U.S. Department of State And the National Visa Center (NVC)

On April, 1994, the U.S. Department of State opened a permanent Immigrant Visa processing facility known as theNational Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, NH. The NVC receives all approved immigrant visa petitions from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and retains them for processing until the cases are ready for adjudication by a consular officer abroad, pursuant to their priority dates.

Every month, the Visa Office which is part of the NVC establishes Qualifying Dates--the latest priority dates--that can be processed for certain visa categories to determine if a petition will be eligible for processing. An immigrant visa petition becomes ready for further processing when the Qualifying Date in the appropriate Visa Category advances up to thePriority Date of the Petition. However, several petitions may remain at NVC for months or years depending on theVisa Category and Country of Birth of the visa applicant. Indeed, as soon as an applicant/petitionerís priority date meets the most recent Qualifying Date, the NVC contacts the applicant and/or petitioner for submission of appropriate processing fees and necessary supporting immigrant visa application documentation.

To find out about the cutoff dates of your VISA Category, call U.S. State Department Visa Information Line at 202-663-1541 or refer to its Visa Bulletin, or http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin.html.

Further Processing of an Applicant Or Petitionerís Case at the NVC Depends on Whether Such Case Is Current Or Not (Meaning, Whether Visa Number Is Available for the Applicant or Petitioner).

After approving an applicant/petitionerís petition, the USCIS sends him/her a Notice of Approval (I-797) and then forwards the petition to NVC. After NVC receives the petition from the USCIS, it creates a case record and assigns the approved petition a case number. If the applicant/petitioner has not heard from the NVC after receiving the Notice of Approval (I-797), she/he must wait at least THREE WEEKS before calling the NVC about further action(s) on their matter. Nowwhat happens at the NVC depends on whether or not the applicant/petitionerís case is current.

If the applicant/petitionerís visa category is an immediate relative category (spouse, parent or child (under 21) of aU.S. citizen) then it is automatically current. But if the applicant and/or petitionerís visa category is one of the family preferences or employment categories, there are legal limits on the number of visas that can be issued in each category. In most categories, the demand is higher than those limits. In one of the family preferences or employment categories, the Visa Office of the NVC establishes a waiting list based on the applicant/petitionerís priority date, which is the date the sponsor filed his/her petition with the USCIS. The cutoff dates established by the Visa Office of the NVC determine when the applicant/petitionerís petition will be reached for processing. Thus, the applicant/petitionerís petition becomes current and ready for further processing when the cutoff date in visa category has advanced up to his/her priority date (meaning, visa number is now available for them).

Whenever a case becomes current, the NVC sends the beneficiary of the petition and/or an Agent of Choice an Address letter containing the Form DS-3032 to be completed and returned accordingly. Also, the NVC sends an Affidavit of Support, Form I-864 to the sponsor (petitioner) to be completed and returned with a processing fee (Affidavit of Support Fee is $70; Immigrant Visa Fee is $355; and the Security Enhancement Fee is $45) and necessary supporting documents.Note: these fees may change with time.

On the other hands, if an applicant/petitionerís case is not current, the NVC will send him/her a letter informing them that it has received their file from the USCIS and will hold it until his/her case becomes current. Since the NVC cannot predict when a case will become current, thus, it is the responsibility of the applicant/petitioner to monitor the movement of the CUTOFF DATES as the Visa Office of the NVC announces it every month to learn when their Priority Date is reached.

In order to find out about  the cutoff dates of your Visa Category, you may call the U.S. State Department Visa Information line at 202-663-1541 or refer to the Visa Bulletin. 

Eligible Alien Workers in the United States With Visa Number Available Can Adjust Status As Permanent Resident.

If eligible alien worker(s) and/or their dependents who live in the United States have visa number available for them from the NVC, they can adjust status as legal permanent resident. In this case, when an applicant and/or petitionerís case becomes current, the NVC sends him/her a letter informing them about their eligibility for adjustment of status in the U.S. and ask them to adjust either in the U.S. or apply at a U.S. consular section abroad. Those who elect to adjust status as permanent resident in the United States will be notified by the NVC with an update about their case record and a statement indicating that their file(s) will be retained by the NVC until the USCIS office requests it to process their adjustment petition. However, if the NVC does not get a reply from the applicant/petitioner after 30 days of sending such letter, the NVC will begin processing their case(s) as if they have chosen to process it at a consular office abroad.

Please Note that Those Applicants Or Petitioners Who Plan to Adjust Status with the USCIS Should Refrain from Submitting Any Fees to the NVC Because the NVC will not Transfer Them to the USCIS.

Those who filed a petition for their relative as legal permanent resident (or green card holders) and happen to become U.S. citizen before the petition is effectuated should upgrade that petition by sending a courtesy copy of their Naturalization Certificate (NOT the original) to the NVC with a letter stating the beneficiary name and case number of the upgraded petition.


Condition(s) Under Which the NVC Can Expedite Immigrant Visa

Indeed, if an applicant/petitionerís relative case is not current, there is nothing that the NVC can do to expedite visa processing for such applicant(s). Why? It is because immigrant visa processing is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, which controls visa categories, priority dates and the availability of visa numbers. Besides, immigrant visa numbers are made available strictly in the order of priority dates. There is no provision within the law that would allow the NVC to waive numerical limitation in any individual case.

However, if an applicant/petitioner relativeís case has a visa number available (that is, the petition is within the current Cutoff Date), the NVC has expedite procedures for applicants/petitioners with life or death medical emergencies. In this case scenario, the applicant/petitioner may wish to request a review to expedite his/her case by submitting proper medical documentation(s) supporting a life or death medical emergency to the NVC. If there is ground for granting such request, the USCIS will expedite it accordingly.