NVC Best Practice for Uploading and Follow Up

NVC/AILA DOS Liaison Committee Meeting Portsmouth, New Hampshire November 7, 2019

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Department of State Liaison Committee ("the Committee") thanks the National Visa Center (NVC) for the opportunity to meet and discuss issues of mutual concern. The Committee believes that frequent and frank communication advances the mission of the NVC while providing clarity to the public on current policies and practices. Through extensive outreach to our more than 15,000 members, the Committee has identified several issues that are presently impacting the immigrant visa process. By raising these issues here, it is our hope that we all will develop a better understanding of the challenges involved in each other's work and that the feedback provided by the Committee will allow the NYC to enhance process efficiencies. We look forward to a continuing dialogue with the NYC.

Case Volume Statistics

1. What is the monthly volume of immigrant visa cases that the NVC processes?

RESPONSE:
NVC performs a range of processing functions that are dependent on inputs from USCIS, the public or consular sections abroad and therefore vary.

2. What is the monthly volume of nonimmigrant (fiance(e)) visa cases that the NVC processes?

RESPONSE: NYC performs a range of processing functions for these cases that are dependent on inputs from USCIS or consular sections abroad and therefore vary.

3. Approximately what percentages of cases at NVC involve attorney representation? RESPONSE: This varies over time as cases come into and out of NVC processing.

NVC Staffing Levels

4. AILA requests updated information on NVC staffing levels and staff responsibilities, including:

RESPONSE: The Department respectfully declines to respond to staffing resource questions.

a. How many Department of State employees currently work at NVC and what are their roles?

b. How many contractors currently work at NVC and what are their roles? 1 AILA Doc. No. 19110833. (Posted 11/8/19)

c. Does NVC have USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Directorate personnel at its facilities? If so, what is their role?

NVC Operations

5. What is the average amount of time before NVC receives a file from USCIS following approval of an employment-based immigrant petition?

RESPONSE: Once USCIS approves a petition, it may take up to six weeks for the physical petition to reach NVC. Please allow the allotted time after receipt of an I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS before contacting NVC about a case. This helps ensure USCIS has had enough time to mail the case and for NVC to enter it into our database.

6. What is the average amount of time before NVC receives a file from USCIS following approval of a family-based immigrant petition?

RESPONSE: Once USCIS approves a petition, it typically takes up to six weeks for the physical petition to reach NVC. Please allow the allotted time after receipt of an I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS before contacting NVC about a case. This helps ensure USCIS has had enough time to mail the case and for NVC to enter it into our database.

7. Once an immigrant petition arrives at NVC what is the average amount of time required for NVC to enter data into its system?

RESPONSE: Visit iwc.state.gov, "Begin NVC Processing" page to view case creation timeframes. The processing dates are updated weekly.

8. If a file has not been received by NVC following approval of an immigrant petition but USCIS reports that it sent the file to NVC, which entity is responsible for tracking down the missing file? During the November 1, 2018 meeting with AILA, NVC indicated that in this situation, attorneys should contact the NVC and request NVC to contact USCIS to track down and forward the approved petition. Is that still the current procedure for requesting such assistance?

RESPONSE: Yes, it is the current procedure. If it has been more than 10 weeks after receipt of an 1-797 Approval Notice from USCIS, and NVC did not receive your client's approved petition, we recommend that you email NVCResearch@state.gov for assistance. Please provide a copy of your client's 1-797 Approval Notice and any additional information you may have about the petition. NVC will work with USCIS to locate the petition and have it transferred to NVC.

9. Are there any plans to have USC IS scan and digitally transfer immigrant petition files to NVC and, if so, what is the timeline for implementation of such a plan?

RESPONSE: The Department works closely with USCIS to coordinate our respective modernization efforts. We defer to USCIS on specifics regarding their processing initiatives.

Payment of Fee Bills

10. Once an immigrant petition arrives at NVC what is the average amount of time required for NVC to issue a fee bill (assuming a current date for filing)?

RESPONSE: Fee bills are issued after a case has been fully created. Visit nvc.state.gov's, "Begin NVC Processing" page to track case creation timeframes. The processing dates are updated weekly.

11. If a visa applicant has not received a fee bill from NVC following approval of a petition by USCIS (and after passage of the average time required for issuance of the fee bill by NVC) what is the correct procedure for making an inquiry with NVC?

RESPONSE: If your client has not received the fee bill, the most effective way to notify NVC is to send your inquiry through our online Public Inquiry Form at nvc.state.gov/ask. Documents can be attached as needed.

