NVC Update: Your Question and Answer Guide to Immigrant Visa Processing, Status of Embassies and Consulates Reopening, and much more

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides an important update from the National Visa Center regarding immigrant visa processing times, the status of Embassies and Consulates reopening, and expedite request information for immigrant visas.

The information provided in this video is based on the minutes of a meeting that took place between the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the National Visa Center (NVC). In this meeting the NVC answered many of your burning questions regarding the resumption of visa services at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide, current immigrant visa processing times, and expedite request information.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.

NVC & AILA Questions and Answers on Consular Processing  

What has the NVC responded regarding Consular Processing at Embassies and Consular posts worldwide? How will NVC handle cases that are documentarily qualified? In what order will applicants be scheduled for immigrants?

Check out the Q & A below to find out.

Q: What is the volume of immigrant visa cases currently being processed at NVC?

A: During FY 2020, NVC reviewed and processed 77,000 cases per month.

Q: What was the number of non-immigrant K-1 visas processed on a monthly basis at the NVC in FY 2020?

A: Every month the NVC processed 2,500 K-1 visas during fiscal year 2020.

Q: Of all cases processed at the NVC how many applications are represented by attorneys?

A: 25% of all cases at the NVC are represented by attorneys

Q: How is the NVC handling cases that are documentarily qualified but unable to move forward due to U.S. Embassies and Consular posts that have not yet resumed normal processing?

A: The NVC is continuing to schedule cases only for posts able to conduct interviews.

For all other posts that are unable to schedule interviews, “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NVC is warehousing cases for consular sections that have not been able to resume routine immigrant visa processing and cases with visa categories subject to the various Presidential Proclamations.”

For cases other than age-out cases, intercountry adoptions, and expedite requests, per 9 FAM 504.4-6(U) and based upon visa availability, the NVC is scheduling immigrant visa appointments for visa categories that are able to be processed, in chronological order based on those that are “documentarily complete”– within each visa class – based on post capacity.

According to the NVC, host country and Department of State (DOS) guidance are considerations that weigh on how Embassies and Consulates will operate safely during the pandemic.

The NVC will continue to maintain this approach as posts resume routine visa services.

  • Tip: Those who are eligible should continue seeking an expedite of their immigrant visa case and/or requesting a national interest exception to move their case along for interview scheduling

Q: How many cases are actually documentarily qualified and are sitting at the NVC under the different family and employment preference categories? Who is most affected?

A: As of January 25, 2021, NVC’s queue of documentarily complete employment based or family sponsored cases (including family preference and immediate relative cases) with a visa number available waiting for immigrant visa interview is:

  • Family Sponsored: 312,782 cases
  • Employment-based: 11, 504 cases
  • EB-5: 3,930 cases

This means that the majority of cases that are being warehoused are family petitions that are stuck at the NVC. Consequently, family petitions are the most impacted by the Consular closures.

Q: Once Embassies and Consulates reopen fully, will the NVC be sending the cases that are documentarily qualified directly to the post, based on whether the post is ready to receive cases for interview scheduling?

A: As post-specific conditions permit, the NVC will be scheduling immigrant visa interviews depending on post-capacity. Posts generally do not request specific files from the NVC. Instead, posts provide interview capacity by visa category. Posts will determine the volume of visa services that they can provide while prioritizing the health and safety of consular staff and applicants. Upon visa, availability, NVC fills their available appointment capacity in a first-in, first-out manner based on the date the case was deemed documentarily complete.

Therefore, the NVC will act upon data they are receiving from each Consulate or Embassy abroad to fill available interview appointments on a “first-in, first-out basis” for cases have been documentarily qualified by the NVC.

In addition, Embassies and Consulates do not contact the NVC to request specific files. Appointments are based on visa availability and each individual post’s capacity to conduct interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Tip: Following up with the NVC is still prudent to make sure that your case is being worked on or that your case is at least being considered to be sent to the Embassy once appointments become available for documentarily qualified cases

Q: What happens if your Affidavit of Support, supporting documents, and other documents submitted to the NVC are now more than 6 months old? Do you need to submit updated documents?

A: No. NVC has confirmed that applicants do not need to provide updated forms, nor updated documentation even if their documents are now more than 6 months old.

Q: Should applicants continue to submit their DS-260 forms online even if they know that their respective Consulates or Embassies are currently closed?

A: The NVC has said that since the NVC has not stopped processing cases, applicants should continue to send their fees, forms, and documents to the NVC, even if their assigned embassy continues to be restricted in its ability to provide visa services due to the pandemic and resource limitations. NVC states that completing the DS-260 form is a necessary step towards completing NVC pre-processing and scheduling of an immigrant visa interview. Submitting the DS-260 form will enable NVC to commence the review process, perform the non-adjudicatory functions, and be ready for when the post resumes all routine visa operations.

Q: What happens when a case is sent to the U.S. Embassy and the Embassy realizes that they are out of capacity and there are not enough resources to schedule the case for an interview? Will those files be returned to the NVC?

A: No. NVC has said that all cases that have been sent to the U.S. Embassy and were about to be scheduled for an interview will remain at the U.S. Embassy. Cases will not be sent back to the NVC.

Q: Should applicants continue to file expedited cases if they feel that they need an emergency appointment or faster processing because they fall under the expedite criteria?

A: Yes. The NVC has said that those who satisfy the criteria to expedite their case, or the National Interest Exception should continue to seek their expedite by sending their request to the NVCExpedite@state.gov email.

Q: How did COVID-19 pandemic impact NVC staffing capabilities and also processing power for cases?

A: NVC is abiding by the health regulations and has instituted all precautions to continue to process cases in a safe and efficient manner. NVC has not stopped working, however many cases will remain warehoused until Consulates and Embassies resume routine visa services.

Q: How long does a case take to get from USCIS to reach the NVC for further processing once approved?

A: NVC has said that when USCIS approves a petition for paper-based cases, it typically takes between 4 to 6 weeks for the physical petition to reach the NVC and be entered into their database. After receiving an I-797 approval notice from USCIS, applicants must wait at least 4 to 6 weeks before contacting the NVC about their case.

Q: What should I do if my case was terminated because of one year of non-activity?

A: If your case was terminated for non-activity you can request for your case to be re-opened by contacting the NVC through the NVC public inquiry online form. You must submit documents to prove that you maintained contact with the NVC and that your case was terminated in error.

Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

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Need more immigration updates? We have created a new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments related to COVID-19. Follow us there.

For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.