On November 3, 2016, the American Association of Immigration Lawyers (AILA) published notes from its AILA Department of State (DOS) Liaison Committee Meeting with officials from the National Visa Center (NVC).1 In this article, I will focus on some of issues that the NVC officials addressed in the AILA Liaison meeting.
When applying for an immigrant visa through consular processing, the Department of State (DOS) requires the submission of police clearances from certain countries where the immigrant visa applicant resided for a year or more. AILA noted that certain countries only send police clearances directly to the Embassy or Consulate handling the case processing. AILA asked the NVC how it is notified when it receives the required police clearances in such cases so that an appointment can be scheduled, and, how attorneys and applicants are notified when the NVC receives police clearances.
The NVC responded that the documentary requirements for immigrant visa applications are found in the DOS's Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) at 9 FAM 504.4(1). Furthermore, the Visa Reciprocity Schedule “provides further clarification as to the availability of documents in a particular country.” The NVC explained that it uses the Reciprocity Schedule during the process of collecting documents in order to determine whether the applicant him or herself needs to submit the police certificate to the NVC for review. If the Reciprocity Schedule indicates that the local police authority in the applicant's home country submits the document directly to the Consular Section, the NVC will not request a copy from the applicant. The NVC nevertheless advised the applicant and his or her attorney to ensure that the police certificate is sent to the Consular Section prior to the interview.
Request for Already Submitted Documents
AILA noted that the NVC sometimes sends document checklists asking for documents that have already been submitted to the NVC.
The NVC advised attorneys to respond to the NVC's request by providing a written explanation to the email@example.com mailbox. Upon receiving the explanation, the NVC will re-review the case file and attempt to locate the previously submitted document(s) in question.
If such a checklist is received after an appointment has been made and the case has gone to post, the applicant should bring copies of the items requested in the latest or final checklist letter to the appointment.
Civil Documents Requiring Translation
AILA inquired about the NVC's requirements regarding civil documents required as part of an immigrant visa application when those documents are in a language other than English.
The NVC explained that such documents must be accompanied by certified translations. The translation must be accompanied by a statement by the translator that the translation is accurate, and that the translator is competent to translate. The NVC noted further that individual embassies and consulates may have additional requirements.
Duplicate Transfer Notices
AILA noted that there have been reports of approved Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, cases where both the attorney and applicant have received identical approval/transfer notices from the NVC at least every other, and sometimes twice a day.
The NVC responded that it is aware of the issue and working to address it. It further advised that attorneys who experience potential computer errors may use the attorney email at firstname.lastname@example.org to notify the NVC.
Transfer Issues with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
AILA explained that attorneys representing nationals of Tajikistan have been receiving transfer notices advising that their cases have been transferred to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with new case numbers reflecting the change. AILA noted that this is confusing because the Bishkek Embassy's website has for a time indicated that the Embassy there does not process immigrant visas.
The NVC explained that the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek will begin accepting immigrant visa cases from the NVC in November 2016. The Embassy in Bishkek is in the process of updating its website with immigrant visa processing information and interview instructions.
However, the NVC also noted that it is continuing to process Tajikistani cases in Almaty, Kazakhstan, notwithstanding that the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek is now processing immigrant visa cases. Accordingly, the NVC asked that attorneys receiving such referrals to share the information by sending an email to email@example.com.
Making up Shortfall of Income in Affidavit of Support
AILA noted that an affidavit of support sponsor [see article] is permitted to supplement his or her income with proof of assets to make up for a shortfall in income to meet the support requirements. AILA noted that many attorneys have found that the NVC often rejects such affidavits as inadequate.
The NVC explained that it does not, as a matter of procedure, consider proof of assets that were submitted to supplement petitioner income. Instead, if the NVC finds that the petitioner's income is inadequate, it will send a letter suggesting that the affidavit of support sponsor bring a joint-sponsor document or other proof of income/assets to the immigrant visa appointment.
Modernized Immigrant Visa Application Process
The NVC explained that is implementing a new Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) module as part of the Modernized Immigrant Visa (MIV) application process at six pilot embassies and consulates in spring of 2017: Montreal, Rio de Janerio, Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Sidney, and Hong Kong. The module will feature the following :
- Online submission of financial and civil documents;
- The ability to add or remove derivative applicants online;
- The ability to change derivatives from accompanying to following-to-join online;
- NVC feedback and status updates provided electronically; and
- Online case follow-ups to avoid entering termination status.
Length of Time to Receive File from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) After Approval of Immigrant Visa Petition
The NVC explained that it can take up to six weeks to receive a file from the USCIS after the approval of an immigrant visa petition. It recommended that an immigrant visa applicant wait at least six weeks before filing an inquiry regarding the status of the application.
Attorneys as Agents
AILA inquired whether an attorney designated as an agent is required to have a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, on file in order to communicate with the NVC on behalf of a visa applicant.
The NVC explained that an attorney may either file the Form G-28 or submit a signed statement on his or her law office letterhead indicating representation of the beneficiary. Attorneys may submit these documents to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AILA's notes from the meeting contain useful information for both individuals seeking immigrant visas and their attorneys. Although the NVC's answers and statements do not constitute binding precedent, they clarify aspects of how the DOS and the NVC handle various immigrant visa processing situations. Additionally, the NVC stated that it is currently examining Child Status Protection Act (CPSA) guidelines, including the question of when to issue fee bills to dependent children under the age of 21 who may not “age out” until 1-2 years in the future.