12. What information should an applicant provide to NVC in order to inquire about the status of a fee bill?

RESPONSE: NVC recently adjusted its process to bolster protections of personally identifiable information(PII). The online Public Inquiry Form ensures collection of the information needed to authorize response to the inquiry. If your client has not received the fee bill, send your inquiry through our online Public Inquiry Form at nvc.state.gov/ask.

13. The need for advance issuance of a fee bill occasionally arises when representing a child who is potentially eligible under the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA). Understanding that final eligibility requires visa availability, but frequently, once a visa category becomes current, having the fee bill issued and paid or ready to be paid is crucial to satisfying CSP A requirements. Is there a procedure to seek advance issuance of a fee bill? If there currently is no procedure for such advance payments, would NVC be willing to instituting a process for persons to request a fee bill under these circumstances?

RESPONSE: No, per 9 FAM 504.6-4(B) NVC sends a request to pay the immigrant visa application fees online once the case is created, processed, and, for certain cases, an agent has been designated per 9 FAM 504.4-3(A)(l).

14. What is the procedure to request a fee bill so that family members can be added to the immigration process and proceed to complete the DS-260?

RESPONSE: For online processing cases, your client can add derivative applicants who intend to travel with the principal applicant in CEAC. For paper-based cases, the most effective way to add traveling applicants is to submit a request and digital proof of relationship through the online Public Inquiry Form at nvc.state.gov/ask. Documents can be attached as needed. NVC will review the information before adding the traveling applicants to the case record. Completing and Editing Form DS-260

15. AILA members have reported issues in editing and completing the Form DS-260. AILA has provided examples on these issues to the NVC and would be happy to further provide additional examples as well. Please provide responses to the following questions concerning the completion of these forms:

a. Does NVC recommend one or more particular web browsers to facilitate accessing and using the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) system?

RESPONSE: CEAC Browser Requirements: 1. Your browser must support 128-bit encryption. 2. JavaScript must be enabled. 3. Transport Layer Security (TLS) must be enabled. 4. Website will work with a variety oflntemet browsers, but it is best supported by Internet Explorer 8.0 or higher.

b. Is there an on-going software development plan for the CEAC system and, if so, what is that plan?

RESPONSE: The Department continues to improve its applications. Not all updates are public facing or immediately recognizable by the end user.

c. Problems reported with the CEAC system include, inter alia, frequent "timeouts" and data not saved. Has NVC taken steps to address these issues, and if not, does it plan to?

RESPONSE: The Department continues to work with the software development teams to improve CEAC. Applicants have 20 minutes to complete each page. To avoid losing data, it is recommended to save answers by clicking on the "Save'' button at the bottom of the page frequently.

d. What process is available to an applicant to access a submitted DS-260 to change or correct information previously provided? Once the file has been sent to the consular post, what is the process for editing or correcting the DS-260?

RESPONSE: The applicant is given the opportunity to review the DS-260 prior to submission. However, once submitted, by clicking the "Sign and Submit Application" button on the "Sign and Submit" page, the applicant will be unable to edit the application because it is locked and crumot be changed unless the consular section unlocks it for the applicant to make the changes and re-submit. The applicant can view the saved application by returning to CEAC and select "View/Edit" from the IV and Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa-Summary Information screen. Once NVC processing is complete, we encourage applicants to reach out to the assigned embassy or consulate before the immigrant visa interview with any processing issues.

Uploading Documents in CEAC

16. AILA members report on-going challenges uploading documents in CEAC. Members report being unable to upload documents in CEAC, and in some cases receiving a rejection from the NVC for a document with no explanation as to why. Please provide answers to the following questions:

a. Is there a file size limitation for immigrant visa supporting documents that can be uploaded?

RESPONSE: Each individual digital file must be no larger than 2 MB for documents uploaded to CEAC. The Department expects to increase the size limit to 4 MB sometime in 2020. If a digital image is too large, compress it before uploading it. Zipped files are not accepted.

b. Documents are often rejected without any indication of why the item was not a qualifying document. Is NVC able to provide a mechanism or process for explaining why a tendered document is deficient?

RESPONSE: NVC sends a note to customers that explains the document rejection reason whenever a document is rejected. NVC uses Country Specific Documents guidelines (available at travel.state.gov) to determine availability and acceptability of submitted documents. These guidelines are established by overseas posts in coordination with the Department. Section 9 FAM 504.4-4(A) outlines the basic document requirements for the immigrant visa process. We anticipate improvements in the notification process with planned updates to related software.

