Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick talks about which U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas are scheduling visa interviews during the limited operational capacity resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a bonus, in this video, we will also help you understand the role of the National Visa Center in preparing your case for transfer to a Consular post abroad and interview scheduling.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
What is the role of the National Visa Center in your immigration journey?
The National Visa Center is an extremely important agency that acts as a middleman between USCIS and the Consular post or Embassy where your visa interview will eventually be scheduled.
After U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your immigrant visa petition, USCIS forwards your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to prepare the case for immigrant visa pre-processing. Once your case is received by the National Visa Center, the agency will contact you to collect your visa application, visa fees, and additional supporting documentation known as civil documents. All visa fees and supporting documentation is submitted online via the Consular Electronic Application Center webpage (CEAC).
Once these documents are submitted, the NVC will process all your supporting documentation and ensure your case is “documentarily qualified,” meaning that you have submitted all documents necessary to proceed with interview scheduling. Depending on your preference category, if a visa number is not immediately available to you, the NVC may hold onto your visa petition until your priority date becomes current on the Visa Bulletin and an interview can be scheduled with a Consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Immediate relative categories do not have yearly numerical limits and do not need to wait for visa availability.
How does the NVC actually work with Consulates and Embassies overseas?
Consular officers who interview applicants are required to review certain documents. A large part of the National Visa Center’s job is to make sure that applicants gather all the necessary documents to complete the processing of their case. The submission of all necessary forms, paperwork, and fees, must be submitted before the applicant reaches the interview stage to ensure that the Consular officer has all documentation needed to properly adjudicate the case and make a final decision regarding the applicant’s eligibility for the immigrant visa.
This process is very efficient because it prevents any undue delay on the approval of the application and avoids the need for continuance of a case. Once this process has been completed, the National Visa Center will review the documentation for accuracy and issue a notice that the case is “documentarily qualified.” Thereafter, the NVC will communicate with the Consular post or Embassy overseas to determine the post’s capacity to schedule the immigrant visa interview for the applicant. If the NVC receives data and/or information that the Consular post can receive the case and see the applicant for an interview, the NVC then forwards the case to the post or Embassy overseas. At the same time, the NVC communicates with the applicant and provides the interview appointment and instructions.
Why is there such a huge backlog at the NVC?
As we have mentioned in previous videos, there are currently over 500,000 immigrant visa cases warehoused at the National Visa Center creating a crisis situation. The enormous backlog has grown to such an exorbitant number because Embassies and Consulates have been operating at a very limited capacity and they do not have sufficient interview appointments nor resources available to meet the enormous demand. In addition to not having enough resources (such as Consular personnel) to meet the ongoing demand, the ongoing public health and safety protocols imposed by the U.S. government and host country governments including social distancing regulations are creating an obstacle to additional scheduling. Certain local country conditions such as high rates of COVID-19 cases in certain countries have also greatly impaired visa interview scheduling.
As a result, the NVC has not been able to transfer the majority of immigrant visa files to their respective Consular posts or Embassies, because these posts are not ready to take them.
The State Department may take corrective action to slow down the rate at which cases are becoming documentarily qualified so that they are able to push cases sitting at the National Visa Center forward on a first-in first-out basis.
What is the benefit of the NVC’s role?
The NVC’s role is to make sure that applicants are fully prepared for their interview and that all documents have been submitted to the Consulate to ensure timely adjudication of the case. That way the post overseas will be able to easily determine whether the applicant is eligible for an immigrant visa. Another important role that the NVC plays is standardizing the immigrant visa application process worldwide. This is important because every documentarily qualified immigrant visa application will have the exact same components including the necessary supporting documentation creating familiarity for Consular officers.
Which Consular posts and/or Embassies are scheduling interviews right now?
