USCIS and NVC: What's the difference?


USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and NVC (National Visa Center) complete each other for your immigration process, especially when you apply for immigration visas such as a Green Card outside the U.S. Not only do USCIS and NVC basically play different roles, but depending on your residence, your application goes under review by one of the two agencies. As a lot of applicants describe, the unpredictable review process and the processing time make them feel they are in the dark. But if you understand the role of each agency correctly, your knowledge can act as a light to figure out a way out of a long tunnel without just waiting for the outcome desperately. Also, don't forget to check a smartest tool that helps you track both USCIS and NVC cases.

USCIS and NVC (National Visa Center) : Green Card Processing

USCIS belongs to DHS (Department of Homeland Security) that handles the initial processing of a case, whereas NVC (National Visa Center) is the part of DOS (Department of State) that performs pre-processing tasks for visas on behalf of U.S. embassies. NVC (National Visa Center) does much of the basic processing for immigrant visas and Green Cards, but it is also responsible for some nonimmigrant visas. Here's how two agencies come into play for visa applications outside the U.S.:

You’re filing a family-based petition such as Form I-130 for a relative or Form I-129F for a fiancé(e). Once USCIS approves a visa petition, it needs to move the case to DOS for consular processing. Consular processing encompasses the activities to complete the visa overseas. Visa petitions include Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.

After USCIS approves a petition, it will send you a Notice of Approval (I-797). At the same time, USCIS will move the files to NVC. It may take a month or more for NVC to receive your case from USCIS. Upon receipt, NVC will assign your case a NVC case number and send you a welcome letter notifying you that they have your petition and what to do next.

However, an approved petition does not necessarily mean that NVC will begin processing the green card. The beneficiary must have an immigrant visa immediately available. To learn more about your wait time, check out the Visa Bulletin 101 article

USCIS and NVC (National Visa Center) : Which Agency Handles Adjustment of Status Cases?

While NVC is in charge of consular processing, USCIS oversees adjustment of status cases for individuals who reside in the U.S. If you opted for adjustment of status on a family-based permanent residence, USCIS will not forward your case to NVC. Instead, it will send it to the USCIS offices located in the U.S. for its further process.

If you were going through consular processing on Form I-130 and subsequently changed your mind to pursue adjustment of status, you are likely to be eligible if: 1) you are lawfully present in the U.S. through a lawful entry 2) you have an approved visa petition and 3) the visa petition is current. Once you file Form I-485 to adjust your status, USCIS will take back the case from the National Visa Center. If you received a welcome letter from NVC asking about your intentions, you may indicate that you’ve decided to file Form I-485 inside the U.S.

How to Track USCIS and NVC Case

Lawfully came up with a ground-breaking solution to help all immigrants and non-immigrants learn what is going on with their applications. That is why Lawfully has launched USCIS Case Tracker. Since then, we have tirelessly improved its features with a firm commitment to immigration equality.

With a very small fraction of cost and time it would have taken to struggle with immigration attorneys and USCIS, give yourself 3 minutes to fill in the information about your application. BOOM! You can check your case status along with an expected processing time and compare yours with other similar cases at your fingertips. No need to check in on the USCIS website anymore. Lawfully will deliver updates on your case status in real-time. And don't miss the new feature of NVC case tracking in order to embrace visa applicants outside the U.S.

If you want to get more insights from a certain visa type, try Case Analysis Pro, and among other features, see your ranking among others who registered their cases so that you get a sense of where you stand.

Download Lawfully Case Tracker now and stay up to date!