RESPONSE: The applicant is given the opportunity to review the DS-260 prior to submission. However, once submitted, by clicking the "Sign and Submit Application" button on the "Sign and Submit" page, the applicant will be unable to edit the application because it is locked and crumot be changed unless the consular section unlocks it for the applicant to make the changes and re-submit. The applicant can view the saved application by returning to CEAC and select "View/Edit" from the IV and Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa-Summary Information screen. Once NVC processing is complete, we encourage applicants to reach out to the assigned embassy or consulate before the immigrant visa interview with any processing issues. Uploading Documents in CEAC

16. AILA members report on-going challenges uploading documents in CEAC. Members report being unable to upload documents in CEAC, and in some cases receiving a rejection from the NVC for a document with no explanation as to why. Please provide answers to the following questions: a. Is there a file size limitation for immigrant visa supporting documents that can be uploaded?

RESPONSE: Each individual digital file must be no larger than 2 MB for documents uploaded to CEAC. The Department expects to increase the size limit to 4 MB sometime in 2020. If a digital image is too large, compress it before uploading it. Zipped files are not accepted. b. Documents are often rejected without any indication of why the item was not a qualifying document. Is NYC able to provide a mechanism or process for explaining why a tendered document is deficient? RESPONSE: NYC sends a note to customers that explains the document rejection reason whenever a document is rejected. NYC uses Country Specific Documents guidelines (available at travel.state.gov) to determine availability and acceptability of submitted documents. These guidelines are established by overseas posts in coordination with the Department. Section 9 FAM 504.4-4(A) outlines the basic document requirements for the immigrant visa process.

c. Does NVC have a recommended order of documents or process for submitting supporting documents?

RESPONSE: Documents should be submitted together once all are uploaded in CEAC. For paper cases, they should be mailed together in one package.

d. If a document is rejected, what is the correct protocol to submit an inquiry to clarify why the document was deemed deficient?

RESPONSE: When you encounter rejection issues, please submit an inquiry through our online Public Inquiry Form and provide us with an overview of the issue. If necessary, we will work with the appropriate areas to get your case back on track.

e. Does NVC continue to have consular officers with regional expertise concerning the availability of documents, such as birth, marriage and divorce records or police certificates from a particular country. If so, is it possible for applicants to request the assistance of such personnel in verifying the unavailability of specific documents?

RESPONSE: Consular officers are assigned to NVC to provide technical assistance to NVC processors and NVC works frequently with overseas posts on questions around the availability and acceptability of civil documents and applicability of Country Specific Civil Documents on https://travel.state.gov. Requests for Documents

17. AILA members frequently report receiving requests from the NVC for documents that have previously been submitted. In addition, members report receiving requests for documents that are not relevant to the underlying case (e.g., requests for a divorce decree from persons who were never previously married). Please address the following questions:

a. What is the best method for responding to an NVC request for documentation or information that was previously submitted or is not applicable to the type of visa application or specific fact scenario involved?

RESPONSE: Applicants applying for an immigrant visa, whose case is undergoing processing at NVC, should meet the basic document requirement per 9 FAM 504.4. If requested, submit the additional documentation required of an applicant to NVC. The consular officer overseas will detennine the acceptability of the document at the time of adjudication. Instances of clearly incorrect requests may be reported via the online Public Inquiry Form for further investigation.

b. What percentage of visa applications processed by NVC are issued a request for additional documentation or information?

RESPONSE: The Department respectfully declines to respond.

c. Are such requests reviewed by a supervisor before they are sent to applicants? If not, would the NVC consider implementing a supervisory review process to enhance efficiency and avoid duplication of efforts?

RESPONSE: We take appropriate measures to ensure quality control.

d. Is there anything AILA and our members can do to avoid duplicate or inappropriate document requests?

