STATE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES CHANGES IN IMMIGRANT VISA PROCESSING
The State Department Visa Office has notified all consular posts that process immigrant visas beginning January 1, 2001, the way it processing immigrant visa applications will change. The National Visa Center (NVC) will no longer be initiating processing by issuing a Packet 3 to applicants with current priority dates. Instead, applicants will receive a letter that allows them to designate a representative to receive mailings from the NVC, as well as a mailing address to which all information should be sent.
This agent will be authorized not only to receive mailing, but also to assist in the completion of paperwork and fee payment. The agent may be the family member or employer who filed the immigrant visa application, an attorney, friend or any one else. The agent is not authorized to sign any documents that must bear the applicant’s signature. The applicant does not need to designate an agent and may complete all of the paperwork themselves. After the NVC is notified of whether the applicant wishes to use an agent or to proceed by himself or herself, it will issue Packet 3. If this notification is not received within one year, the NVC will terminate the application. By requiring this step, the NVC hopes to cut down on the number of cases that are sent to consulates when the applicant does not in fact plan on pursuing consular processing.
In some case the agent letter will not be required. For example, when the file contains a Form G-28 indicating that an attorney represents the applicant, the NVC will automatically issue a Packet 3 to the attorney. Also, cases involving self-petitioners and adoptions will not require a letter. The self-petitioner and the adopting parents will automatically receive Packet 3s.
Where the applicant is to return the Packet 3 forms depends on which consulate will process the petition. Applicants who will process at the consulates in Bogotá, Colombia; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Freetown, Jamaica; Georgetown, Bahamas; Guangzhou, China; Manila, Philippines; Montreal, Canada; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Tirana, Albania, should return Packet 3 to the NVC along with the 0 immigrant visa processing fee. The NVC will review the file, and if everything is in order, it will forward the case to the consulate for an interview to be scheduled. However, for cases to be processed at Montreal, Freetown and Tirana, the NVC will schedule the interview and issue a Packet 4 to the agent. Packet 4 contains information about the visa interview. If the file is incomplete, or contains incorrect information, the agent will be sent a checklist of the missing information and told to return the corrected documents to the NVC. The NVC will again review the file, and if there are still errors, send a second notice to the agent. If after two reviews the file still has problems, it will nonetheless be sent to the consulate.
For all other posts, the NVC will send Packet 3 to the agent with instructions to send the completed forms to the correct consular post. Once the post receives the forms, an interview will be scheduled. The post will collect the immigrant visa fee at the time of the interview.
At the same time the NVC sends the agent letter to the applicant, it will send a package of information to the petitioner explaining that the applicant must return the agent letter before any further processing will occur. This is intended to be a backup measure until the applicant does not receive the agent letter. The package also includes information on the affidavit of support.
Also beginning January 1st, the NVC will begin collecting a fee for affidavit of support (I-864) processing for cases that will be sent to ten consular posts, Bogotá, Colombia; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Freetown, Jamaica; Georgetown, Bahamas; Guangzhou, China; Manila, Philippines; Montreal, Canada; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Tirana, Albania. For cases to be processed at these posts, the petitioner will be instructed to complete the affidavit of support and return it to the NVC along with a cashier’s check or money order drawn on a US bank for . If there are joint sponsors, the fee will be charged for each affidavit of support provided. For cases processed at all other posts, the petitioner is instructed to send the completed affidavit of support to the applicant to present at the immigrant visa interview. There is no fee required in these cases.
The fee is being charged to provide the NVC with funds to conduct a preliminary review of the affidavit of support before it is sent to the consulate. One of the main reasons for rejection following an immigrant visa interview are problems with the affidavit of support, and it is hoped that by previewing them at the NVC, it will cut down on the number of rejections.
The State Department intends to these changes to improve customer service, as well as to ease the growing burden on consular posts. In addition to the measures to take effect January 1, the State Department will also be establishing a call center for immigrant visa inquiries, as well as one to provide assistance in preparing the affidavit of support.