What Is the National Visa Center?

The National Visa Center is the branch that handles all resident immigrant applications after they've been submitted from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). In essence, this office is a processing center for national immigrant visas.

If you're applying for a green card in the United States, you deal with the National Visa Center, or NVC, eventually. The NVC is in Portsmouth, NH, and is part of the Department of State. It handles I-129F, I-130, I-140, I-360, I-526, I-600/A, I-730, and I-800 visa petitions. 

How Petitions Are Handled

It can take up to six weeks for a petition to get from the USCIS to the National Visa Center after approval. After that, it can take up to three weeks for the case to be entered into the system. At this point, a letter goes out with an NVC case number. 

The NVC handles all incoming petitions in chronological order by date of the petition, which is the priority date. This date is on the Approval Notice you receive from the USCIS. Save this notice and note the date. 

When the qualifying date matches the priority date, NVC gets in touch with the petitioner and applicant to let them know that processing fees have to be submitted. They assign an Immigrant Visa Number. You are notified if your priority date doesn't match the current qualifying date, and the NVC holds your petition until it does qualify. 

Tips for Filing

Any documents required to process your application should be sent in a single mailing. This includes any Affidavit of Support, financial evidence, civil documents, and more. If you don't send all documents in one package, the case can see major delays. 

Make sure you keep in touch with the National Visa Center. Those who fail to communicate with them for over a year can have their application canceled for failure to act. If this happens and you think it's a mistake, contact the NVC at the email address below with evidence of your contact. 

If you move, make sure you report your new address. Changes filed through USCIS, via the AR-11 process, don't go to the NVC. You need to contact them directly at the phone number or email below to make an address change. The preferred method of contact is email. 

Keep up with current issues and changes in the laws by reading the Visa Bulletin maintained and published by the NVC. You can subscribe to get it via email. 

The Immigrant Visa Number

The National Visa Center issues an Immigrant Visa Number to each application received. This number lets you know that you've got an immigrant visa and opens the door to apply for a green card.

It's important to note that just because your petition is approved, that doesn't mean you get an Immigrant Visa Number right away. This is because only a certain number of visas are given out every year. Beyond that, the numbers are limited further by country. If you're coming from a nation that has a lot of immigrants, your application can take longer delayed.

Immediate relatives like spouses, parents, and single children under the age of 21 should get a number right away. Preference relatives, however, may have to wait a bit longer.

Applying for an Immigrant Visa Number

There's no specific process to follow to apply for an immigrant visa number. Rather, your employer or relative has to file the visa petition I-129F on your behalf. The NVC then does a background check to make sure you meet the qualifications to hold residency within the U.S.

After the USCIS approves this petition, it goes to the National Visa Center, who assigns a number and lets you know when it's available.

Any documents, forms, and supporting photographs for the application that need to be sent via regular mail should go to:

National Visa Center
Attn: DR
31 Rochester Ave. Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH  03801-2914

Checking Application Status

While your application is pending at the National Visa Center, you can contact them via email to ask for a status update. When sending an email, be sure to put your Case Number as the subject line. Give them the birth dates of the applicant and the petitioner and include other pertinent information such as the name of any law office or organization through whom the application was submitted.

Emergency Situations

If there is a life-or-death emergency, sometimes the case can be expedited  if there is an available visa in the beneficiary's category. A letter from a physician or healthcare facility should be sent to the NVC including the contact information of the doctor or facility and information about the life-or-death emergency.

Next Steps for Beneficiaries

When a visa becomes available or will soon be available, you receive a Choice of Agent and Address notice which includes form DS-3032 and completion instructions. If your petition was an I-130, your petitioner receives an AOS, or Affidavit of Support invoice, as well as instructions to pay the required fee. Follow these instructions to the letter; failing to do so or sending too little or too much information could delay your application.

You receive a packet with more information and instructions on how to go ahead from here. The bundle you receive is known as Packet 3 and varies based on your country of origin. You're then scheduled for an interview at a U.S. Consulate office where you discuss your need for a visa. Be sure to follow all instructions, bring all required documentation listed in your information packet to the interview, and be on time.

Current Fees

The National Visa Center requires fees for anyone applying for a visa. You should always check with the NVC for the current fee schedule. Non-immigrant visa fees are tiered and non-refundable. Temporary travel visas are also tiered and depend on your immigrant category. Both non-petition based and petition based immigrants must pay fees. The amounts change regularly for visa applications, but for now, they are as follows.

These categories are $160 for non-petition based nonimmigrants.

