National Visa Center Goes Paperless: Pilot Program to Transmit Data Electronically to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou

If you are familiar with the process of applying for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, you know that  it can take months for the National Visa Center (NVC) to mail a case to the Consulate. The delay occur because China’s Customs office drags their feet in releasing the Consulate’s mail. NVC has now begun a pilot program to eliminate that delay by sending cases electronically to the Consulate.

As background, a petitioner residing in the U.S. files the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stateside office. Upon approval, USCIS forwards the case to NVC. The NVC does administrative processing of the file (including collecting the fees and case documents from the petitioner and applicant), then sends the file to the Consulate for interview.

The NVC pilot program to send cases electronically to the Consulate is only available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens over the age of 21 years, including the following visa categories:

  • IR-1: Spouse of U.S. citizen
  • IR-2: Child of U.S. citizen
  • CR-1: Conditional Spouse of U.S. citizen (i.e., married less than 2 years ago)
  • CR-2: Conditional Child of U.S. citizen
  • IR-5: Parent of U.S. citizen

An applicant who wishes to participate in the pilot program must send an email to NVC to opt in. Then, the applicant will receive instructions on how to submit documents to NVC by email in PDF format. NVC will forward the electronic documents to the Consulate. Later, the applicant will bring the original documents to the interview.

For persons who opt to use electronic processing, the case number will be changed by NVC so that it starts with “GZO” instead of the original “GUZ” case number.

I haven’t seen any estimates from the government, but my best estimate is that the pilot program will shave an average of 3 months off immigrant visa processing, so that the entire process (from filing the I-130 to obtaining the immigrant visa) will be 9-15 months instead of the previous 12-18 months. Most often, the critical variable for determining whether the case will take closer to 9 or 15 months will be how long USCIS takes to process the I-130.

Our firm is well prepared for the switch to electronic processing because we already do electronic processing for various kinds of cases with the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor.

Further information is available on the Consulate’s website and on the NVC’s following webpages:

* Important Notice to Immigrant Visa Applicants Concerning Electronic Processing Requirements
* NVC Immigrant Visa Electronically Processing
* Electronic Processing Participation (how to opt in)

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