Sometimes the government announces new procedures which make our immigration lives easier and other times these new changes make our lives more complicated. There’s a new procedure now for the processing of family based cases and while it’s still too early to tell whether it’s a good change or a bad change, it’s important to discuss and consider as an option.
We start at the very beginning: how a family based immigration case commences. Family based cases begin with the filing of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, which is filed with the USCIS. If an individual is filing a family based petition for a family member who is currently outside of the U.S. or will be leaving the U.S. to finish the immigrant visa process at a U.S. Embassy overseas, once that petition is approved USCIS then forwards its to the National Visa Center (NVC), The National Visa Center (NVC), a part of the U.S. Department of State, in essence acts almost like a “secretary” to USCIS and the DOS: it provides Affidavit of Support Processing and Applicant Document collection for US Embassies and US Consulates.
After the approval of the I-130 petition in which the Petitioner demonstrates to USCIS that the intending Beneficiary—the family member—is really entitled to the benefit sought since he/she is truly a spouse, sibling, parent or son/daughter of the Petitioner, the Petitioner must establish that he is also financially able to support the Beneficiary of the I-130 petition. This is done by using Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, which requires payment of a fee for processing. The next step is the completion of an Immigrant Visa documentation packet. Both the I-864 and final immigrant visa documentation packet (which is needed for the final visa processing appointment at the US Embassy or Consulate), require payment of a processing fee to the DOS. At the appropriate time in the visa process( once the Beneficiary's date on the immigrant visa waiting list has been reached), the NVC sends both the Affidavit of Support fee bill and the Immigrant Visa Processing fee bill to the Petitioner, requesting completion and payment.
Here’s the change: Up until now the Petitioner had only one payment option- mailing a cashier’s check or money order and waiting for the NVC to process such payment. Oftentimes this delayed the case. Now, however, there’s now a new option: online payment, a welcome change. However, the NVC cautions as follows:
It is important to follow the NVC’s instructions carefully. Sending the NVC documentation (or paying fees) when they were not requested by the NVC will result in a delay in processing.
Do not take any action described above without authorization from the NVC. Taking action without the NVC's authorization could result in a delay in processing.
Do we know if this works yet? It’s too early to tell but many of us will be trying it. After all, any potential way to speed up the lengthy consular processing procedure once a beneficiary’s priority date has been reached is certainly worth the small gamble of being the first “guinea pig” in this new DOS experiment.