The following Consular posts or Embassies overseas are receiving cases from the National Visa Center and are operating at a limited operational capacity:
U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, is currently scheduling IR-1 and CR-1 immigrant visa interviews that were documentarily qualified in March of 2020. They are also scheduling preference categories like F2A, F2B, F4, that were documentarily qualified in November of 2019. This Embassy is working on a semi-regular capacity and is currently taking cases from the National Visa Center. The National Visa Center has been receiving data from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, 60 days in advance and has been scheduling visa interviews according to their capacity and first-in first-out documentarily qualified cases.
U.S. Consulate Lagos, Nigeria
The U.S. Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, is currently working at a limited capacity. They are currently scheduling IR-1 and CR-1 immigrant visa interviews that were documentarily qualified in October of 2020. Those applicants are getting interviews right now albeit please keep in mind that the Consulate is still operating at limited capacity and is not able to accommodate everyone as quickly as they would like. Like all other posts, they are scheduling visas based on the four-tier system of prioritization on a first-in first-out basis for documentarily qualified cases. Documentarily qualified F2A cases from January of 2020 are receiving interview appointments. All other family preference categories such as F4, F3 that were documentarily qualified in November of 2019 are also being scheduled for interview appointments.
U.S. Embassy Nepal, India
The U.S. Embassy in Nepal, India, is similar working at a limited capacity. They are currently scheduling IR-1 and CR-1 immigrant visa interviews that were documentarily qualified in October of 2020. They are also scheduling interview for the F2A preference category for cases that were documentarily qualified in May of 2020.
U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is also working at a limited capacity. They are currently scheduling IR-1 and CR-1 immigrant visa interviews that were documentarily qualified in January of 2020. This Embassy may be getting close to routine operational capacity very soon. They are also working on scheduling interview for all categories within the four-tier system of prioritization including employment-based preference categories.
U.S. Embassy Islamabad, Pakistan
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, is working at limited capacity. Islamabad is currently scheduling IR-1 and CR-1 immigrant visa interviews that were documentarily qualified in July and August of 2020. The Embassy is sending data to the National Visa Center on its capacity to schedule interview appointments 30 days in advance. Those who believe they are eligible for an expedite or National Interest Exception should move forward with filing their request as soon as possible to move their cases forward as this Embassy is working slowly. This Embassy is also prioritizing nonimmigrant visa scheduling for certain health care workers that will mitigate the COVID-19 crisis.
U.S. Consulate Mumbai, India
The U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, India is working at limited capacity. Mumbai is currently scheduling IR-1 and CR-1 immigrant visa interviews that were documentarily qualified in November of 2020. We have seen a lot of movement in scheduling of interviews at this Consulate even for employment-based preference categories. If you are documentarily qualified and your priority date is current, make sure to check with this Embassy on their capacity to schedule you for an interview.
U.S. Embassy Madrid, Spain
The U.S. Consulate in Madid, Spain is now scheduling IR-1 and CR-1 immigrant visa interviews that were documentarily qualified in July and August of 2020. This Embassy is one of the more active posts in Europe and is scheduling applicants that have been qualified during those dates.
We are starting to see slow but consistent movement among overseas posts and Embassies to schedule visa interviews for documentarily qualified cases on a first-in first-out basis. Consular posts and Embassies are continuing to follow the four-tier prioritization schedule, and some posts have even started scheduling interviews for all four tiers. Unfortunately, the pandemic is still ongoing which is limited the capacity of most Embassies and Consulates to accept more visa interviews, so applicants should continue to expect delays. Applicants who meet the expedite and/or National Interest Exception criteria, should file their requests as soon as possible to move their cases along. It is also important for you to keep in close contact with both the NVC and your Embassy to understand which cases are being scheduled.
Contact us. If you would like to schedule a consultation please contact us by text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.
- Embassy Four-Tier Prioritization Schedule
- DOS Youtube Channel
- DOS U.S. Visa Updates
- September 2021 Visa Bulletin
- How to Submit Documents to NVC
- NVC Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
- List of Embassies and Consulates
- Youtube channel
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