What is the National Visa Center?
After you have completed and submitted a visa application to USCIS, the application will be kicked over to the NVC if USCIS does not immediately find a reason to deny you for a visa.
Role of the NVC
The NVC acts a middle man between USCIS and those petitioning for U.S. visas abroad. Once the petition is approved by USCIS, the NVC will collect your application materials, coordinate an interview at your local consulate, and arrange the next steps of the visa application process.
While your case is under the control of the NVC you will not receive notification from USCIS about your case.
Dealing with the NVC
The Department of State lists 6 steps to begin visa processing with the NVC:
Step 1 – Choosing an agent or petitioner
As the beneficiary, you will need to have a petitioner for an immigrant visa. For example, for marriage-based visas the petitioner will be your spouse.
You also have the option of choosing an agent or attorney. The agent will receive the same correspondence from the NVC as you do. To select an agent, you must indicate so on the form DS-261, Choice of Address and Agent.
Step 2 – Fees
There are two main fees to pay to the NVC before your visa processing will begin: the Immigrant Visa application processing fee and Affidavit of Support form fee.
The fee amounts vary for each visa. The Department of State lists the pertinent fees for each visa here.
You should submit fees through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).
If you are planning to adjust your status to become a permanent resident upon expiration of your visa, you should pay the fees to USCIS and not NVC. Additionally, because adjustment of status occurs in the United States, you will not coordinate any details of your case with the NVC.
Step 3 – Complete the visa application
After you have paid all your fees, it is time to submit the visa application form. To do this, fill out Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application and submit it via CEAC.
For immigrant visas you will need your NVC case number, invoice number, and other information that was included in the welcome packet from the NVC.
Step 4 – Collect financial documents
A part of every visa application requires evidence of your financial wellbeing to ensure you will not become a “public charge” once in America. Essentially, you need to submit documents that prove you will not require government assistance from the U.S.
Commonly, NVC requests IRS tax records, pay-stubs, proof of ownership of any assets, bank account information, etc.
Step 5 – Collect supporting documents
Next, you will need to collect other supporting documents. Depending on the visa you are applying for, you may need to provide very detailed documents.
At the very least, you will need to send in a copy of your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), and your original passport.
For some visas, you will need to submit photographs and copies of emails to prove your relationship to the petitioner. The NVC may also request criminal records, adoption documentation, etc.
If your documents are not in English, you will need to get a certified translation of the document to send to the NVC along with the original. Any and all documents, including the DS-260, must be submitted in English.
Step 6 – Submit application package!
Once you have collected all the necessary documents, you are ready to formally submit your visa application to the NVC.
All of your documents should be sent at one time, in a single packet. If you submit the application materials in multiple envelopes or submittals, you will likely experience delays in processing time.
You may either submit online or through the mail. In certain cases, the NVC will mandate that you submit one way or another. Which ever method you use, there will be a minimum of 30 days processing time.
After the visa application is submitted
Once the NVC has received your application, you will be contacted about scheduling an interview. The NVC will not ask for available dates from you. Instead, they will choose a date that works best for the consulate.
You can check the status of your application with the NVC through CEAC.
The interview information will be sent to you, the petitioner, and your agent if you have one. Interview schedules are usually backlogged so you can expect to wait several months before the date arrives.
The NVC will provide detailed instructions in the packet that is mailed to you with the interview date. It will list any additional items you need to bring to the interview, interview location and interviewer names.
After the interview
Once the interview is complete, your relationship with NVC will end. If you do not receive a favorable decision from the local consulate, the NVC does not review your case. From that point on you should work with your local consulate and your legal counsel.
On the other hand, if you do receive a favorable decision, your passport will be stamped and you will soon be able to enter the United States with lawful status.