Immigration Quiz

National Visa Center Immigrant Visa Processing

What is the National Visa Center?

The National Visa Center (NVC) is a government agency that is responsible for the pre-processing of all immigrant visa petitions approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) including family sponsored and employment based immigrant petitions of foreign nationals residing overseas. The National Visa Center serves as an intermediary between USCIS, where the immigrant visa petition was first approved, and the U.S. Consulate, where the foreign national will eventually undergo their immigrant visa interview.

Once the immigrant visa petition has been approved by USCIS, the application is then forwarded to the National Visa Center located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where it will be pre-processed and retained until the immigrant visa application is ready to be adjudicated at the foreign national’s closest U.S. Consulate. It takes approximately 30-60 days for an immigrant visa application to be transferred from USCIS to the National Visa Center. The National Visa Center recommends that an applicant wait at least 60 days from the date of the immigrant petition’s approval before calling to confirm the receipt of an application.

Immigrant visa petitions for spouses of US Citizens residing abroad are not subject to numerical limits, however the immigrant visa process is still a long and tedious one, due to the large volume of immigrant visa applications processed at the National Visa Center and waiting times to receive an interview at the applicant’s designated consular office. Family preference and employment immigrant categories are subject to numerical limitations and are divided by preference systems and priority dates on the Visa Bulletin. Applicants who fall under family preference or employment categories must wait in line until a visa becomes available to them in order to proceed with their immigrant visa applications. Once the immigrant’s priority date becomes current according to the Visa Bulletin, the applicant can proceed with their immigrant visa application.

What is a priority date?

A priority date is generally the date when your relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on your behalf with USCIS.

If you would like to know more about priority dates and the visa bulletin please click here to learn more.

You can check the status of a visa number by checking your priority date on the Department of State's Visa Bulletin published every month. The Visa Bulletin estimates immigrant visa availability for prospective immigrants.

The Visa Bulletin exists due to numerical immigrant visa limitations for family-sponsored and employment-based preference categories established by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Family-sponsored preference categories are limited to a minimum of 226,000 visas per year, while employment-based preference categories are limited to a minimum of 140,000 visas per year. The Visa Bulletin is a useful tool for aliens to determine when a visa will become available to them so that they may apply for permanent residence. For more information regarding the immigrant process for family members and the Visa Bulletin please click here.

For a list of US embassies and consulates please click here.

The Civil Document Stage

Once the National Visa Center has confirmed that they have received the immigrant visa application, the applicant can proceed with the civil document stage. We recommend that the intending immigrant file their DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application with the Department of State and pay the appropriate fees on the DOS Consular Electronic Application portal before mailing or e-mailing any documents to the National Visa Center. This way, applicants can streamline the immigrant visa process avoiding unnecessary delays.

What is the Civil Document Stage?

The civil document stage consists of mailing or e-mailing copies of various documents to the National Visa Center so that the NVC can complete pre-processing of the immigrant’s visa application until the case is ready for adjudication at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Once you have submitted your DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application with the Department of State and you have paid the appropriate fees on the portal, all intending immigrants must collect civil documents in support of the immigrant visa application. For family preference categories this will include completing the I-864 Affidavit of Support and gathering supporting financial documents.

Email Processing of Civil Documents

In order to streamline the immigrant visa application process, the Department of State has designated certain cases to be processed at select U.S. embassies or consulates electronically.

If your NVC case number begins with one of the following prefixes you will need to scan and email your civil documents, supporting documents, and translations to including your NVC case number in the subject line and the petitioner’s and beneficiary’s complete names and dates of birth in the body of the email. Attachments must remain below five megabytes. Applicants should submit multiple emails if necessary. For more information about electronic processing please click here.

  • AKD
  • AMM
  • DMS
  • GZO
  • MEP
  • SAA

Email or mail processing is available for NVC applications beginning with the following prefixes:

Note: You cannot change a method later on in the application process.

  • MTL
  • GUZ (CR1, CR2, F1, F2A, F2B, F3, F4, IR1, IR2, IR5 preference categories only)
  • BNS, FRN, HNK, RDJ, SYD (IR1, IR2, IR5, CR1, CR2 preference categories only)

All other NVC prefixes must mail documents to the National Visa Center to the following address:

National Visa Center
Attn: DR
31 Rochester Avenue
Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914

Mailing Civil Documents

When mailing civil documents to the National Visa Center please be sure to abide by the following:

Note: Failure to comply will cause delays in receiving the immigrant visa and be a cause for headaches when dealing with the National Visa Center

