The family immigration process often takes many years waiting in line and then finally, once an immigrant visa becomes available, the National Visa Center (NVC) and U.S. Consulate begin final processing for your relative, ending in the immigrant visa consular interview appointment and thereafter immigrating to the U.S.
However, even after waiting all those years, the final processing steps themselves can be very intimidating and stressful.
This quick overview of the process, along with a few tips to keep in mind, should help you properly provide the required documentation so as not to delay your relative’s consular interview.
To initiate final consular processing, most sponsors receive a notification email from the NVC called a “Notice of Immigrant Visa Case Creation” which gives the case number, ID and link to login to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to initiate the process.
Here are the basic steps in the process:
1) Pay NVC Bills: The first step is to pay the consular fees to begin the process. Fees are currently $445 per person or $325 per person and $120 for family.
2) Submit Affidavit of Support and supporting documents: Once the fees are paid, the next step is for the sponsor to immediately submit the completed, signed form I-864 Affidavit of Support, current tax return. W-2, pay stubs and proof of residency or citizenship through the CEAC system. Failure to quickly provide the required financial documents will result in delay of the case.
3) Complete the DS260 Immigrant Visa Application: At this stage, the immigrating family members must complete the DS260 form for each person and submit.
4) Civil Documents: All immigrants are required to submit certain civil documents, including birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, passport biographic page, police certificate, passport photos, criminal records, etc. These documents must be carefully scanned and uploaded through the CEAC system for each immigrating family member.
5) NVC Review: Once the documents are submitted, it can take up to 60 days for the NVC to review the documents. If documents submitted are not clear or scanned improperly, they are rejected, and the sponsor/immigrant will receive an email notification to log in and replace such documents with properly scanned versions.
6) Consular Interview: Once the NVC finds all the documentation is acceptable, the NVC will email notification that the case is complete. The next step is to wait for notification from the consulate. Within about 30 days the U.S. Consulate will send a notification email with date and time of the interview, along with instructions on scheduling the required medical examination and listing documentation to bring to the medical exam and consular interview.
It’s important to understand the NVC process can be completed in as little as 60 days if the case is properly prepared and submitted. If not, the process can be delayed for many months causing immigrating family members to remain in limbo for no good reason. In some cases, I have had new clients come to me over six months into the process exasperated and ready to give up after having previously repeatedly tried to do the case themselves. In addition to sponsors being unsure of which documents are required and unfamiliar with the CEAC system, the main delays are usually caused by documents being uploaded which do not meet the requirements.
Here’s a few document tips:
Rule #1, never use your cell phone to take a picture of a document, all documents must be scanned at a clear resolution using a scanner and saved as a pdf. Pics taken with cell phones will be rejected.
Rule #2, always make sure the document you are scanning is upright on the page, since documents scanned sideways or upside-down will be rejected.
Rule #3, make sure to scan the entire document so that all sides are fully showing. Scans of documents which are cut off will be rejected. For instance, if a birth certificate has stamps, but the scanned page cuts a portion of the stamp off, the document will be rejected. Similarly, if a document is on oversized paper and the scan cuts off the bottom of the document, it will be rejected. The best approach is to take oversized documents to Office Depot or a similar store and have them reduced to letter size.
Rule #4, reduce the size of the PDF before uploading. The maximum size is 2 mb. Many documents with multiple pages scanned on copiers and printers will easily go over 2 mb, so you’ll need to use a PDF program which allows you to reduce the PDF size.
Rule #5, documents which are in the same language as the country from which the family members are immigrating do not need English translations. For instance, if an immigrant is from Colombia and all his/her documents are in Spanish, no English translations are required to be submitted.
Finally, remember every time you submit or resubmit documents, it can take the NVC up to 30-60 days to review them. This can cause frequent delays. The best approach is to carefully prepare the documents, review the scans to make sure they meet each and every specification before uploading and submitting, then check your emails frequently in case the NVC issues a request for resubmission on one or more documents, so that you can take care of it immediately.