Immigrant Visa Processing
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) offers an individual two primary paths to permanent resident status (a green card). An individual who is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and has an immigrant visa number immediately available may apply at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad for an immigrant visa in order to come to the United States and be admitted as a permanent resident. This pathway is referred to as “consular processing.”
Adjustment of status is an alternate process by which an eligible person, who is already in the United States, can apply for permanent resident status without having to return to his/her home country to complete processing.
Steps for Immigrant Visa Processing:
File the Employment-Based Immigrant Petition (I-140)
If you are living outside the United States or living in the United States but choose to apply for your immigrant visa abroad, you will indicate on your I-140 that you will apply for a visa abroad. (See Form I-140, Part 4, 1.a.; Please Note - If our firm is going to e-file your I-140, please be sure to let us know that you will apply for your green card via consular processing and we will properly indicate this on your e-filed I-140.) This will alert the USCIS that you will be applying for your green card at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad.
If you have any dependents (spouse, children) who also wish to apply for a green card based on your approved I-140 you will indicate on your I-140 that they will also apply for a green card outside the U.S. (See Form I-140, Part 7, 1.h.; Please Note - If our firm is going to e-file your I-140, please be sure to let us know that your dependents will apply for their green card(s) via consular processing and we will properly indicate this on your e-filed I-140.) This will alert the USCIS that they will also be applying for their green card(s) at a U.S. Department of State consulate abroad.
Wait for a Decision on Your Immigrant Petition
USCIS notifies the petitioner of its decision. If the petition is approved and if you are the beneficiary of the petition and living outside the United States or living in the United States, but choose to apply for your immigrant visa abroad, USCIS will then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC), where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available.
You can find out whether or not an immigration visa number is available by checking the U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin website.
For first preference employment-based immigrant visas (i.e., EB1A, EB1B, and EB1C), all priority dates are current. Therefore, immigrant visa numbers are immediately available for beneficiaries of these types of petitions.
For second preference employment-based immigrant visas (i.e., NIW, EB-2 PERM), priority dates are current for all beneficiaries except those born in India or China. Beneficiaries born in India or China must wait until their priority date is current before consular processing can begin.
Please Note - The general rule for chargeability is in determining to which country’s quota the beneficiary’s visa gets charged to, the beneficiary is charged to the country of birth. The country of citizenship/nationality does not control. There are some exceptions to the general rule:
- A child may be charged to the foreign state of either parent where accompanying or following to join;
- A spouse may be charged to the state of accompanying spouse;
- An alien born in a country where neither parent was born or resided may be charged to foreign state of either parent (no accompanying requirement).
Therefore, for example, if the beneficiary of the I-140 was born in India or China but his/her spouse was not born in India or China, immigrant visa numbers may be immediately available based on the rule of cross-chargeability. Please contact our law firm if you think a cross-chargeability exception may apply to your case and we will discuss your options.
Wait for Notification from the National Visa Center
The National Visa Center, which is responsible for the collection of visa application fees and supporting documentation, will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is about to become available. They will also notify the petitioner and beneficiary of when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees (commonly referred to as “fee bills”) and when supporting documentation must be submitted.
First, you will get an “Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee Bill Invoice” from the NVC for each person in your family that is doing IVP. The invoice will indicate the processing fee (“Amount Due”) and will provide payment instructions. Please follow the instructions very carefully.
Once NVC receives the processing fees, you will be sent detailed instructions regarding documents that must be sent to NVC. Please follow the instructions very carefully and provide all the documents requested. Do not submit documents unless they were requested by NVC.
Prepare for your Interview
Once the NVC receives all the requested documents, you will be notified that an interview has been scheduled. After you receive notification from NVC that your interview has been scheduled you must do the following to prepare for the interview:
- Carefully review the information sent by the NVC noting the date, time, and location of your immigrant visa interview;
- Prepare for the Medical Examination;
- Ensure that all required original documents will be available at the time of the interview. Any documents that you submitted to the NVC will be transferred to the interviewing officer;
- Obtain the required photographs; (Information regarding the photograph requirements are available on the U.S. Department of State website.)