  • Applicants must print out a barcode page corresponding to their case accessible on the DOS Consular Electronic Application portal;
  • Applicants should create a table of contents cover letter explaining each document that is enclosed in the application;
  • Send ONLY photocopies of the required civil documents to the NVC. DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS;
  • Send all documents to the NVC in only ONE PACKAGE to avoid delays;

The NVC has discontinued mailing of original documents. The applicant will submit certified copies or original documents of each required civil document at the time of their interview at a designated U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

  • Photocopies of required civil documents should be separated by exhibit pages for each civil document enclosed in the application describing the document attached. Exhibit pages should clearly indicate the type of immigrant petition, the beneficiary’s complete name, the petitioner’s complete name, and the NVC case number;
  • Photocopies of civil documents submitted to the NVC by mail must be issued by the appropriate agency or government authority per embassy/consular instructions;
  • Civil documents not in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation. The translator must sign a ‘certificate of translation’ stating that the translation is accurate and that the translator is competent to translate. A professional translation is not necessary, a friend or relative can translate the document for you. Applicants cannot translate their own documents;
  • Civil documents and personal documents that must be submitted to the NVC differ on a country by country basis, for example some documents may not be available depending on the foreign national’s country of citizenship e.g. police records, military records, birth certificates etc. Applicants should review the instructions for their specific embassy or consulate to make sure there are no additional requirements. To review country specific embassy or consular instructions please click here. To review country reciprocity guidelines please click here.

Note: U.S. Embassy/Consular instructions change very frequently. We strongly advise that you read consular instructions very carefully. Consult an accredited attorney or call the NVC when in doubt.

List of Civil Documents

For unobtainable documentation, review country reciprocity instructions. In most cases, an explanation is required and a statement from a government authority stating that the documentation is unobtainable;

  • Photocopy of the intending immigrant’s birth certificate issued by the appropriate civil authority with certified English translation;
    If the birth certificate is unobtainable please review country reciprocity instructions. In most cases, the immigrant must submit an explanation, obtain a notarized affidavit from a witness to the birth preferably the mother, and statement from a government authority stating that the birth certificate is unobtainable;
  • Photocopy of the intending immigrant’s marriage certificate if the petitioner is the spouse;
  • Photocopy of the intending immigrant’s marriage termination documentation if the intending immigrant was previously married. Evidence must be provided for the termination of each prior marriage. Provide the final divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment documents;
  • Photocopy of the intending immigrant’s military records (if applicable);
  • Photocopies of court and prison records (if applicable) if the intending immigrant has been convicted of a crime, provide a copy of each court or prison record, even if you were granted a pardon, amnesty, or act of clemency;
  • Photocopies of adoption documentation if the petitioner is the parent of an adopted child and the petition is based on a parent-child relationship. Provide custody documentation, adoption decree, statement of dates and places the child resided with the adoptive parent(s). If the child was adopted at 16 or 17 years old, provide evidence that the child was adopted with, or subsequent to, the adoption of, a natural sibling under age 16 by the same adoptive parent(s);
  • Photocopies of police certificates for persons 16 years of age or older from your country of nationality or country of residence if you were at least 16 years of age and resided there for at least 6 months, country of previous residence if you were at least 16 years of age and resided there for at least a year, and any country where you were arrested. Some countries may not require a police certificate. Please review country reciprocity guidelines;
  • 2 American style passport photographs measuring 2” by 2”;
  • Photocopy of valid passport biographic data page with your photograph, name, date of birth, and place of birth for each intending immigrant;
  • Intending immigrants who are parents or siblings of a U.S. citizen must submit a photocopy of the petitioner’s birth certificate;
  • In addition, for family preference applicants, the petitioner must sign and complete Form I-864 Affidavit of Support demonstrating that they have the sufficient finances to support the intending immigrant(s) should they become a public charge. For more information about the affidavit of support and income guidelines click here and here.
Contacting the NVC

By Email

You can email the NVC at: for case inquiries
For electronic civil document processing please email:
Please include the NVC Case Number in the subject line of the email. In the body of the email include the case number, petitioner’s complete name, beneficiary’s complete name and date of birth, and priority date.

By Phone

For immigrant visa inquiries the National Visa Center can be reached by telephone at (603) 334-0700. Customer Service Representatives are available Monday to Friday 7:00 am to 12:00 midnight EST, excluding holidays.

For nonimmigrant visa inquiries the National Visa Center can be reached by telephone at (603) 334-0888, the same hours apply.

By mail for immigrant visa inquiries:

National Visa Center
Attn: DR
31 Rochester Avenue
Suite 100
Portsmouth, NH 03801-2914

Case Status

For information on how to check the status of your case with the NVC click here.

For information on how to immigrate a foreign spouse please click here.

Immigration Lawyer Blog - Family Visas
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