RESPONSE: Encourage stakeholders to review NVC's website, www.state.gov to obtain helpful information and processing tips. Also, recommend use of the links built into CEAC to submit online documents correctly. Submit all required documentation at the same time. • nvc.state.gov/ceac o Useful guidance o FAQs • nvc.state.gov/scan o Scanning tips and requirements - quality help, naming help, and document orientation o Upload documents oriented right side up, otherwise NVC will reject them • nvc.state.gov/imd o Tables provide the list of acceptable civil documents o Applicants need to obtain these documents to avoid delays • nvc.state.gov/documents o Tips to prepare applicants for their interview o List of additional required documents; such as the petitioner documents One-Year Contact Requirements

18. AILA members report that immigrant visa applications are being erroneously terminated under INA 203(g), for failure to contact the NVC within one year of notification of the availability of a visa, even when the individual or the attorney has attempted unsuccessfully to contact the NVC within the one-year period. In the event an attorney receives a notice that a file has been terminated by the NVC under such circumstances, please confirm that:

a. The NVC will reopen the file and resume processing upon receiving documentary proof that the attorney has, in fact, contacted the NVC within the one-year period. RESPONSE: Yes, the case will be re-opened and NVC will notify case parties when this occurs.

b. If visa and affidavit of support fees have already been paid, it will not be necessary to resubmit the visa fees for cases terminated in error. RESPONSE: If fees were already paid, and the case entered termination processing in error, repayment is not necessary.

c. The file will be placed back in its original place in processing and will not be placed at the back of the processing queue. RESPONSE: The case will remain in the queue. NVC reviews all documents simultaneously and only after, we have received a "full file," which means all fees, the DS-260 form, and both civil and financial documents. NVC reviews in the order a "full file" is received.

19. What is the recommended method for contacting NVC within the required one-year period? Does NVC issue an acknowledgement of such contacts? RESPONSE: The most effective ways to maintain contact with NVC, within one year of notice of visa availability, are by:

o Paying a fee (which can be tracked in CEAC)

o Submitting a document (which can be tracked in CEAC for electronic cases)

o Using the online Public Inquiry Form

o Making a phone call

20. What evidence is recommended to include in such communications where attempts have been made to contact NVC via both telephone and the AskNVC form?

RESPONSE: Submit digital proof corroborating contact using the online Public Inquiry Form. You can attach documents at the bottom of the form.

21. If an applicant attempted unsuccessfully to contact NVC through its website to avoid the file aging out after one year, what procedure is available to reinstate the application?

RESPONSE: Contacting NVC through our online Public Inquiry Form is the best mechanism for dealing w.ith these issues.

22. If an applicant attempted unsuccessfully to contact NVC through its website to avoid the file aging out after one year, does NVC accept correspondence through mail and, if so, what is the correct address to which such notices should be directed?

RESPONSE: Contacting NVC through our online Public Inquiry Form is the best mechanism for dealing with these issues. Telephonic Communication with the NVC

23. How many telephone lines does NVC maintain for applicant inquiries? Is there a preferred or recommended time of day or time for contacting NVC by telephone?

RESPONSE: Historically, early morning has been the best time to contact NVC by phone, however, the timing of call volumes varies.

24. What training is provided to contractors answering telephone lines?

RESPONSE: The Department respectfully declines to respond. 25. How can a matter be escalated to a supervisor during or after a telephone inquiry? RESPONSE: If you encounter an issue and you wish to speak with a supervisor, inform the Customer Service Representative. If a supervisor is not available, the Customer Service Representative will arrange a callback. NVC Inquiry Escalation Process

26. AILA members report ongoing challenges communicating with NVC through the AskNVC form. AILA provided examples of these issues to the NVC's attention and would be happy to provide additional examples should they be needed. We request answers to the following questions on the escalation process for inquiries through the NVC:

a. What is the current average response time for an inquiry submitted through the AskNVC form?

RESPONSE: Electronic inquiry processing timeframes are updated weekly at nvc. state. gov/ ask. 9 AILA Doc. No. 19110833. (Posted 11/8/19)

b. How many members of the NVC staff are currently reviewing requests made through this form?

RESPONSE: The Department respectfully declines to respond.

c. It appears that the NVCattorney@state.gov email address is no longer in use for the public. Given this change, what is the suggested process for submitting an inquiry with the NVC?

RESPONSE: Attorneys should select "Attorney of Record" as the response to the "Who are you?" question on the online Public Inquiry Form. This automatically forwards the inquiry to NVC's nvcattorney@state.gov mailbox. Attachments, including G-28s, may be attached at the bottom of the form.

d. In our last meeting, the NVC indicated that the correct process for following up on an inquiry that received no response from the AskNVC form was as follows: If you do not receive a response within eight business days, send a second follow-up e-mail to NVCattorney@state.gov. If you still don't receive a response within an additional eight business days, send a third e-mail to NVCattorney@state.gov with "Attention PI Supervisor" in the subject line. You should receive a response from the PI Supervisor within five to seven business days. Given that the NVCattorney@state.gov email address is no longer available for public use, please confirm the escalation protocol for following up on an inquiry. Is supervisory review still available if an inquiry is unanswered for a designated period of time?