- Review the U.S. Embassy/Consulate General-specific Interview Guidelines;
- Review the Important Visa Interview Notices;
- Review the Immigrant Visa Interview FAQs;
- Review the Review the questions and answers on all forms and documents submitted so far.
For more information on interview preparation, please see the U.S. Department of State website.
Go to Your Interview Appointment
Be sure to dress neatly, professionally, and even conservatively. Due to security concerns and space limitations, interested parties such as friends, relatives, attorneys, or business contacts are not permitted to attend the interview. It is recommended that you do not arrive more than 15 minutes before your interview appointment time, but make sure that you are on time. You may have to wait beyond your scheduled appointment time due to the volume of applicants, so it is suggested that you bring books, crossword puzzles, etc.
There may be only one case number for the primary applicant and his/her spouse and/or children. If so, you will all be called together. The primary applicant’s file will be prepared first, then they will move to the spouse’s file and then to the children (if any).
Please Note – If any of your children were born in the U.S., you must carry their U.S. passports with you.
Make sure that you answer all of the interview questions truthfully and consistently throughout. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. Do not make up an answer. Any false statement or concealment of a material fact may result in your permanent exclusion from the U.S. At the end of the interview you will be asked to take an oath that everything said in the interview is correct and there is no fraud, etc. The officer will then have you sign the DS 230 Part II.
Interviews are usually conducted in English. If you are not comfortable speaking English you should check with the U.S. Consulate where your interview will take place to see what your options are for conducting the interview in another language or with a translator.
You will not be fingerprinted at the interview. You will be fingerprinted at your port of entry in the United States.
Please Note – no assurances can be given in advance that a green card will be issued. A consular officer can only make a decision on your green card application after your application and documents have been reviewed and you have been personally interviewed. It is strongly advised that you do not make travel arrangements, dispose of property, or give up your job until your green card has been issued.
Notify NVC of Any Changes
You do not need to contact the National Visa Center about your petition, they will contact you for the information they need. You should, however, contact the NVC if there is a change in your personal situation or if you change your address. It is important to notify the NVC if you reach the age of 21 for a child or have a change in your marital status, as this may affect your eligibility or visa availability.
E-mail is the NVC’s preferred method of communication. The NVC’s e-mail address is NVCINQUIRY@state.gov.
Please Note - Use your personal e-mail account to contact the NVC. If you click on the email address provided and your computer does not automatically connect to your personal email, copy and paste the above e-mail address into an e-mail using your personal e-mail account.
In order to ensure a prompt response, please be sure to do the following:
- Enter your NVC Case Number or USCIS Receipt Number in the Subject Line of the e-mail.
- Provide the applicant’s name and date of birth and the petitioner’s name and date of birth.
- If the petition is employment-based, include the employer's company/organization name.
- Provide the attorney of record’s name, law firm and address (if applicable).
You can also contact NVC by phone – (603) 334-0700 (Hours: Monday through Friday from 7:00 AM to 12:00 AM (Eastern Time)). Customer Service Representatives are available to respond to case inquiries. You must provide the following information to receive a case specific response:
- Your NVC Case Number or USCIS receipt number
- The applicant’s name and date of birth and the petitioner’s name and date of birth
- If you are an attorney, include the name of the law office requesting the information
Please note - This service requires the use of a touch-tone telephone.
Finally, you can contact the NVC by postal mail. Written questions about a case should be sent to:
National Visa Center
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 200
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2915
Forms, documents, and photographs should be sent to:
National Visa Center
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914
After Your Green Card is Granted
If you are granted an immigrant visa, the consular officer will give you a packet of information. This packet is known as a “Visa Packet.” You should not open this packet.
Upon your arrival to the United States, you should give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. You will also be fingerprinted at the port of entry. You will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, which gives you the authority to live and work in the United States permanently.
If your visa application is refused, you will be given a refusal sheet that will indicate the basis for your refusal. If applicable, it will tell you what actions you could take to overcome the refusal.
Receive Your Green Card
You will be mailed your green card. If you do not receive your green card within 30 days of your arrival, please call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or visit your local USCIS office by making an InfoPass appointment. You can make an appointment by visiting the USCIS Infopass website.