Monday, April 6, 2015

CR-1 Immigrant Visa from USCIS to NVC

offices that process a US immigrant visa | CR-1 Immigrant Visa from USCIS to NVC
Institutions/offices involved in processing a US immigrant visa

He writes…

Making progress towards achieving something that’s important to you such as successfully petitioning your better half can bring about feelings of excitement, elation, and hope. 

When the results aren’t always guaranteed or prompt, it inspires one to continue to move forward with the same verve and determination as with which one started. It also strengthens belief in the established institutions that their system of procedure works. 

After the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forwarded our petition to the National Visa Center (NVC), there were more steps to take, forms that needed to be filled out, and fees to pay. The following are the forms that we accomplished and completed for the NVC:

Form DS-261 or (Choice of Address an Agent Form) 
Form I-864 or (Affidavit of Support)
Form DS-260 or (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration)
Supporting documents for the DS-260 application, including our original marriage certificate, Kira’s birth certificate, and NBI Clearance 

USCIS transfers I-130 Petition to NVC

When we received the USCIS’s email and text notification that they approved and sent our Petition to the NVC, we were not only impressed with how quickly they reviewed and forwarded it, but also joyful that we completed the first big step for Kira to immigrate to the US. (Remember CLARIFY in filling out Form I-130)

One of the nice things about the process that we experienced early was how the USCIS promptly updated us via US mail, email, and even text messaging. The NVC’s notification system was just as prompt, even without text messaging.

Another useful discovery of the process that we learned early was the standard processing time for submissions. It took a little over a month for the NVC to “check in” and receive our Petition. I suspected that it took the NVC a couple of weeks or more to open its mail because it only takes less than a week for mail to reach New Hampshire from Nebraska. Just imagining the sheer volume of incoming mail at the NVC is a sobering thought.

After about five weeks without any updates on our Petition, I then placed the first of what was to become my many phone calls to the NVC to get a status. It was then that I learned that just three days before I called, the NVC already checked our Petition and was preparing to notify me that it was ready for processing. You can imagine my delight once I heard this because I was fully cognizant of the importance of every step we needed to complete at the NVC. 

Case Number, Priority Date, and Preference Category

Once the NVC determined that our Petition was ready for processing, they sent us notifications that included our NVC Case Number, Priority Date, and Preference Category. 

The Case Number is important because it acts as a reference number for all correspondence with the NVC, including phone calls, emails, and document submissions. Whenever you call the NVC, the associates will ask you for the Case Number, the name and birthdate of the Petitioner, and the name and birthdate of the Beneficiary, in order to locate your file.

The Priority Date corresponds to the date on which the NVC will process visas in certain family immigration categories. According to the US Department of State, visas get processed in turn depending on legal annual limits, the type of visa category, and the number of applicants for those categories. For U.S. Citizens there is no published limit on how many foreign spouses can be petitioned every year. The Priority Date the NVC gave me was the date that I submitted my Petition. If I were a legal permanent resident and not a U.S. Citizen, the Priority Date would be have been much later, which of course would have added to the total processing and wait time. 

The visa category, or Preference Category, in which the NVC placed our case was CR1, defined as an Immigrant Visa of a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen. The “C” in CR1 indicates that my wife’s visa has a conditional status because we were married for less than two years. We will need to send the USCIS another Petition via form I-751 at a certain time before the second anniversary of her entry date to have the conditional status removed.

Choice of Address and Agent Form (DS-261)

The DS-261 is a form that Kira needed to complete and submit to the NVC online to designate the address and her agent to whom the NVC could send correspondence regarding her Visa application. It’s a simple form, and needed as a matter of administrative processing because some Beneficiaries designate attorneys or other persons as their agents.

The next two big steps that followed were, the Affidavit of Support and the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration. The cycle of each step was as follows:

1. The NVC sent us an invoice for the fees of the form we needed to fill out and send in.
2. Once we paid the invoice, we then completed the form and sent it to the NVC with the supporting documents needed.
3. The NVC received the packet of forms, checked it in, then notified us about what’s next.

Invoices were what the NVC seems to have used to alert us to each next step. We easily paid invoices online via the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC), which was where we also obtained the necessary document cover sheets, instructions, and status tracking. The CEAC website is very clean, easy to follow, and facilitates payments without delay.

Affidavit of Support

The instructions for form I-864 are very thorough in explaining what the NVC needs for this step of the application process. 

The Affidavit of Support (AOS) is necessary because it informs the U.S. Government that I have adequate means to provide financial support my wife and our household, and that we aren’t likely to rely on governmental support. In their assessment, the U.S. Government examines my ability to maintain our income and assets at 125 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines, which, for a household of two, is an annual income of $19,912.

Along with the I-864 form, I included an employment verification letter from my employer and copies of my last three Federal tax returns, all of which the instructions suggested, but didn't require. The instructions required the most current tax return, but I included more.

Upon sending my AOS to the NVC, I included the document cover sheet I printed from the CEAC website, and sent it via Fedex 2-day. 

Of course, other immigration cases that differ from ours may need to look into alternate means of attesting to financial support. Thankfully, our case was a simple one-income, one-household scenario, but I’m sure there are other situations out there that are more complex.

An important point to remember with the AOS is to understand that it’s much more than just telling the U.S. Government that you have a job and steady income. There’s much fine print in the instructions to read and understand, and if one isn’t careful and things don’t go as planned, one may find himself or herself in a financial predicament, not just with one’s spouse, but also the U.S. Government.

Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration

As expected, Form DS-260 was the lengthiest and most comprehensive of all the forms we completed. 

Upon receiving and paying the invoice for the DS-260, the CEAC website enabled links to submit the DS-260 online. Even though you can save your results before you submit the full application, I would suggest to first complete the application in writing via a printed version of the online DS-260, then input all the data at once. Once you input all data, then you can submit the form online.

After submitting the online version of the DS-260, the NVC needs the supporting documents for that online submission. I printed the online submission of the DS-260 and the Document Cover Sheet for this form, joined them with all the supporting documents separated by title pages that I created myself, and sent them via Fedex to NVC.

There is a review period of up to 60 business days that follows once the NVC receives the DS-260 and supporting documents. Our wait time almost reached 60 days, so their estimates are correct.

Notwithstanding the long estimated wait times, it’s somewhat miraculous that the NVC is able to process as many as they do with the limited staff they have. Every time I called the NVC, all associates were extremely helpful and apologetic about the large number of inquiries they were receiving. 

However, I do believe that if all your paperwork is in order, and organized in a way that makes it easy for the NVC to do their jobs, then the wait time for your particular case could be reduced. We were able to achieve what I calculated to be a 41 percent efficiency increase over the estimated baseline processing times I was told. I attribute this efficiency to the manner in which we submitted our documents. We organized submissions that made it easy for the NVC reviewers to evaluate and approve them without delay. And as much as we could, we exceeded whatever the instructions asked.  #

Related Entries:

CLARIFY your case: Tips on completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative


  1. Hello!

    I have a question regarding the AOS. My husband wasn’t working full time in 2013 so his tax return showed an income below the 125% poverty level. Would it still be a problem even if his income starting 2014 to present is already above the 125% poverty level?



    1. Thank you for your question, Shena. Only the USCIS can determine the impact of your husband's 2013 tax return but based on what we have read and what we understand about the process, what should matter more is that he can support you now.

      Here's something we found online that is related to your case and might help shed light to your predicament:

      Good luck!

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