Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ways to stay on top of the US visa application process

Following up on the immigration process  | Ways to stay on top of the visa application process
Both petitioner and beneficiary can follow up on the USCIS and NVC on the status of their immigration visa application.

He writes…

It’s no wait for Godot but petitioning for an alien spouse to the US can take a while. 

The immigration visa petition period is long because of the waiting periods between the several process steps.

Luckily, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Visa Center (NVC) have methods that can keep you connected with every step, and can also help with questions at no cost. But beware: contacting the NVC and USCIS requires a good deal of patience and preparation.

For our process, the three contact methods that proved to be most effective were (1) the online status checking tools, (2) email and SMS text, and (3) direct phone calls to the NVC.

The USCIS’s current website has more tools today than it had a little more than a year ago when we first filed our Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). Now, one can easily check on case status through stronger online search tools such as Case Status Online.  With our Petition, we also provided our email address and mobile phone number on Form G-1145, which allowed the USCIS to notify us electronically (email and SMS text messaging) about any updates on our petition. During our processing time, we consistently received timely text messages and emails about our case.

Case Status Online | Ways to stay on top of the visa application process
US immigrant visa status can also be checked online.
Fortunately our Petition didn’t stay long at the field office where the USCIS processed it, so we didn’t need to make any calls to follow up or check on a status. The USCIS’s National Customer Service Center is the office that handles all inquiries and manages all general information relating to immigration services and benefits. For quick links, you can visit USCIS contact page.

Like the USCIS, the NVC also sent us electronic notifications about our visa application. The NVC also had similar methods for customers to contact them, listed at their “Contact Us” website.

Along with the email notifications we received from the NVC at each milestone of our visa application, we also made a few calls to check on the receipt of responses or paperwork we submitted at each milestone. The range of hours that the NVC is available for phone calls is impressive -- 7:00 a.m. to 12 midnight EST, which was convenient when calling from the Pacific time zone.

When you decide that the time has come to contact the NVC, here’s a game plan I would suggest for every call that you place:

1.  Patience - prepare for long wait times

2.  Identification Information - prepare to provide your case number, and the names and dates of birth of both the petitioner and the beneficiary

3.  Prepared Questions - write a list of what you want to ask ahead of time

The NVC office in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, only has one phone number, and yes, because of this, it is difficult to get through when joining a pool of thousands of customer calls from across the nation. You will encounter several busy tones, and once a call goes through, it falls into the call queue with wait times of 45 minutes or longer.

The NVC advises to call during the off-peak times of 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to midnight EST. These truly are off-peak times; my record shortest wait time is 17 minutes as compared to my average wait time of 45-55 minutes, the longest of which was 90 minutes.

As a side note, if you happen to put your smartphone on mute while waiting on hold, be prepared to take the phone off mute quickly, or else the NVC operator will disconnect the call immediately if she or he senses any dead air. I learned this the hard way after waiting almost an hour and a half.

I called the NVC enough times that I memorized our 13-digit visa application case number. But just in case, it’s a good idea to keep it handy for every call. It is THE only way for the NVC to locate your case when contacting them via phone, email, or letters.

Having worked once in a call center myself, I was aware that whomever was taking my call most likely handled close to a hundred calls before mine, so I always made it a point to set the tone of the call by being polite and upbeat, and making it clear that I “did my homework” before calling and that I didn’t need any “handholding” with the process. This approach consistently yielded great results. The associates were very helpful, and on one occasion, I was even able to strike up a brief but friendly and informative conversation.

Having a written script of questions is a great way to keep your questions (and the answers you get) organized in such a way as to enable you to capture the vital information you need. It also demonstrates that
after exhausting all possible research efforts, you may have reached a dead end and need some guidance, which, again, is an impression that can yield more assistance and information than usual or expected.

If you’re checking on the status of something you submitted, there are two dates that are most relevant, if available: (1) the date they received your submission, and (2) the date on which they began to review it. The review date can be regarded as the start of the 30-business-day review period, the duration of which is more of a guideline than a firmly held rule. Upon making a decision on our submissions, the NVC was fairly consistent with contacting us applicants within to 5 business days or less, but others’ response times certainly varied.

As I wrote this, I glanced at the USCIS and NVC websites and was impressed with all the new online search tools, reference points, and user interfaces that they now have. What a difference a year can make! These changes provide much insight into the immigration system processes themselves under the USCIS and NVC: that things are constantly evolving, and it’s best to stay as current as possible with them.

Frequently checking for updates and statuses is a key to success. The advice from specialists or attorneys that the process takes a year or longer to complete, from petition to visa issuance, doesn’t have to be accepted as gospel, but could become a reality if one misses the moment to follow-up on something important, or makes a mistake after neglecting to seek clarity where clarity was needed.#

Related Entries:

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


  1. Great stuff here. The information and the detail were just perfect. I think that your perspective is deep, its just well thought out and really fantastic to see someone who knows how to put these thoughts down so well. Great job on this
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  2. Doing such thing I must say you are so patient. By this time I know that you get what you want. Patiently waiting is the key to success.