Why is the NVC taking so long to process cases?

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a hot topic in the world of immigration, why is the National Visa Center taking such a long time to process cases? What are some predictions on the status of visa processing in the future? If you are interested in receiving more information about the National Visa Center, or if your case is stuck at the National Visa Center, this is the right video is for you.


In this video, we will discuss the National Visa Center February backlog report, which contains important statistics and data that has been provided by the Department of State to provide transparency to the public. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused an enormous backlog at Embassies worldwide, which are expected to continue for months to come. Please note that the National Visa Center backlog report changes on a regular basis, and often the information released can become easily outdated as the NVC works to move these cases through the pipeline.

In addition, this data is specific to cases that have been processed by National Visa Center and that have been determined to be “documentarily complete.”  It does not reflect Immigrant Visa cases that have already been transferred to an embassy or consulate for interview, cases that are still with USCIS for petition approval, or cases that are not considered documentarily complete.

First let’s discuss, what is the National Visa Center?

The National Visa Center (NVC) is a government agency that is responsible for the pre-processing of all immigrant visa petitions approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) including family sponsored and employment-based immigrant petitions of foreign nationals residing overseas. The National Visa Center serves as an intermediary between USCIS, where the immigrant visa petition was first approved, and the U.S. Consulate, where the foreign national will eventually undergo their immigrant visa interview.

Once the immigrant visa petition has been approved by USCIS, the application is then forwarded to the National Visa Center located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where it will be pre-processed and retained until the immigrant visa application is ready to be adjudicated at the foreign national’s closest U.S. Consulate or Embassy. It takes approximately 30-60 days for an immigrant visa application to be transferred from USCIS to the National Visa Center. The National Visa Center recommends that an applicant wait at least 90 days from the date of the immigrant petition’s approval before calling to confirm the receipt of an application. Remember that an immigrant visa will not be scheduled for an interview, until the applicant’s priority date becomes current on the Visa Bulletin. Certain categories of immigrants are not subject to numerical limitations, while many others are.

How long will the NVC take to process my case?

After you have submitted all of your required documentation to the National Visa Center, paid the visa fees, and uploaded all of the necessary documents to your Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) portal, it can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months for the National Visa Center to review your documentation and determine that your case is “documentarily complete.”

If you have submitted all documentation as required by the National Visa Center, you will receive an email which states the following:

This notice is to inform you that your case for an immigrant visa is documentarily complete at the National Visa Center (NVC) and has been since [date]. NVC has received all of the fees, forms, and documents required prior to attending an immigrant visa interview. Your petition is awaiting an interview appointment. At this time, no further action is required.

Why is the National Visa Center taking so long to process cases?

As you may recall, many immigrant visa applicants whose cases became documentarily complete in the year 2021, are still waiting for their cases to be transferred, and for their visa interviews to be scheduled at a U.S. Embassy abroad.

We have discussed in our previous videos that aside from submitting a request for expedited visa processing (for those who qualify), there are not many options for immigrant visa applicants to push their cases forward.

What are the current statistics for National Visa Center Immigrant Visa processing?

According to the National Visa Center’s February 2022 Immigrant Visa Backlog report, as of January 31, 2022, approximately 464,120 immigrant visa applicants with documentarily complete cases have been ready for interview scheduling. This means that almost half a million immigrant visa cases have been sitting at the NVC waiting for interview availability.

Of those applicants, only 27,454 immigrant visa applicants with documentarily complete cases were scheduled for interview appointments in February 2022.

With this in mind, that leaves approximately 436,666 immigrant visa applicants that are still waiting for the scheduling of a visa interview, after February 2022, despite being ready for interview scheduling. This is due to the lack of visa appointments available at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas, and the overwhelming demand for those appointments.

Of the 236 Embassies and Consulates currently open, 25% have not been operating at normal capacity. These posts have only been accommodating expedite and emergency requests, causing substantial backlogs for immigrant visa cases.

  • Number of IV applicants whose cases are documentarily complete at NVC and ready for interview as of January 31
  • Number of documentarily complete IV applicants scheduled for February 2022 interview appointments
  • Number of eligible IV applicants still pending the scheduling of an interview after February 2022 appointment scheduling was completed

Furthermore, 27% of Embassies have not been scheduling any interview appointments for non-immigrant visa applicants, with the exception of qualifying emergency requests.

At the moment current visa processing is 20% lower when compared to processing estimates from 2019 before the pandemic started.

According to recent estimates, it will take the National Visa Center about a year and a half to reduce these backlogs.

How long will it take the National Visa Center to send your case to the Embassy for an appointment?

The National Visa Center relies upon data received from Embassies abroad to determine when the NVC can transfer a case overseas for interview. Such data is transmitted to the NVC every 30-60 days. The NVC can only make such a transfer when it has been notified by the particular Embassy that there is an available visa interview appointment slot for the applicant. If the Embassy does not have any available slots, the case will remain warehoused at the NVC until slots become available.

Depending on the volume of cases waiting for interview availability, this could take a long period of time. For example, if your case is being processed at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, one of the busiest Consulates in the world, you can expect to wait over a year and a half for a visa interview appointment to become available.

Considering these lengthy waiting periods, it is worth considering whether you are eligible for expedited visa processing. Those who believe they are eligible for expedited processing should contact an experienced immigration attorney to discuss this option.

The bottom line

While Embassies have been opening more and more interview slots as the Coronavirus pandemic has eased, nearly half a million people are still waiting for slots to become available. Much work still needs to be done by the U.S. government to reduce these backlogs. During this uncertain time, it is very important for applicants to keep in regular contact with the National Visa Center to remain informed on the status of their cases at least once a year. The National Visa Center can be contacted by phone or email to ensure that your case remains open while you wait for an interview.

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

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