RESPONSE: To escalate inquiries, legal representatives may send email inquiries through our online Public Inquiry Form and add 'ATTN: PI Supervisor' on the question box at the bottom of the form. We ask you to review average processing times at nvc.state.gov/ask to determine if your original inquiry still falls within the specified timeframe.

27. AILA members report periodically checking-in on cases and observing that they are unable to open or access updated information or messages placed in the electronic file. In some cases, the inbox contains a document titled "message", but there is no content. Is NVC aware that this is happening? If so, please confirm the best way for stakeholders to bring such an issue to NVC's attention so that they may gain access to these communications.

RESPONSE: Yes, this is a known issue that has been relayed to software developers. Sometimes the message will load after several minutes. We appreciate AILA' s regular feedback on these types of issues. Individual attorneys experiencing potential computer errors can provide feedback via the online Public Inquiry Form. For online issues with CEAC or CTRAC, we recommend attaching a screenshot of error messages or incongruities.

Expedite Requests

28. What are the current criteria for an expedited processing request? RESPONSE: In certain circumstances - such as a medical emergency - attorneys can request that a case be expedited to the processing location by sending an email to NVCexpedite@state.gov. NVC forwards requests to the appropriate embassy or consulate for their consideration. An embassy may deny the request; request the case for an expedited appointment in its current status; or accept the case for an expedited appointment only after it has completed pre-processing at NVC. We encourage all applicants to continue case actions while awaiting a response to an expedite request.

29. Is the correct method for making a request for expedited processing to send an email to NVCExpedite@state.gov .1 If so, please confirm if the NVC would recommend that any specific information or documentation be included in such a request. If not, please confirm the best procedure for making an expedited processing request?

RESPONSE: Yes, that is the correct mailbox. Concise documentation in support of medical or other emergent issues may be attached. Consular Returns

30. When an immigrant visa application is returned by a consulate to be sent to USCIS for revocation, does NVC have any role in processing the return to USCIS?

RESPONSE: NVC is the intermediary, reviewing revocation requests from consular officers for administrative errors and routing request to USCIS. NVC does not make adjudicatory decisions but will alert consular officers to material errors for correction as necessary. 31. On average, how long does it take for USCIS Service Centers to receive a petition after it is returned by a consulate for revocation? RESPONSE: That timeframe varies depending on transit times and the circumstances of individual cases.

32. If the Department of State confirms that a petition is being returned to USCIS for revocation, but USCIS subsequently claims that the petition was never received, what steps can be taken by the petitioner, beneficiary, or attorney/representative to determine the whereabouts of the petition?

RESPONSE: Contact NVC through our online Public Inquiry Form.

33. AILA members report a surge of adjustment of status applications being denied by USCIS ostensibly because a previously filed family-based Form I-130 has been revoked/terminated by NVC. Are there any circumstances under which NVC can or will terminate or revoke an I-130 petition?

RESPONSE: NVC does not make decisions to issue or refuse an immigrant visa application. NVC returns cases to USCIS for administrative reasons (i.e., petition problems, divorce or marriage-no longer eligible for visa class, death, etc.). NVC will terminate inactive petitions under INA 203(g) and destroy per 9 FAM 504.13-4(A). Physical labor certifications are returned to the prospective employer. Presidential Proclamation 9945

34. In light of President Trump's October 4, 2019 Presidential Proclamation set to go into effect on November 3, 2019, please confirm how, if at all, the NVC will be altering its current processes to comply with the proclamation, including any changes in recommended supporting documentation to include with immigrant petitions?

RESPONSE: The Proclamation currently is subject to a temporary restraining order, so it is not being implemented. Affidavit of Support Issues

35. Given the current or potential changes to the public charge regulations, has the NVC changed the way it reviews affidavits of support for documentary sufficiency including any changes to the content of assessment letters?

a. Will the NVC provide additional guidance or instructions to applicants regarding documentation that is required to be uploaded along with an affidavit of support?

RESPONSE: There are no current plans to alter NV C's review of affidavits of support. The Department has issued an Interim Final Rule on the public charge grounds of ineligibility at INA 2 12(a)(4) and on October 24 proposed a new form, a Public Charge Questionnaire .. The Visa Office will consider NVC's role in how and whether to conduct administrative reviews of those requirements after the end of the public comment period for the Public Charge Questionnaire, once we have approval to use the form.

b. Will the NVC provide additional guidance or instructions to applicants regarding documentation that is recommended to bring to the visa interview appointment to maximize the likelihood that applicants are adequately prepared to satisfy the public charge inquiry?

