The National Visa Center (NVC) is part of the U.S. Department of State. It holds immigrant visa petitions approved by the USCIS until a visa number becomes available, at which point it arranges for the beneficiaries to have a visa interview at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad
To the public, the operations of the National Visa Center are somewhat of a mystery.
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General Information – National Visa Center
The National Visa Center (NVC) processes all approved immigrant visa petitions after they are received from the USCIS and retains them until the cases are ready for adjudication by a consular officer abroad. Petitions may remain at National Visa Center for several weeks or for many years depending on the visa category and country of birth of the visa applicant.
When an applicant’s case is about to become current (a visa number is likely to be available within the year), the petition is forwarded to the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. If an applicant is adjusting status in the U.S. the case will be forwarded to the appropriate USCIS office upon request by that office. The National Visa Center receives thousands of telephone and written inquiries from applicants, congressional offices, U.S. embassies and consulates, USCIS offices, and the White House.
An automated recorded message can answer many of these inquiries 24 hours a day, seven days a week (603) 334-0700. Status of case information can only be accessed by entering your National Visa Center case number or USCIS receipt number on a touch-tone telephone. The National Visa Center only has information on petitions it has received. If our automated service does not recognize the USCIS file or receipt numbers you entered, most likely we have not yet received your petition.
Operators are available to respond to more difficult inquiries from 8:00 AM to 3:45 PM (EST) Monday through Thursday. The National Visa Center also holds a customer service feedback day so that the public can talk to operators about the information we provide.
The telephone number and customer service dates are provided at the end of some of the messages.
Written inquiries, changes of address and requests to upgrade petitions due to naturalization of the petitioner should be sent to: The National Visa Center, 32 Rochester Avenue, Portsmouth NH 03801-2909. Please note that NVC is not open to the public.
When an applicant’s priority date is close to becoming current, the National Visa Center will mail a packet of forms and information (Packet 3) to the beneficiary (applicant). If requested to do so we will send this Packet 3 to the applicant’s lawyer or to the petitioner instead of the beneficiary. The exact contents of the Packet 3 will depend on where the applicant will be interviewed for a visa. For instance, the Packet 3 we send to people applying in China is different from the one we send to applicants in France.
National Visa Center FAQ
1. Why don’t you have my case at NVC yet?
When you complete a petition (I-130, I-140, etc.) for an immigrant visa you send it to the Immigration and Naturalization for approval. If the USCIS approves the petition they will send you a Notice of Approval (I-797) and then they will send the petition to NVC. Sometimes there is a delay between when you get the Notice of Receipt and the Notice of Approval from the USCIS and also between when you get the Notice of Approval and when NVC receives the petition.
After NVC receives the petition, it will send a letter to the principal applicant (your beneficiary) regarding the status of the case. We recommend that you wait at least three weeks after you get your Notice of Approval before calling NVC if you have not heard from the Center by that time. Please remember that unless instructed to do otherwise, we notify the beneficiary (the applicant) – NOT the petitioner – regarding the status of the case.
2. I am the beneficiary (applicant) and my case is at NVC. Now what happens?
This depends on whether or not your case is current. If your visa category is an immediate relative category (spouse, parent or child of a U.S. citizen) then your case is automatically current. If your visa category is one of the family preference or employment categories, there are legal limits on the numbers of visas that can be issued in each category and in most categories, the demand is higher than those limits.
In these categories, waiting lists have been established based on your priority date, which is the date your sponsor filed your petition with the USCIS. Cutoff dates established by the Visa Office determine when your petition will be reached for processing. Your petition can only become current and thus ready to further processing when the cutoff date in your visa category has advanced up to your priority date.
If your case is about to become current we will send you, the beneficiary, a packet 3 containing information and forms. You should complete all the necessary forms and follow the instructions to continue with the visa application process. Your sponsor (petitioner) should complete the Affidavit of Support (I-864) form, which will be sent directly to the petitioner by NVC.
3. How much are the fees for the National Visa Center’s Services?
For current fee amounts for Immigrant Visa Application Processing, Affidavit of Support Review, and Immigrant Visa Security Surcharge, see Fees for Visa Services.
4. I am in the United States and would like to adjust my status. How do I do that?
When a visa is available for your petition (or if the Department of State believes that one will be available in the next several months), NVC will send you a letter asking what you plan to do. If you respond that you plan to adjust your status, NVC will hold your file until a USCIS office requests it.
Requests for adjustment of status are processed by USCIS not by NVC. You should contact the USCIS office nearest you for adjustment of status information.
5. I am adjusting my status with USCIS, what do I do about the fees requested by NVC?
If you are planning to adjust status with USCIS, do not submit any fee payments. Notify NVC of your intent to adjust status and contact the USCIS for further information.
6. When I filed a petition for my relative I was a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder). I recently became a U.S. citizen. How does this affect my family members?
