In 1994, the State Department established the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The National Visa Center is located on the site of an Air Force based which was closed down by the Pentagon. It is operated by a private contractor.
To the public, and to new immigration practitioners, the operations of the National Visa Center are somewhat of a mystery.
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The following information on the operations of the NVC is provided by Donna Kane of INS’s Vermont Service Center in order to help demystify the process and to assist persons who need to make inquiries regarding their cases:
GENERAL INFORMATION- National Visa Center
The National Visa Center (NVC) processes all approved immigrant visa petitions after they are received from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) 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 INS 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, INS 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 INS 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 INS 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. Unfortunately, some people have traveled long distances to inquire about their case in person, only to discover that we are not able to meet with them.
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 INS 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 INS 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 INS. 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.
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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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