further determine the NVC processing time.
Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can help you keep track of dates, timelines, and deadlines. Staying on top of your processing dates helps expedite the immigration process.
One factor of the NVC processing time is your timeliness in turning in the necessary documents at the correct stage. In this section, we will cover each immigrant visa processing stage you must complete with the National Visa Center.
During each of these steps, it’s advantageous to work with an immigration attorney to keep track of the different steps and their corresponding deadlines.
The first step is to file your application with USCIS. A typical form is Form I-130, Petition for Foreign Relative or Form I-140, Petition for Foreign Worker. Once again, USCIS is the first step in your immigration process. This can take months to years for approval, so speak with your immigration attorney about your specific visa timeline. Once this step is complete, your case will be sent to the Department of State.
USCIS will transfer your approved petition to the National Visa Center. This step is the pre-processing step where the NVC uploads your case into their database.
The NVC will send you a confirmation once this is complete. This comes in either e-mail or as a piece of physical mail. The welcome letter will give you your immigrant visa number. Note that this is not an approval, merely a confirmation that your USCIS petition was pre-processed by the NVC.
Since some visa categories have annual limits, you may not be pre-processed for a while due to limits and backlogs. Your USCIS approval is the first step. However, note that it is normal to not receive your NVC immigrant visa number right away if your visa type is one of the limited categories. Check out the NVC Visa Bulletin for priority date information.
Once you receive your welcome letter, pay your required fees on the Consular Electronic Application page. You will need to pay your initial Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee and your Affidavit of Support Fee.
Note: You may see a message on the CEAC page about uploading documents. If you need assistance, contact your immigration attorney and follow the National Visa Center’s scanning tips page.
Regarding NVC timeframes, this step can take up to one week for processing purposes.
Your financial sponsor, or the petitioner, must fill out and send Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. The petitioner signs the affidavit as a legal contract with the United States, stating they will be financially responsible for the applicant so the applicant will not rely on government financial support.
There are several types of Form I-864 that may be applicable to your situation, including:
Turn in the actual form and all supporting evidence. To find out the poverty guidelines for each state and which form you must fill out, visit the NVC website for the Affidavit of Support.
After you submit the Affidavit of Support, it’s time to submit all other supporting documents and financial evidence necessary to prove your visa eligibility. Financial evidence may include:
Note that the evidence you turn in should be congruent with the type of visa application you are submitting.
If you need help submitting documents, ask your immigration attorney.
Form DS-260 is the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration. You must fill out your form along with each of your family members who are in the process of immigrating to the United States.
You can submit your Form DS-260 on the U.S. Department of State site.
It’s extremely important that you print out the confirmation page after submitting Form DS-260. You will need to bring the confirmation page to your interview.
The next step is submitting all required civil documents to the National Visa Center. Each country has its own requirements, so make sure you follow your country’s specified guidelines.
Civil documents include:
Along with these civil documents, you need to submit all petitioner documents, such as divorce decrees or death certificates from your spouse, if necessary. If you have questions about whether you need to submit a document or are missing documents, talk to your immigration attorney.
If you have missing documents, your NVC processing time can take longer. If a required document is not available, you need to write an explanation to NVC as to why that document is not being submitted.
It’s now time to take all of your collected civil documents and upload them to your CEAC page.
The NVC would like all documents to be electronically uploaded. If you need to mail a form in, they will let you know.
Make sure you follow these document requirements to ensure your NVC processing time stays on schedule:
All the uploaded documents need to be photocopied. If you do need to mail in documents, be sure to send in a copy, not the original document.
It is helpful to make a guide for your uploaded documents in the form of a table of contents with a little description for each document. This way, the NVC will know the purpose of each document in relation to your application.
You can scan documents on a smartphone or with a computer and scanner. Note that you will need to be connected to the internet in order to upload documents. If you need to perform this task at a public computer, before you are done, make sure to delete all of the files from that computer to protect your identity and files.
If you have translated documents, you need to include your translator’s signature on a “certificate of translation.” Note that you are not allowed to translate your own document.
When you are ready, upload your documents to the CEAC page by clicking “start now.”
Click “Submit Documents” after your upload is complete. Now your application is ready for review! You will be placed in the NVC review line.
If you did not submit all required or correct documents, the NVC will let you know. You will need to resubmit your required documents.
Once everything is uploaded correctly, then your NVC stage is complete, and you can move on to the next stage: interviewing with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
You will need to do interview preparation, such as gathering your required documents and taking a medical exam. You are now in the final stages of your immigration process, the stage that takes place with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
You can check your application status directly on the USCIS website. Visit the USCIS Case Status Online webpage, then enter your receipt number into the check status box. Your 13-digit receipt number is found on your USCIS Form I-797, Notice of Action letter. It’s important to keep all USCIS documentation for this reason.
Checking your NVC case status is similar to the USCIS case status check. The National Visa Center Check Status is found within the U.S. Department of State’s website and is called the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).
You will input your “Visa Application Type” and your Immigrant Visa Case Number. You will also be asked to type in a security code shown on the screen.
Once you’ve typed in your information, click “submit” and see your CEAC status check results.
As you can see, the immigration process can take an extended amount of time. The exact amount of time is based on many factors, so having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can help you better understand both the process and whether the amount of time it’s taking is normal or not.
If you would like to contact USCIS directly, there are a few options for doing so:
You may contact the National Visa Center with questions or concerns if you are in the NVC stage of your immigration process:
When NVC is done with your case, they will direct it to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country. To contact your embassy, find your country on the U.S. Department of State Embassies & Consulates Contact Information page.
The immigration and naturalization attorneys at Scott D Pollock & Associates, PC have over 30 years of experience working in immigration law. We have worked on consular processing in Chicago as well as those from other domestic and international locations. We also have ample experience in Adjustment of Status cases.
The attorneys at our law firm represent clients during any and all stages of consular processing. The path to immigration is filled with both excitement and opportunity. However, it also requires careful attention and keen knowledge of immigration law.
If you have any questions regarding your consular process, your NVC processing time, your NVC case status, or any other questions about your immigration journey, contact us today. Reach us by calling 312.444.1940 or fill out an online form. We look forward to hearing from you!