Update and processing tips from the National Visa Center

Last Updated

August 29, 2019

CLINIC staff and affiliate members visited the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on July 18. NVC Director Conn Schrader welcomed the group and Assistant Director Becky Austin provided an overview of processing at NVC. Following a tour of the facility, NVC staff answered the participants’ questions. This resource summarizes information provided during the visit.


  • In fiscal year 2018, NVC received 427,815 approved petitions from USCIS Service Centers. Once a petition is received, it takes about 2 to 4 weeks for NVC to input data into its system and assign a NVC case number. Applicants should wait at least 6 weeks from petition approval before contacting NVC.
  • NVC currently houses approximately 2.1 million physical files. All I-130 relative petitions received from USCIS are scanned and an electronic file is created. After a certain period of time has elapsed, the physical petitions are destroyed.
  • The customer service team responds to approximately 1 million written and e-mail inquiries yearly. Eighty-five percent of the inquiries are by e-mail. The customer service representatives answer approximately 4,000 calls per day.

Processing Tips

  • Completion of the DS-261 Choice of Agent form is no longer necessary when processing an immigrant visa case through the Consular Electronic Application Center, CEAC. Up to six email addresses can be included on a case in CEAC, and correspondence will be sent to each address.
  • If there is a change in representation on a case, the new representative should notify the NVC through the Ask NVC Public Inquiry form.
  • Representatives should now use the Ask NVC public inquiry form for case inquiries instead of the NVCAttorney@state.gov address. The public inquiry form provides an option to allow the inquirer to identify himself or herself as the attorney of record.
  • If there is no response to an inquiry after two attempts, the inquirer should type “Attn: PI Supervisor” in the question box to elevate the inquiry.
  • If submitting civil and financial documents by mail, send all of the required documents in one package. It is important to place the cover sheet provided by NVC on top of the submission. NVC does not collect original documents. Send photocopies and advise clients to bring originals, plus an extra photocopy, to the consular appointment.
  • If an applicant is unable to obtain a civil document, such as a birth certificate, even though the reciprocity schedule indicates the document is available, the applicant should submit a statement explaining why he or she is unable to get the document. NVC will send the case to the consulate without the document and a determination will be made at the time of the visa interview if the document must be obtained.
  • Even though passport-style photos are still requested through CEAC, they are not required.  
  • Submission of Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts instead of photocopies of tax returns in support of the I-864 affidavit of support is preferred but not required.
  • NVC will review a case only when the fees are paid, the DS-260 online immigrant visa application is complete, and all of the required financial and civil documents are present. This “full file review” is done to avoid the need to send multiple checklists.
  • If an applicant in the F-2B category wants to opt out of automatic conversion to the F-1 category when the petitioner naturalizes, he or she can send an email to USCIS at opt-out@uscis.dhs.gov. Include the names of the petitioner and beneficiary and the petition receipt number in the email. An automatic response will be sent that says:

“United States Citizenship and Immigration Services received a request from the beneficiary of the referenced petition to “opt-out” of automatic conversion from classification under section 203(a)(2)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act) to classification under section 203(a)(1) of the Act pursuant to section 204(k)(2) of the Act.

The request for “opt-out” is hereby granted and the above referenced beneficiary will remain classified as the unmarried son or daughter of a lawful permanent resident, as though the petitioning parent did not naturalize.”

Applicants should send the USCIS email response to NVC to request the case continue processing in the F-2B category.

  • Once the DS-260 online immigrant visa application is submitted, it is not possible for the applicant to re-enter the form to change or correct information. NVC recommends that changes be made at the immigrant visa interview.
  • The Department of State has made available videos for applicants to prepare for immigrant visa interviews. In addition to English, the videos are available with subtitles in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Urdu.
  • If an immediate relative I-130 petition is at the NVC and the U.S. citizen spouse petitioner dies, the widow(er) should notify NVC via the Ask NVC public inquiry form to request the case be converted to an I-360 self-petition. A copy of the death certificate should be uploaded and sent with the request. NVC will update the case and continue processing in the IW1 widow/widower category.
  • If a possible age-out for an I-929 family member is anticipated, contact NVC. The National Visa Center will contact the post to see if the case can be expedited.

I-601A provisional waiver issues

  • Provisional waiver applicants processing through CEAC can print out the immigrant visa fee receipt to include with the I-601A. If the fee was paid by check, the applicant can send an email to NVCI601A@state.gov with the subject line “Fee Payment Receipt Request” and include the NVC case number.
  • USCIS will notify NVC when it receives an I-601A application and again after it issues a decision.
  • NVC will not schedule an interview while an I-601A is pending or if any family member on a case has an I-601A pending.
  • While an I-601A is pending with USCIS, a case will not go into termination under INA § 203(g).