Immigrant Visa Backlog at the NVC

Are you waiting for your immigrant visa? Unfortunately, many people are facing prolonged wait times due to a significant backlog at the National Visa Center (NVC). As of the beginning of 2023, there are 422,954 immigrant visa applicants queued for an interview. Despite their cases being ready for a decision, the processing system hasn’t seen significant improvements this year.

Here’s a brief explanation of the backlog:

The NVC is in charge of preparing immigrant visa cases for review by the US embassy or consulate. It manages the processing and sets up everything required for the interview. But when the volume of incoming cases surpasses the number that can be processed, a backlog occurs. The present NVC backlog is a result of an overwhelming influx of new cases that haven’t been matched with an adequate processing capacity.

Whenever the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) approves a case, such as Form I-130, it adds to the backlog. Conversely, the backlog decreases when a consular official either approves or denies a case.

Many attribute the slow processing of the entire system to issues in immigration benefits processing. Applicants for a green card already in the US face an extended adjustment of the status process with the USCIS, while applications from those outside the US are stuck in the consular processing route. Even with new policies, the immigration system has been struggling to keep pace. According to the CATO Institute, around 24 million cases are stuck in the immigration backlog throughout the US government.

How big is the NVC backlog?

As of December 2022, the National Visa Center (NVC) reported a total of 422,954 cases that were ‘documentarily complete,’ meaning all necessary paperwork was in order. Of these, only 36,167 cases had been scheduled for an interview, leaving a substantial 386,787 cases still ‘pending’ or awaiting action. The number of documentarily complete cases continues to grow month by month, resulting in a number that’s much larger than the previous month’s pending cases, as new cases complete their documentation regularly.

While progress is slow, it should hopefully regress or be reduced by increasing the new petitions for immigrant visas. Simply put, the NVC backlog can worsen if people submit beyond the current level of Form I-130 or immigrant visa petitions.

What exactly is ‘documentarily complete’?

After submitting all the necessary documents and paying the fees to the National Visa Center, you should get an email saying that your case is documentarily complete. That means you have provided the NVC with all the relevant documents to process your application. Now, you just have to wait for the US government to decide whether to approve or deny your application.

A case is deemed documentarily complete when these documents are submitted and received:

  • Immigrant Visa and Affidavit of Support Fees
  • Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support with supporting documents)
  • DS-260 or the immigrant visa application
  • Civil documents

The NVC manages your case until it is considered documentarily complete. Only then will they schedule your appointment with a US consulate or the embassy. But since the NVC arranges interviews on a first-in and first-out basis, it causes an unwanted backlog.

Factors that contributed to the NVC immigrant visa backlog

Ideally, the NVC tries to arrange appointments with a consulate or the embassy within three months of accepting all the necessary documents. However, the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected visa processing in many ways. Plus, the way the government handled the crisis didn’t help. Local restrictions were made on public places, including consular buildings, and this prevented consular officials from meeting the visa applications.

When the US government retracted many of its services, the closures made it impossible to conduct in-person interviews. Moreover, few individuals applied during the pandemic, so the Department of State had to keep up with the reduced fee revenue by not filling in consular officer positions from 2020 to 2021. As a result, the agency found it more difficult to process visa applications, leading to a larger backlog at the NVC.

Moving forward

According to the Department of State, US consulates and embassies are doing their best to return their visa services to normal on a location-by-location basis as soon as possible. This way, the visa backlog should gradually reduce.

Can you minimize wait times?

While you have no control over the NVC backlog, there are things you can do to avoid any mishaps, like remembering to register your appointment online, showing up at your scheduled appointment, and attending your medical exam immediately. Additionally, make sure you are ready for your immigrant visa interview.

If you need further assistance, consider meeting a visa lawyer in New York.

Meet the best immigrant visa lawyers today.

The immigrant visa lawyers at Berd & Klauss, PLLC, are ready to provide professional legal services to help resolve your immigration issues. Book your consultation or appointment by calling 212-461-7152.