Immigrant Visa Processing refers to the process of application for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. Two requirements must be met prior to application: a) applicant must be the beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition and b) a visa number must be immediately available to him/her.
Although immigrant petitions must typically be filed in the United States, in some instances, they can be filed with a US Embassy abroad. For example, an I-130 petition may be filed for an immediate relative (spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen) with a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, if the U.S. citizen petitioner has resided within the jurisdiction of the consular office (in the area where U.S. Embassy is responsible for issuing visas) for at least the previous 6 months and had permission from the authorities in that country to reside there legally. Other instances where petitions may be submitted directly to the U.S. Embassy may include petitions by members of the military, emergency situations, situations involving the health or safety of the petitioner, when in the national interests of the United States.
In a typical scenario, Immigrant Visa Processing will begin immediately upon approval of a petition by USCIS, which will notify the petitioner of a decision and then send the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (“NVC”). The NVC is responsible for the collection of visa application fees and supporting documentation. They will notify the petitioner and beneficiary when the visa petition is received and when they must submit immigrant visa processing fees (fee bills) and supporting documentation.
NVC will collect all documents, including certain original documents, required for immigrant visa issuance by the U.S. Embassies. Once they have collected the necessary documents, the case will go to the U.S. Embassy for scheduling of the immigrant visa interview. Prior to attending the interview the beneficiary will likely be contacted by the U.S. Embassy directly and provided with a list of documents that must be brought to the interview. All questions regarding eligibility for an immigrant visa are typically raised at and most can be resolved during the interview.
If the consular officer grants an immigrant visa, he or she will give the beneficiary a packet of documents. This is called a “Visa Packet.” Beneficiary should not open this packet. Upon arrival to the United States, beneficiary will give this Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. Beneficiary will then be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer and if found admissible, will be admitted as a permanent resident (Green Card holder) of the United States. The CBP will also signal UCIS to produce and mail the actual Green Card directly to the beneficiary’s (from this point forward, a Legal Permanent Resident or Green Card holder) home address.