If you filed a petition for your spouse and/or children when you were a lawful permanent resident (LPR) and you are now a U.S. citizen, the type of immigrant visa that your family members can receive will change. When you become a U.S. citizen, you must submit proof of citizenship to the National Visa Center (NVC) so they can update your family member’s visa category. Scan and save one of the below items as a PDF or JPG file. Then send it as an attachment to Public Inquiry Form:
- A copy of the biodata page of your U.S. passport; or
- A copy of your certificate of naturalization.
Effect on spouses and minor children: If you filed a petition for your spouse or minor children (under age 21 and unmarried) while you were an LPR, the visa category was family second preference (F2A). When you become a U.S. citizen, NVC will upgrade the petition to an immediate relative (IR) visa category. This benefits your immigrating family member(s) because there are no limits on the number of visas that can be issued each year in the IR categories.
- Important: If the family second preference (F2A) petition that you filed for your spouse included your minor children, now that you are a U.S. citizen you must file new and separate petitions for each child. This is because children cannot be included as “derivative applicants” on a parent’s immediate relative (IR) visa or petition. (This is different from the family second preference petition, which allows minor children to be included in their parent’s petition.)
- Children born abroad after you became a U.S. citizen may qualify for U.S. citizenship. They should apply for U.S. passports at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. The consular officer will determine whether your child is a U.S. citizen and can have a passport. If the consular officer determines your child is not a U.S. citizen, the child must apply for an immigrant visa if he/she wants to live in the United States.
Effect on adult children: If you filed a petition for your unmarried adult children (age 21 or older) when you were an LPR, NVC will change the visa category from family second preference (F2B) to family first preference (F1). However, under a federal law called the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), visa applicants can “opt out” of conversion to the F1 visa category and remain an F2B visa applicant.
This may be beneficial because sometimes the wait time for an F2B visa is shorter than the wait time for an F1 visa. When you naturalize and become a U.S. citizen, you should check the Visa Bulletin to see if it would be helpful for your adult unmarried child to remain in the F2B category. (Applicants keep the priority date of their F2B petition when it converts to the F1 visa category.) Applicants who want to opt-out of conversion to the F1 category must submit a request using these guidelines:
- Applicants whose case is at NVC should submit requests using NVC’s online inquiry form. NVC will forward the request to USCIS and change the visa category back to F2B upon receipt of USCIS’s approval.
- Applicants whose case is at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas should ask the embassy to submit a request on their behalf. The consular officer will forward the request and adjudicate the visa application in the F2B category only upon receipt of USCIS’s approval.
Please note that the process to apply for a visa does not differ between the F2B and F1 categories. Visa applicants still need to pay the required fees, complete a visa application, and submit the required civil and financial documents. The only difference is in when their priority date becomes “current,” which is what allows a consular officer to adjudicate and issue an immigrant visa.
7. I have been waiting for a very long time for my relative to get an immigrant visa. Now there is a family emergency and I need my relative to immigrate soon to the U.S. Can NVC help me?
If a visa is available for your relative’s category, and their case involves a life or death medical emergency, processing of your case may be expedited. To request a review for expedite, please submit a scanned letter (or statement) using the Public Inquiry Form to NVC from a physician (or medical facility). The letter must include the physician’s (or medical facility’s) contact information, and declare a life or death medical emergency exists.
If a visa is not available, unfortunately there is nothing that NVC can do to expedite the petition. Immigrant visa processing is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, which controls availability of visas. There is no provision within the law that would allow the Department of State to issue a visa to someone for whom a visa is unavailable.
8. My relative went for his interview for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy, but was refused. Can NVC review this case?
No, NVC cannot change a visa decision. You should contact the U.S. consular office where the visa case was processed.
9. My immigrant visa expired before I was able to travel to the United States. What should I do?
You should contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issued your visa. You do not need to file a new petition with USCIS, but you may need to submit a new application (DS-260) and pay another immigrant visa application processing fee.
In addition, you may need to submit new supporting documents, such as a new medical examination and police certificate.
Please be prepared to return your unused, expired visa and visa package (if applicable). Requests to reissue or replace visas are considered on a case-by-case basis, and all applicants are required to re-establish their eligibility; there is no guarantee that you will receive a new visa.
10. I moved. How do I give you my new address?
Please provide your new address using our Public Inquiry Form. Don’t forget to let NVC know if your phone number or e-mail address change, too.
11. What do I need to do to remove an attorney from my case?
If you no longer want to be represented by your attorney, you must contact NVC in writing using our Public Inquiry Form.
12. What do I need to do to add an attorney to my case?
If you wish to hire an attorney, please submit a signed form G-28 Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative to the National Visa Center (NVC) using our Public Inquiry Form.
13. What do I need to do to withdraw a case?
To withdraw a petition, you must submit a signed written statement requesting that the petition be withdrawn and explaining the reason to NVC using our Public Inquiry Form. If an attorney or accredited representative submits the request, a G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative, must accompany the request.
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening a firm specializing exclusively in US immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the US Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.
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