If the beneficiary of a case for immigrant visa is outside the United States, the case is usually processed by the National Visa Center (NVC), branch of Department of State. 

Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your immigrant visa petition (Form I-130, Form I-140,etc.) USCIS forwards your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) in Portsmouth, NH for immigrant visa pre-processing at the correct time. Immediate relative categories do not have yearly numerical limits. However, family preference and employment based immigrant categories have numerical limits each year; therefore, lengthy wait times are involved for processing to begin, as explained below.

What happens at the NVC and how to proceed?

If your Priority Date meets the most recent Cut-off Date, or is likely to become current soon, the NVC will:

  1. Invoice you for your visa application fees – you will need to pay for this application.
  2. Collect your visa application and supporting documentation – NVC will ask for several documents.
  3. Hold your visa petition until an interview can be scheduled with a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

If your Priority Date DOES NOT meet the most recent Cut-off Date, the NVC will notify you and hold your petition until your Priority Date meets the most recent Cut-off Date or is likely to become current soon. As your Priority Date gets closer to the Cut-off Date, NVC will contact you to start processing. The Department of State updates the Cut-off Dates on a monthly basis in the Visa Bulletin.