RESPONSE: Information and updates on public charge ineligibilities is available on travel.state.gov.

c. Will the NVC provide any new or additional guidance or instructions to applicants regarding affidavits of support submitted by joint sponsors?

RESPONSE: NVC does not have any current plan to change its current communications on Affidavit of Supports.

d. Will NVC continue to accept the March 6, 2018 editions of the Form I-864 or I-864EZ on or after October 15, 2019? If so, for how long?

RESPONSE: NVC will accept the March 6, 2018 version of the Affidavit of Support form that is available on the USCIS landing page at www.uscis.gov/i-864. The public should utilize new versions of the form as they become available.

e. For immigrant visa interviews scheduled for dates after October 15, 2019 what forms and/or supporting documents will applicants be required to bring to the interview?

RESPONSE: In light of the interim final rule that amends 22 CPR 40.41, published on October 11, 2019, visa applicants are not requested to take any additional steps at this time and should attend their visa interviews as scheduled. As always, if requested by a consular officer, additional financial documentation should be presented at the time of the visa interview. The consular officer overseas will determine the acceptability of the financial documents at the time of adjudication. Updates to required documentation would be made available on travel.state.gov.

f. Is there a list of specific supporting documents relating to public charge that NVC must receive before it will forward the file to post?

RESPONSE: NVC's review of financial documentation is located at nvc.state.gov.

36. A Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, currently has 10 pages. AILA members report attempting to upload Forms I-864 but receiving a message that the file is too large. If the file is compressed so that it can be uploaded, it may be too difficult to read. Is NVC aware of this issue? If so, does it plan to update its system to accept larger documents like the affidavit of support?

RESPONSE: CEAC accepts .jpg, .jpeg, and .pdf files. Each individual digital-file must be no larger than 2 MB (megabytes) with plans to increase the limit to 4 MB sometime in 2020. If your scanned image is too large, compress it and review for legibility before uploading. Visit nvc.state.gov/scan for scanning tips, quality help, naming help, and document orientation requirements. Applications Involving Provisional Waivers

37. USCIS processing of an 1-601 A provisional waiver frequently takes more than one year. In cases where a provisional waiver application is pending with USCIS for one year or more, is the applicant required to contact the NVC to keep any relevant cases active?

RESPONSE: An applicant will not become subject to termination of registration under INA 203(g) during the time the I-601A provisional waiver is being adjudicated by USCIS. If NVC failed to receive or record notification of the provisional waiver application and a case enters tennination, provide evidence of the I-601A filing via the Online Public Inquiry form and NVC will reinstate the case upon confirmation of the application with USCIS.

38. Under 8 CFR 212.7(e)(3)(iv), a provisional waiver applicant must show that he or she "[h]as a case pending with the Department of State, based on (A) An approved immigrant visa petition, for which the Department of State immigrant visa processing fee has been paid." In cases involving following-to-join derivatives, where the principal applicant has already been issued a visa and the case is closed in CEAC, what is the current procedure for the following-to-join derivative to pay the immigrant visa fee?

RESPONSE: If the case has been adjudicated or the principal applicant on a case has been issued a visa, the file may not be returned to pre-processing status at NVC. Follow-to-join beneficiaries in such cases must pay fees to the consular cashier and present that receipt as evidence. Contact the appropriate embassy or consulate regarding payment procedures. Consular Post Assignment

39. What is the current process for asking NVC to assign an immigrant visa application to a consular post other than the applicant's country oflast residence?

RESPONSE: NVC will assign the applicant's processing location per 9 FAM 504.4 guidelines. If your client wishes to change their processing location, the most effective way to notify NVC is to send your inquiry through our online Public Inquiry Form along with proof of residency and an address in the new country of jurisdiction. In the event the residency of an applicant remains in question, NVC will forward the request to the appropriate embassy or consulate for their consideration. The consular officer makes a factual determination depending upon the unique circumstances of the case and may deny a transfer request if the applicant's legal residency in the new jurisdiction is not established.

40. Please provide an update on the status of implementing the MIV program. We understand that the changes are being phased in. What changes might AILA members expect to see as this process is implemented?

