Step 2: Waiting Period and Green Card Pre-Processing at the NVC

Step-by-step guide for how you can bring your spouse to the United States with a green card

The Waiting Period

Once the I-130 petition is approved, USCIS transfers the case to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is run by the U.S. State Department. The NVC assigns a unique case number that is then used to identify the case from that point onward. The next active step is to file a green card application package with the NVC, but first there’s a waiting period.

For spouses of U.S. green card holders (permanent residents), the NVC green card application package cannot be submitted until the U.S. State Department determines that a green card is available given various annual caps. The dates published in the State Department’s monthly visa bulletin will determine whether an NVC package can be filed or not. For more information on how this works, check out our guide on “How to Read the Visa Bulletin.

The wait time is currently about a year and a half, but this can vary by a few months depending on the spouse’s home country.

NVC Overview

Green Card Pre-Processing at the National Visa Center (NVC)

Once the State Department determines that a green card is available, the NVC accepts the green card application package and decides whether the spouse is ready for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (called “consular processing”).

The NVC typically processes an application package within 3-5 months, and then forwards it to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the spouse’s country of residence.

NVC Application Contents

Government Forms

Supporting documents

  • Proof of the spouse’s nationality (copy of the birth certificate and passport photo page)
  • Copy of a police certificate for the spouse (showing past legal infractions, if any)
  • Copy of your marriage certificate
  • Copies of marriage termination documents for both spouses, if any (divorce documents or death certificates for previous spouses)
  • If the foreign spouse served in the military of any country, a copy of the military record
  • Copies of any court or prison records, if the spouse was ever convicted of a crime
  • Proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support the spouse seeking a green card (copy of the sponsoring spouse’s latest federal income tax returns and pay stubs)—for more details, see our explanation of the “Affidavit of Support.”
  • Sometimes there are additional document requirements that are consulate-specific. You should always check here to see if the consulate where you will be interviewing has any specific additional requirements.
  • If the package includes any documents in a language other than English, you must also include a translation of each document, certified as accurate by the translator.

government fees

Total mandatory fees for this step are $445, payable online here. This covers the $325 fee for the DS-260 and the $120 fee for the I-864.

Submission and Approval

Your NVC package should include all of the above forms, fees, and documents. Once your NVC package is complete, you will upload your documents, email your documents, or mail everything to the NVC’s physical address—depending on the consulate that will ultimately process your green card application. Check here to determine which of the submission options apply to you. If the NVC needs more information or documents to complete your NVC package, they will send you a checklist of missing documents, typically within 1-2 months.

Once the NVC has everything they need, they will typically make a decision on your I-130 petition within 3-5 months.