Visa Processing by NVC and Consular Posts During COVID-19 Pandemic29 Jul 2021
With the ongoing pandemic, there have been severe backlogs in immigrant visa processing at U.S. consular posts. The overwhelming majority of consular posts still have limited capacity to process immigrant visas. Due to the delayed visa interviews during the pandemic, the National Visa Center (NVC) warehouses significant numbers of cases waiting in line for an interview, and schedules limited immigrant visa appointments based on the capacity of a U.S. consular post.
Role of NVC in Processing Immigrant Visas
The NVC plays a key role in applications for immigrant visas that are utilizing the consular processing (CP) option. If a case is being filed for CP, once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the immigrant petition, the file is forwarded to the NVC for review. The NVC then sends processing instructions, collects application fees and supporting documents, to ensure that the application package is complete.
Once the NVC completes its processing, the file is transferred to the appropriate consular post, and the post schedules the immigrant visa interview. The U.S. consular post is ultimately responsible for determining whether to issue the immigrant visa. This can only be done, however, once the priority date is current, or if the case is for an immediate relative. Otherwise, the case will remain with the NVC until the priority date is set to become current.
Immigrant Visa Prioritization at U.S. Consular Posts
The U.S. Department of State (DOS), which has jurisdiction over all U.S. embassies and consulates across the globe, has prioritized, in the following four tiers, the processing of immigrant visa cases based on various factors:
- Tier One: Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out visa applicants who will soon no longer be eligible due to age, and special immigrant visas for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government
- Tier Two: Immediate relative visas, fiancé/e visas, and returning resident visas
- Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and special immigrant visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
- Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment based and diversity visas
To mitigate current backlogs in tier one and tier two, most public resources have been utilized to maximize the case numbers processed under these categories. Nevertheless, consular posts continue to process at least some tier three and tier four cases each month.
NVC Methodology to Schedule Interviews
Due to the severe backlogs in immigrant visa processing at U.S. consular posts, there have been ongoing delays in interview scheduling. The NVC continues to schedule based on post capacity on a first-in, first-out basis, subject to the tier system described above.
Wait Time for Interview
The estimated wait time before one may schedule an interview appointment at a U.S. consulate or embassy varies significantly from country to country and city to city, depending upon local capacity and safety precautions due to the pandemic. Even if a post is temporarily closed for routine processing or has limited capacity, applicants still should submit fees, forms, and documents to the NVC to get line to wait and be ready for interviews, once available.
The ongoing pandemic has caused widespread delays in interview scheduling at U.S. embassies and consulates. Considering the various uncertainties in appointment availability, foreign nationals should make informed travel plans in accordance with local embassies and the policies and capacities of U.S. consular posts worldwide.
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