  • B Visitor Visa for Business Tourism and Medical Treatment
  • C-1 for Transiting the U.S.
  • D for Airline and Ship Crewmembers
  • F for Academic Students
  • I for Media and Journalists
  • J for Exchange Visitors
  • M for Vocational Students
  • TN/TD for NAFTA Professionals
  • T for Victims of Trafficking in Persons
  • U for Victims of Criminal Activity

These categories are $190 for petition-based visas.

  • Categories H for Temporary Workers/Employment or Trainees
  • L for Intracompany Transfers
  • O for Persons with Extraordinary Ability
  • P for Athletes/Artists/Entertainers
  • Q for International Cultural Exchange
  • R for Religious Workers

Category E for Treaty Trader/Investor and Australian Professional Speciality are $205. 

Category K for a Fiancé or Spouse of a U.S. Citizen is $265.

Other fees may be required. To get a border crossing card, for example, you have to pay $160 for those age 15 and over and $16 for children under 15. Applicants under category L may have to pay $500 for fraud prevention, and potentially a $4,500 border security act fee. These fees are situational and not all applicants are subject to them.

Exemptions from Processing Fees

Those categories not listed above have no fees. In addition, J-visa applicants who are working in U.S. government exchanges have no fee. There is also no fee if your visa needs to be replaced through no fault of your own. You may also have an international exemption. If you're providing charitable services or are a U.S. government staffer working abroad, you are exempt as well. If a spouse, parent, child, or sibling attends the funeral of a government employee killed in the line of duty or is visiting a critically injured government employee, they are also exempt.

Exemptions from Issuance Fees

There are no fees for foreign government representatives, recognized UN General Assembly members and staff, and 22 (a) applicants for diplomatic visas as well as their families. In addition, applicants going to or from the UN headquarters, applicants participating in United States government programs and their immediate families, and those traveling for the providing of charitable service do not pay issuance fees.

Other Fees and Exemptions

  • Filing fees of $420 are required when filing an I-130 for a relative.

  • International adoption fees for orphans under I-600 or I-800 classifications cost $720.

  • Family preference applications under I-130, I-600, or I-800 petitions cost $325.

  • I-140 employment applications cost $345.

  • Most other applications have to pay a processing fee of $205.

  • DV-Lottery fees cost $330.

  • Support Review fees reviewed within the U.S. carry a fee of $120.

  • Form DS-117, application to determine the status of returning residents, cost $180.

  • Transportation letters for legal permanent residents cost $575.

  • Form DS-3035, two-year residency waivers, cost $120.

  • Form I-601 waivers of two-year residency cost $930.

  • Refugees or parole cases with significant benefit to the public carry no fee.

Changing National Visa Center Applications

If you wish to change your status after you receive notice that a visa is available, you must let them know within 30 days. Don't pay the fees and contact the USCIS for further instructions. The NVC then holds your petition until requested by the USCIS. If you don't respond in 30 days, the visa petition is processed.

For those green card holders who filed petitions and then later became citizens, you can update your petition by sending a copy of your Certificate of Naturalization. Please note you should send a copy—never the original. Include your case number and the name of the beneficiary on the petition being changed.

Any other changes to a petition, whether it's to add or remove an attorney, change an address, withdraw a petition, the death of the petitioner, adoption or birth of children, or any other adjustments must be done by notifying the NVC in writing with the proper forms. Withdrawing a case or adding an attorney requires an accompanying G-28 form.

Refusals

Unfortunately, the National Visa Centered cannot reverse visa refusals. If the beneficiary went to the interview and had the case refused, contact the office where the case was processed for more information.

Visa Center Controversy

The National Visa Center is sometimes a source of controversy. Recently, Local 228 chapter of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE) protested at the NVC for a higher wage. They claimed that the NVC's largest contractor, FCi Federal, has delayed a contract proposal that would increase their hourly wage to $15 per hour.

The protestors claimed that their current hourly wage of $11.84 is not enough to support themselves or their families. It was also claimed that wages have not been raised for seven years. 

Contact Information

The NVC can be contacted in the following ways:

Email: nvcinquiry@state.gov

Telephone: (603) 334-0700 (office hours 8 AM to 3:45 PM, Monday – Thursday, EST)

Regular Mail:

National Visa Center

Attn: WC

31 Rochester Ave, Suite 200

Portsmouth, NH 03801-2915

Any supporting documentation, forms or photos that need to be sent via regular mail go to the same address, but Attn: CMR.

Navigating the process of obtaining a visa for entry into the U.S. is difficult and confusing. It never hurts to have the help of an experienced and qualified attorney, or a guide to help you navigate the path. At UpCounsel, we have a database of excellent immigration attorneys to give advice and aid to those trying to enter the country legally. Post your job today and see how we can help you.