RESPONSE: With the exception of cases assigned to Damascus, Syria, all newly received I-130 petitions and applications with a priority date earlier than the dates for filing are processing online through the Department's new electronic system. As the online initiative continues to move forward, NVC will convert its millions ofl-130 paper case files into the digital format. We expect more form types to be included in 2020. Additionally, the Department will implement a two-way messaging function to your clients' CEAC summary page, and will enlarge the list of required documents captured in CEAC to improve document collection. E-Medical is an additional element of MIV; it is an electronic processing system for the secure submission of medical examination records. Worldwide deployment of Medical commenced in waves beginning July 15, 2019, and is expected to roll out in approximately six-to eight-week intervals.

Most recent Update as of July 2, 2020

Immigrant Visa Processing and NVC Best Practices

NVC Background

The National Visa Center (NVC) opened in 1994 for the purpose of centralizing immigrant visa processing and eliminating administrative burdens on consular posts to allow them to focus on adjudications. NVC reviews documents to ensure completeness and facilitates the scheduling of immigrant visa interviews. NVC does not adjudicate cases. Legal questions, such as the applicability of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), are referred to the legal team at the Department of State (DOS) Visa Office in Washington, DC.

General NVC Processing

NVC confirmed during the November 7, 2019 liaison meeting with AILA that once USCIS approves a petition, it takes up to six weeks for NVC to receive the file.

1. Upon receipt, NVC creates a “case” and enters the relevant data into its system. The time required by NVC to upload case data varies. Current processing time is updated weekly and posted at nvc.state.gov on the "Begin NVC Processing" page.

2. If immigrant visa availability for the case is not “current,” NVC will store the file and monitor the priority dates.
If more than 10 weeks have elapsed following receipt of a Form I-797, Notice of Action approving an immigrant petition, but no fee receipt has been generated, it is possible that the petition was not received by NVC. If the file was not received, NVC will accept responsibility for tracking it down.

3. In order to contact the NVC to request assistance in tracking down a file, stakeholders need to send an email to NVCResearch@state.gov for assistance. Emails should include a PDF copy of the client's I-797 approval notice and “any additional information” about the petition. NVC did not
elaborate on this broad invitation to send information. As a general rule, however, Department of State consistently admonishes that concise statements including identifying information for the petitioner and beneficiary tend to be most helpful. NVC will work with USCIS to locate the
petition and have it transferred to NVC.

When the availability of a visa number can be foreseen within a reasonable time period, NVC will commence the steps described below.5 Upon receiving a file from USCIS with a visa currently available, the following steps should be taken by the NVC and the applicant:

Step 1: Choose an Agent
NVC will send notification to the applicant to choose an agent and pay the fee online.
Step 2: Pay Fees
Fee bills are issued by NVC after a case has been created by NVC. Case creation timeframes can be found at nvc.state.gov on the “Begin Processing” When paying online, NVC currently takes approximately one week to process fee payments.8 The fee must be received and processed by NVC before continuing to the next step. If no fee bill is received, notify NVC through the online Public Inquiry form found at nvc.state.gov/ask. The first thing you must do after receiving your NVC Welcome Letter is pay your processing fees. There are two processing fees:

  1. Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee
  2. Affidavit of Support Fee

The applicant will need a bank routing number and a checking or savings account number from a U.S. based bank.


To pay the fee, log in on ceac.state.gov and click the ‘PAY NOW’ button under Affidavit of Support Fee or IV Fee on the summary page. Please note both fees cannot be paid simultaneously. The online system will ask that payments be made one at a time. It will likely take 2-3 business days to complete and you will have an “IN PROCESS” status until then. After 2-3 days, sign into your account to ensure that payment status is
“PAID”. Ensure that you print a receipt by clicking the Receipt section and printing a copy for your file.


After submitting your payments online, please allow up to 1 week for NVC to process your fees before continuing to the next step. You will not be able to access Form DS-260 until NVC has
processed your payments.

Step 3: Submit Visa Application Form DS-260
A Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application must be filed online by the applicant. To access and complete the form through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC), the browser must satisfy certain requirements. These include:
• Browser must support 128-bit encryption.
• Java Script must be enabled.
• Transport Layer Security (TLS) must be enabled.
• The CEAC website will work with a variety of Internet browsers, but it is best supported by Internet Explorer 8.0 or higher.
• Files must be no larger than 2 MB for documents to be uploaded to the CEAC. If digital image is too large, compress it before uploading. Zipped files are not accepted. If a problem is encountered when attempting to complete the form, use the online Public Inquiry Form9 and provide NVC with an overview of the issue. NVC reports that applicants have 20 minutes to complete each page. Persistent, widespread reports, however, suggest that the actual timeout period is much less. AILA’s DOS Liaison Committee has raised this issue with the Department of State Visa Office and the NVC.10 NVC recommends frequently clicking the “Save” button at the bottom of the page to avoid losing data.

