NVC Processing Times Guide

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • Described the National Visa Center (NVC) as a government agency in the U.S. immigration process.
  • Explained its role in pre-processing visa applications, handling supporting documentation, and determining eligibility for a U.S. immigration visa.
  • Highlighted communication methods with the NVC, including email, phone, and physical mail, and the ability to check application status online.

Have you recently submitted a U.S. immigration application? Are you unsure what comes next? You may have received communication from the National Visa Center (NVC) and don’t understand what this means for your application.

Interacting with complex government processes and procedures can be confusing and frustrating. If you’d like to learn more about the U.S. immigrant visa process and the NVC processing times, you’ve come to the right place.

What Is the National Visa Center?

The National Visa Centre (NVC) is one of several government agencies involved in the immigration process in the United States. The NVC works closely with another U.S. government agency, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Visa applications made at U.S. consulates and embassies around the world are delivered to the USCIS. Visa applications from inside the U.S. are made directly to the USCIS. This agency then determines whether a visa application is approved.

If the application is approved, the USCIS forwards it to the NVC, which will conduct pre-processing. In general, your supporting documentation will all be received and handled by the NVC.

In essence, the National Visa Centre is the agency responsible for determining your legal eligibility for a U.S. immigration visa. The USCIS has overall authority over the immigration process. The USCIS, NVC as well as U.S. consulates and embassies all fall under the U.S. Department of State.

Now that you understand the role the National Visa Center plays in your immigration application, let’s take a look at the stage that influences NVC processing times.

What Is a Priority Date?

U.S. immigration visas generally require supporting petitions from relatives or employers already in the country. The priority date is the date on which your relative or employer filed an immigrant visa petition on your behalf with the USCIS.

What is the Civil Document Stage?

The civil document stage begins when the NVC has confirmed they received your immigrant visa application from the USCIS. The NVC will request, in a welcome letter, that you send copies of various civil documents. The NVC uses these documents to complete the pre-processing of your application.

Email Processing of Civil Documents

For some immigrant visa applications, the U.S. State Department has provided a more streamlined process. Rather than applications passing between the USCIS, NVC, and consulate, email processing is completed by a consulate. If your visa application is eligible for email processing, you will be requested to scan and email your civil documents for processing. A consulate or embassy will do all of the processing.

If your application is eligible for email processing you will be informed and will receive instructions on how to proceed.

Civil Documents List

Listed below are some of the most commonly required documents that you will need to have for your U.S. immigration application. The exact requirements differ by country and will be communicated to you by the NVC during the civil documents stage:

  • birth certificate, as issued by the appropriate civil authority
  • marriage certificate (if the supporting petitioner for your application is your spouse)
  • adoption documentation (if the supporting petitioner is your parent, and the petition is based on a parent-child relationship)
  • military records (if applicable)
  • police certificate (also known as a police clearance) from your country of residence and any country you have been arrested in
  • two (2) square passport photos, size 2″ by 2″
  • valid passport (biographic data page)
  • affidavit of support (in the case of family preference applications) – this document relates to the ability of the person petitioning on your behalf to provide financial support when you are in the United States if the visa application is successful.

Please note:

  • If you choose to use physical mail to send your documents, DO NOT send your original documents. Only send copies of your civil documents.
  • If any of your civil documents are not in English, they must be accompanied by a certified English translation. Whoever translates your documents must sign a certificate of translation. In this certificate, the translator avows that they are competent and that their translation is accurate. You are not allowed to translate your own documents, but you also do not need to hire a professional. A friend or relative can serve as the translator if they are competent.

How to Contact the NVC

Generally, you will not need to contact the National Visa Centre directly. You can use the online status checker page to keep an eye on your application. However, if you need to get in touch with the NVC branch handling your application, you can contact them via email, phone, or physical mail.

You can email the NVC at [email protected] for case inquiries. For electronic civil document processing, you can email [email protected]. For ease of reference, include your NVC case number in the subject line.

You can also call (603) 334-0700 to contact NVC customer service regarding immigrant visa inquiries. For other inquiries, call (603) 334-0888. Customer service representatives are available to take your call from Mondays to Fridays between 7 am and 12 midnight Eastern Standard Time (EST), except on holidays. To help the representative identify your case, you should have your case number on hand when you call.

To contact the New Hampshire branch of the NVC via physical mail, use the details below:

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

How to Check Your NVC Case Status

You can check the status of your immigration application online using the website provided by the U.S. Department of State (https://ceac.state.gov/IV). The welcome letter you received from the NVC after submitting your application has a visa number. After clicking the link of the appropriate category under which your application falls, you can enter your visa number.

The website will then give you a general idea of what stage your application has reached. You will not necessarily receive any further instructions, but you can use the status checker to confirm that your immigration application has been captured.

If you receive an error relating to your visa number, make sure you selected the correct category (immigrant or non-immigrant). Then, carefully re-enter your visa number to make sure you type it correctly. It is easy to make a mistake when entering a long string of random characters.

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Interacting with complex regulations, requirements and government organizations can be overwhelming. But hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the NVC processing times. Armed with the right information and knowledge, you can confidently navigate the U.S. immigration application process.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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