Role of National Visa Center in Immigrant Visa Cases05 Jan 2015
The U.S. Department of State, National Visa Center (NVC) plays a key role in applications for immigrant visas that are utilizing the consular processing (CP) option. In a November 2014 meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the NVC provided some insights into how the visa center operates, and provided updates and predictions related to caseloads and processing times.
Consular Processing in Immigrant Visa Cases
When a foreign national applies to become a permanent resident (“green card” holder), the CP process is an alternative to filing an I-485 form for adjustment of status application. CP is generally used when the beneficiary is outside the United States, or when some other obstacle exists to applying to adjust status from within the U.S. More information on this topic is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Revisiting the Debate: Adjustment of Status vs Consular Processing (27.Feb.2012).
Role of NVC in CP Cases
If a case is being filed for CP, once the immigrant petition is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the file is forwarded to the NVC for review. The NVC then sends processing instructions to the party/ies involved in the case, collects application fees and supporting documents, and ensures the application package is complete.
Case Transferred to Consular Post Once Priority Date is Current
Once the NVC finishes processing a case, an interview is scheduled for the beneficiary at the designated immigrant visa consular post, which is ultimately responsible for determining whether to issue the immigrant visa, and the file is transferred to that post. This can only be done, however, once the priority date is current, or if the case is for an immediate relative (i.e. a case filed by a U.S. citizen on behalf of a spouse, parent, or minor child). Otherwise, the case will remain with the NVC until the priority date is set to become current.
As of the time of this writing, the NVC schedules for all posts, with the exception of Guangzhou, China. This is because an NVC pilot program is being tested at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou. More information about this pilot program is available on the consulate’s website.
Increased Volume of Family Petitions Results in Backlogs
For fiscal year 2014 (FY14), which ran from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014, the NVC received substantially more family-based immediate relative cases than in years past. In FY14, the volume of such cases peaked at 25,000 per week, but has leveled off a bit to 17,000 per week. Still, this is up significantly from the approximately 8,000 per week received by the NVC in prior years. The NVC is also now seeing an increase in other types of cases.
The result of this volume increase has been a delay at the NVC in processing times. The NVC has improved its front-end processing backlog, called case creation. This process was taking 45 days during the summer of 2014. As of November 2014, the front-end processing timeframe has been reduced to approximately two weeks. However, delays continue at the document review stage. The NVC reports timeframes of just under two months for this part of the process. While this is a slight improvement, the NVC is working toward cross training employees and otherwise shifting personnel to address this problem.
Expedite Processing Request and Special Cases
Some case types are automatically expedited. These include K-1 (fiancé/e) cases, orphan petitions, and refugee cases. The NVC only does initial data entry on such cases, and then forwards them on to the visa issuing post within 24 hours. Thus, there is no need to make an expedite request in these matters. For other case types, if there is an emergency situation, any request to expedite processing should be made directly to the appropriate consular post.
Individuals are often surprised by the length of time it takes to bring even immediate relatives to the United States from abroad. The NVC is only one part of the process, following the USCIS case processing and preceding the visa adjudication at the consular post abroad. Still, it is good to see that the NVC is taking steps to try to improve processing times.
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