Saved applications can be viewed by returning to the CEAC and selecting “view/Edit” form the IV and Alien Registration section of the Immigrant Visa Summary Information screen. Once a DS-260 is submitted by clicking the “Sign and Submit Application” button no additional editing is possible. It can only be unlocked if the consular section unlocks it for the applicant to
make changes and re-submit.

Step 4: Complete I-864 Affidavit of Support and Collect Financial Documents
NVC currently only accepts the October 15, 2019 version of the Form I-864 which is available on the USCIS page www.uscis.gov/i-864. On February 24, 2020, the Department of State implemented the new Form DS-5540, Public Charge Questionnaire, edition date 1/2020 which is available at https://eforms.state.gov/Forms/ds5540.PDF.
The role of NVC in reviewing information gathered through the Form DS-5540 has not yet been defined and was not confirmed during the most recent November 7, 2019 meeting with NVC.

Information updates on public charge requirements and ineligibility may be found on the travel.state.gov website. financial documentation at nvc.state.gov/aos. If NVC determines that the Form I-864 and supporting documents are “objectively complete” and if taken as true would satisfy the affidavit of support requirements, the case should move forward.
The consular officer reviewing an immigrant visa application, however, will determine the acceptability of financial documents at the time of adjudication. If the sponsor has filed a tax return extension, provide the extension request and the most recent tax return available. Filing documents with the Form I-864 have the following limits: CEAC accepts jpg, jpeg, and pdf files. Files must be no larger than 2 MB. During the November 2019, NVC meeting, NVC indicated its desire to increase file size capacity to 4 MB sometime in 2020.

If a scanned image is too large, compress it and review for legibility before uploading.

Step 5: Collect Civil Documents


NVC uses Country Specific Documents guidelines available at travel.state.gov to determine availability and acceptability of submitted documents. NVC should send an email message to explain the reason for any document rejection. If a document is rejected without an apparent
reason, use the Public Inquiry Form online to request clarification.
When NVC processing is complete and the application file is sent to an embassy or consulate, any further processing inquiries should be sent directly to the post.

Step 6: Submit One Package to NVC


When providing documents to NVC is it important to bear in mind that there are currently multiple procedures for submitting documents depending on the case type and location of the immigrant
visa application. Accordingly, following the instructions received from NVC on document submission is vital. For those applications processed electronically, documents are uploaded through the CEAC portal. Paper-based filings involve submission of copies of documents by

Step 4: Complete Affidavit of Support, for more information.

Available at:
https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/the-immigrant-visa-process/collect-and-submit-formsand-documents-to-the-nvc/step-4-collect-financial-documents.html

General Contact Information:


NVC receives inquiries through its online Ask NVC form.21 This portal asks through a dropdown list for the role of the person submitting the inquiry. If you indicate that the inquiry is submitted by an attorney of record, then the form is then directed to the formerly publicly available NVCattorney@state.gov mailbox. This email address is now longer available for public use. NVC now requests that initial and follow up inquiries be made through the Ask NVC form. The time required for NVC to respond to inquiries varies depending on demand. Electronic inquiry processing timeframes are updated weekly at nvc.state.gov/ask. In its most recent meeting with AILA, NVC indicated that it is fully committed to use of the online nvc.state.gov/ask portal. Use of the web-based inquiry form is required by NVC for three reasons. First, it provides greater protection of personally identifiable information. Second, the Public Inquiry Form ensures collection of the information needed to authorize and inquiry. Finally, it allows documents, such as a G-28, to be attached to the inquiry form. NVC recommends using the links built in to the CEAC to submit online documents correctly.


Whether the application is being processing under the new, electronic format or through a paperbased submission, NVC recommends submitting all required documentation at the same time.

Escalation of Inquiries

To escalate an inquiry, attorneys may send email inquiries through the Ask NVC Form adding “ATTN: PI Supervisor” in the comment box at the bottom of the form. NVC also recommends that stakeholders summarize key facts at the beginning of the comment, along the date of each previous attempt to contact the NVC. Review average processing times at nvc.state.gov/ask to
determine if the original inquiry still falls within the current response timeframe.

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