AILA Meeting with State Department Representatives: Q & A


In this blog post, we share with you new information provided by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Department of State Liaison Committee following a meeting with the National Visa Center (NVC) addressing some common issues of concern for immigrant visa applicants waiting for their visas to be processed at the NVC and immigrant visa scheduling at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad.

We provide a summary of the questions asked and responses from the Department of State down below. This discussion was part of a meeting with representatives from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, taking place on February 9, 2023.

NVC Statistics for Documentarily Complete Cases

Question: Can NVC confirm how many cases were completed in FY2022 compared with the 342,392 completed in FY2021?

Answer: Documentarily Complete cases (documents received, reviewed, and case entered into scheduling queue) by Fiscal Year:

  • FY 2020 = 321,274
  • FY 2021 = 342,392
  • FY 2022 = 343,277

Question: Can NVC confirm how many cases have been completed so far in FY 2023?

Answer: The number of immigrant visa cases determined to be documentarily complete by the National Visa Center thus far in fiscal year 2023 (as of 27 January 2023) is 140,084.

Question: What is the monthly volume of immigrant visa cases that the NVC processes?

Answer: On average, during FY 2022, NVC performed case creation for nearly 14,974 immigrant visa petitions, received 20,987 ELIS petitions from USCIS, and reviewed supporting forms and documents for another 72,337 immigrant visa cases per month.

Question: What is the monthly volume of nonimmigrant (fiancé) visa cases that the NVC processes?

Answer: On average, during FY 2022, NVC performed case creation for 1,138 l-129F petitions for Alien Fiancé(e)s per month.

Question: If a document is not considered acceptable, and the attorney re-submits the requested documents, on average, how long does the NVC take to review the new evidence?

Answer: When missing documentation is subsequently provided, it is reviewed in the order it was received. NVC processing times have dropped significantly in the past year. Applicants may refer to the NVC Timeframes page on to track the current Document Review processing time. NVC Processing dates are updated weekly.

Consular Interview Scheduling Procedures

Question: AILA understands that appointment scheduling is done by the consular posts; can NVC report, on average, how long it takes for a “documentarily qualified” case to be sent to post for immigrant visa scheduling?

Answer: Pursuant to 9 FAM 504.7-2(b), posts generally strive to schedule immediate relative and nonimmigrant K visa interviews within 30 days, and current family and employment preference cases within 60 days of the receipt of all necessary fees, forms, and documents. However, some posts are still working through pandemic ­related Immigrant Visa backlogs. Additionally, post scheduling is also based on staffing, workload distribution, scheduling priorities (like Afghan SIVs), and local conditions.

At the top 20 Immigrant Visa interview-backlogged posts (which account for roughly 90% of the interview-ready Immigrant Visa backlog), there is no average or standard scheduling framework. However, in general, these posts are increasing interview capacity as their staffing levels increase.

Scheduling wait times at these posts for all categories can be lengthy, and the Department is focused on reducing the interview-ready Immigrant Visa backlog as quickly as possible. Applicants may refer to the “National Visa Center (NVC) Immigrant Visa Backlog Report” on to view the worldwide Immigrant Visa backlog updated with current numbers every month.

Question: AILA understands that once a case is considered documentarily qualified, NVC will work with the appropriate embassy or consulate to schedule an appointment;

  1. Can NVC provide an overview and timeline of how that happens?
  2. What is the method of communication used by NVC to check post availability?
  3. How is the file transferred from NVC to post?

Answer: In collaboration with overseas consular sections, NVC updates each post’s scheduling instructions and preferences on a monthly basis. Once the final action dates listed in the Visa Bulletin are received from the Visa Office’s Immigrant Visa Control and Registration Office (CA/VO/0O/I) – setting the family and employment preference category cut-off dates for the scheduling month, based on the foreign state of chargeability and visa category – NVC starts the scheduling cycle.

As post-specific scheduling capacity permits, other than age-out cases, intercountry adoptions, and expedites, per 9 FAM 504.4-6 (U) upon visa availability, NVC schedules immigrant visa appointments by filling the posts’ available appointment capacity in a first-in, first-out manner based on the date the case was deemed documentarily complete.

When the appointment is scheduled, NVC sends an appointment notification to all the case parties’ email addresses or by physical mail if email addresses are unavailable. The appointment letter contains links and directs visa applicants to and the embassy’s website to learn what to expect on their visa interview day, and most importantly, how to prepare for it.

NVC routinely transfers visa case files to post. Generally, the transfer to the designated processing location occurs in three (3) business days for intercountry adoptions, expedites, and online cases with a successfully scheduled Immigrant Visa appointment.

