What happens first?

For applicants who elected to consular process on their immigrant visa petition (Form I-130/I-140/I-526), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will notify the National Visa Center (NVC) to begin consular processing after USCIS approves the petition.

Chart A Processing:

If there is no quota delay in the applicable immigrant visa category as shown in “Chart A” of the monthly Visa Bulletin, NVC will start the process by sending the fee bill to the attorney designated on the immigrant visa petition. The fee bill will request a processing fee to be submitted for each individual. Certified checks or money orders for the current fee should be made out to the “U.S. Department of State.”

Chart B Processing:

If there is a quota delay in the applicable immigrant visa category as shown in Chart A of the Visa Bulletin, then NVC, upon receiving the case, will send a notice to the attorney and applicant. The notice will confirm the applicant’s country of birth, case number and immigrant visa category and will advise that the case will be held until the quota delay has mostly passed before NVC will begin processing. When Chart B of the Visa Bulletin shows a date matching the filing date of the applicable immigrant visa petition, then NVC will send the NVC fee bill as described above in the Chart A process, and initiate consular processing. The waiting period at NVC for the Chart B date to allow commencement of processing can be several years.

Adding dependents:

Once NVC has issued a fee bill, an applicant or attorney may amend or correct NVC records to add eligible spouse or child dependents to the immigrant visa process. NVC will then issue a corrected fee bill including the Principal Applicant and eligible dependents.

Application to submit to the NVC after payment of the fee bill

Several days after payment of the NVC fee bill, NVC will open links to Form DS-260 for each eligible family member. These links are accessible using the NVC fee bill case number and invoice number. Each applicant must provide detailed residential, education, work, family and travel information on Form DS-260. Attorneys may help prepare and submit Forms DS-260 for clients.

Civil documents required by each applicant

The particular civil documents required from each country are described on the State Department’s reciprocity page. The general categories of required documents are listed below. The process for submission of these documents to most U.S. consular posts worldwide is: 1) scan and upload or email copies of compliant documents to NVC after submitting Form DS-260, and 2) bring originals of those documents in person to the interview at the U.S. Consulate. If NVC is not satisfied that the electronically provided civil documents in Step 1 above are compliant, NVC will send a “Checklist” repeatedly until proper document scans have been submitted. NVC will not deem a filing “Complete” and will not schedule a consular interview until the checklist is resolved. Generally required civil documents are:

  • Photocopy of unexpired passport biographic data page. Note: Passport should be valid for eight months beyond the visa issuance date.
  • Two identical color passport-style photographs.
  • Birth certificate for each family member containing:
    • Date of birth;
    • Place of birth;
    • Names of both parents;
    • Annotation by the governing authority indicating that it is an extract from official records.
  • If birth records are unobtainable, applicants should obtain a certified statement from the appropriate government authority stating the reason the birth record is not available (e.g. the birth was never officially recorded, the record has been destroyed, etc.). Secondary evidence must be submitted together with the certified statement. Examples of secondary evidence include:
    • Baptismal certificate with date of birth, place of birth, and both parents’ names;
    • Adoption decree;
    • Notarized affidavit from a close relative, e.g. mother, stating the date and place of birth, both parents’ names, and the mother’s maiden name.
  • Adoption documentation: If the intending immigrant child was adopted and if the child’s application to immigrate is based upon a parent-child relationship, special rules apply.
  • Marriage certificate.
  • Documentation showing the termination of all prior marriages:
    • Final divorce decree; or
    • Death certificate; or
    • Annulment certificate.
  • Military records, if applicable.
  • Police clearance certificates:
    • For each applicant aged 16 or older.
    • No certificates needed to cover U.S. residence.
    • Certificate must be issued by the appropriate police authority.
    • Must cover the entire period of the applicant’s residence in that area.
    • Must state what is shown in the police authorities’ records for each applicant, including arrests, the reason for the arrests, and the disposition of each case.
    • Note: Certain countries do not issue police clearance certificates. Please visit the State Department’s reciprocity page for information on how to obtain a police certificate for a particular country.
    • See the chart below to determine if a certificate is needed from a particular country.

Where? At what age? THEN the applicant needs a police certificate from…
Any jurisdiction in the applicant’s country of nationality where the applicant lived for six months or longer. After age 16 The police authority of that locality
Any jurisdiction in the applicant’s country of current residence (if different from nationality) where the applicant has lived for six months or longer. After age 16 The police authority of that locality
Any jurisdiction in a country other than the applicant’s country of nationality where the applicant lived for 12 months or longer. After age 16 The police authority of that locality
Any jurisdiction where the applicant was arrested for any reason, regardless of how long s/he was resident there. After age 16 The police authority of that locality
If police certificate is not obtainable. After age 16 “Non-availability” documentation from police authority, or other authority

  • Court and prison records: A person who has been convicted of a crime must obtain a certified copy of each and any court and prison record, regardless of whether s/he may have benefited from an amnesty, pardon, or other act of clemency.
  • Petitioner documents: If applying for an F-4 visa (brother or sister of a U.S. citizen), applicants must obtain an original or certified copy of the Petitioner’s birth certificate.
  • Deportation: Applicants who have previously been deported or removed must obtain Form I-212, Permission to Reapply after Deportation.
  • Affidavit of support for Petitioner and Joint Sponsor: Form I-864, if applicable.

NOTE: All non-English documents not in the official language of the country where the case will be processed must be translated and accompanied by a certificate of accuracy and competence.

What happens next?

NVC completes initial processing and issues an “NVC Complete” letter and makes the file interview ready. When the applicant’s date of filing (Priority Date) relating to the Immigrant Visa Petition is current in Chart A, NVC sends an interview appointment notice and transfers the file electronically to the embassy/consulate in the foreign country.

The NVC interview notice, sent approximately one month before interview, contains the date of the interview along with instructions for obtaining a medical examination at the designated clinic prior to interview.

The NVC interview notice also directs applicants to create a profile account on ustraveldocs.com or with CGI Stanley for the transmission of passports, biometrics, and other documentation to and from the Consulate. These vendors are certified couriers for the U.S. Consulate.

At the interview

Bring all the documents (originals or certified copies) to the interview.

If any circumstances change in relation to the applicant’s family or job, s/he should inform his/her attorney in advance of the interview. It may be necessary to notify the embassy.