Step 2: Waiting Period and Green Card Pre-Processing at the National Visa Center (NVC)
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.
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.
Forms and fees
Critical elements of the NVC application package include these State Department forms and fees:
- Choice of address and agent form (DS-261) filed online in the Consular Electronic Application Center: $0
- Green card application form (DS-260) also filed online in the Consular Electronic Application Center: $325
- Financial support form (I-864): $120
The total government filing fees for this step are $445, payable online here.
The main elements of an NVC filing package include the following documents:
- Proof of the foreign spouse’s nationality (copy of the birth certificate and passport photo page)
- Copy of a police certificate for the foreign spouse (showing past legal infractions, if any)
- Copy of the couple’s 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 foreign 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 can check here to see if the consulate where you will be interviewing has any specific additional requirements.
Documents for the NVC package
Your NVC package should include all of the above forms, fees, and documents. 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.
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.
Submitting the NVC Package