For fiancé and follow-to-join (FTJ) refugee/asylee cases, NVC does minimal processing and does not collect fees and documents. NVC performs some data entry, and we notify the case parties when NVC transfers the case overseas. Typically, NVC transfers these cases every two weeks.

Problems with Inter-Agency Communication

Question: AILA understands that typically communication between the agencies (NVC/USCIS), as well as consular posts, occurs via the Consular Consolidated Database (CCD); however, in our last engagement with NVC in June 2022, NVC confirmed it receives approved petitions from USCIS by mail. Members continue to report issues with interagency communication during the life of a case, which as a result, causes longer-than-normal delays in case processing at the NVC. For the benefit of our members, so they better understand the process which can help manage client expectations, we ask for clarity on the following:

  1. Can NVC confirm whether USCIS sends approved petitions electronically through the CCD or in hard copy via postal mail? For reference, members are reporting delays in case creation of 1-140 petitions approved by the Texas Service Center.

Answer: Since USCIS shifted 1-130 adjudication into its Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) platform in August 2019, data from the approved family-based petition transfers electronically from USCIS systems into NVC Department systems. Currently, only 1- 130 approved petitions are electronically transferred to NVC through ELIS. USCIS still sends all other approved physical petitions (1-140, 1-730, l-129F), to NVC by mail, except for 1-526 petitions, which are emailed to NVC for processing.

Question: Can NVC explain the process and timeline for communication of the l-601A waiver approval by USCIS to NVC?

Answer: USCIS generally notifies NVC when a beneficiary files an l-601A. If the case is in NVC’s system, we update and hold the case until we receive USCIS’ decision (approving or denying the waiver).

Case Transfers from USCIS to NVC

Question: Can NVC provide an overview of the case transfer process from USCIS to NVC, along with an approximate timeframe for how long it generally takes for NVC to receive an approved petition from USCIS?

Answer: ELIS petitions are filed, approved, and transferred to NVC entirely electronically. There is no paper file for 1-130 digitized petitions. Petitions transferred to NVC through ELIS receive a fee bill within hours in most cases. USCIS still mails some paper petitions to NVC (as above) which can take 2-3 weeks to receive.

Petitions whose Priority Date is not yet Current

Question: Can NVC confirm that when an application is based on a petition with a priority date that has not yet become current (according to the Dates for Filing chart in the Visa Bulletin):

  1. the applicant is not obliged to pay the fee or initiate any action on the case and?
  2. the application will not be terminated for inactivity until the Priority Date is within the Dates for Filing timeframe?

Answer: Except when application filing dates retrogress, only applicants with current priority dates should receive a notification to assemble and submit required fees and documentation to the National Visa Center. Our notification systems are not calibrated to accommodate retrogressed application filing dates, so Visa Bulletin movement may result in case-creation notification for some cases that are not current.

Regardless, applicants will not become liable for possible termination of registration under INA 203(g). If applicants have mistakenly received a case-creation notification before their priority dates are current, they will not be subject to termination of registration under INA 203{g).

Contacting the NVC

Question: What is the best mechanism to address NVC issues in a timely manner, given the current wait time for a response via the Public Inquiry Form and the lack of a telephonic option?

Answer: While the phone lines remain suspended, contacting NVC through our online Public Inquiry Form is the best mechanism for dealing with these issues. Please note that response times to the Public Inquiry Form are under seven (7) days and NVC is confident we will be able to maintain that level of rapid response moving forward. Please note as well that the suspension of our phone lines was essential to improving our overall level of service and response times.

Question: Does NVC have an anticipated timeline for the resumption of the telephone line?

Answer: No, NVC does not have an anticipated timeline, but NVC is exploring ways to most effectively resume telephone inquiry lines. As our online response time has dropped to less than seven (7) days, email is still the fastest-and most comprehensive-method of getting answers to questions and providing case updates and statuses.

NVC Rejection of Canadian Civil Documents

Question: As provided on the website, Canadian civil documents vary by province, and territory-specific information on obtaining acceptable birth, marriage, death, and name change certificates is provided on the website here. Members report rejection of documents that are consistent with the Reciprocity Schedule for Canada. (Specific examples include the rejection of long-form marriage certificates from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland).

  1. Would NVC be willing to review and update its internal guidance to remind officers to review acceptable province and territory standards for documents when assessing Canadian applications?

Answer: NVC provides regular updates and periodic training to processors on civil documents and has provided samples of documents for reference. Likewise, NVC works with constituent posts to keep the document reciprocity schedules current and reflective of acceptable documents. Processors use visual aids and internal resources when deciding whether to accept civil documents. Adjudicators at post adhere to post policies regarding acceptability of documents, applicants can visit the U.S. Embassy Ottawa web page for further information regarding acceptable Canadian documents.

NVC Erroneous Requests for Joint Sponsors

Question: Members report erroneous requests by NVC for joint sponsor evidence and documentation where the petitioner/sponsor clearly meets the affidavit of support and income eligibility requirements. This causes unnecessary delays in processing.

  1. Where counsel confirms that the petitioner has met the sponsorship requirements and a joint sponsor is not required, but NVC erroneously requests such documentation, what is the best way to avoid unnecessary requests for joint sponsors?
  2. For example, would it be helpful to include a statement from counsel or the applicant explaining how the petitioner satisfies the 1-864 requirements?

Answer: NVC assesses affidavits of support based on the supporting income evidence required by 9 FAM 601.14-6. Where the petitioner has not provided evidence of income that overcomes the poverty guidelines, NVC will suggest that the applicant submits a joint-sponsor document to the immigrant visa appointment. Applicants should present any complete joint-sponsor documents, as well as proof of petitioner assets, to the consular officer at the time of immigrant visa interview. Alternatively, the applicant can provide the consular officer any statements from counsel on why the petitioner has satisfied the 1-864 requirements.

Technical Issues with CEAC

Question: Members report receiving emails indicating a “status update,” but upon review of CEAC, find there has been no apparent update. In some cases, an update may be posted weeks later.

Are these status update messages a mistake or indicative of something not apparent from CEAC?

Answer: This issue arose in December when CEAC was not updating in a timely manner. The problem was fixed, and a fix to prevent this in the future is being developed.

Question: Will NVC consider uploading all relevant case notices and communications (e.g., Welcome Letter, Interview Notice, etc.) into CEAC so the applicant and attorney are notified and well-informed of the case status?

Answer: When NVC updates a case status or requests additional information, its systems automatically post a message in the applicant’s CEAC account. These messages appear on the top-right of the summary page in a box titled “Messages.” When NVC puts a new message in the applicants’ CEAC account, NVC sends an email to every email address listed on the case, directing the recipient to log into CEAC to read the message.

These messages remain in the applicant’s CEAC account for future reference. We cannot configure our systems to upload NVC-issued notices and communications because they operate independently by design. For example, the Welcome Letter contains the information required to access the portal, and the appointment letter is not generated by or within the CEAC system.

Question: CEAC currently limits document size for upload to 2MB. In our last engagement with NVC in June 2022, NVC confirmed they expected to increase the file size limit to 4MB and that this enhancement was still in the queue for development.

Does the NVC have a projected timeline or update for its implementation?

Answer: The Department still expects to increase the size limit to 4 MB but this update is still in the queue for development and does not have a projected timeline for implementation.

If a digital image is too large, compress it or attempt to scan again at a lower resolution before uploading it. Zipped files or password-protected files are not accepted. Please verify that files contain only the needed information and are not unnecessarily large because they contain extra pages, information not requested, etc.

Applicants are encouraged to review NVC’s website and use the links built into CEAC to obtain helpful information, processing tips, and submit online documents correctly. Visit for scanning tips, quality help, naming help, and document orientation requirements.

Embassy Case Transfer for Cases that are not Documentarily Complete

Question: Members report that NVC processing delays contribute to immigrant visa backlogs by holding back cases that NVC does not consider Fully Qualified (or ‘Documentarily Complete’).

AILA understands that, per 9 FAM 504.4-5(8)(2), cases may be scheduled for interview, notwithstanding errors or omissions, as long as they are not “critical” and, concerning missing civil documents, the applicant informs NVC of the inability to obtain the document. To help reduce backlogs and maximize efficiency, AILA encourages NVC to make full use of the flexibility suggested in 9 FAM 504.4-5(8)(2) to move cases forward, particularly where posts are ready and willing to schedule the Immigrant Visa interview for final adjudication.

  1. Would NVC be able to relax its requirements to enable faster transfer to posts?

Answer: NVC regularly transfers cases that are not documentarily complete to posts that have accepted them on an expedited basis. NVC’s role in the pre-Immigrant Visa interview process, however, is to prepare cases for a successful visa interview before a consular officer. NVC documentarily completes cases where applicants are unable to obtain additional supporting documentation or where that documentation is not available. Applicants unable to obtain a document should provide NVC with a statement explaining why it is unavailable or why they cannot obtain it.

To read the complete discussion, please click here.

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