9 FAM 504.4 

(U) Pre-Appointment Processing

(CT:VISA-2021;   07-05-2024)
(Office of Origin:  CA/VO)

9 FAM 504.4-1  (U) Statutory and Regulatory Authorities

9 FAM 504.4-1(A)  (U) Immigration and Nationality Act

(CT:VISA-1;   11-18-2015)

(U) INA 101(a)(33) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(33)); INA 201 (8 U.S.C. 1151), INA 202(a) (8 U.S.C. 1152(b)); INA 202(b) (8 U.S.C. 1152(b)); INA 203(e) (8 U.S.C. 1153(e)); INA 203(f) (8 U.S.C. 1153(f)); INA 204 (8 U.S.C. 1154); INA 221(d) (8 U.S.C. 1201(d)); INA 222(a) (8 U.S.C. 1202(a)); INA 222(b) (8 U.S.C. 1202(b)).

9 FAM 504.4-1(B)  (U) Code of Federal Regulations

(CT:VISA-1;   11-18-2015)

(U) 22 CFR 42.41; 22 CFR 42.52; 22 CFR 42.55; 22 CFR 42.61; 22 CFR 42.63; 22 CFR 42.64; 22 CFR 42.65; 22 CFR 42.66.

9 FAM 504.4-1(C)  (U) Public Law

(CT:VISA-1;   11-18-2015)

(U) Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997, Public Law 104-208.

9 FAM 504.4-2  (U) Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants

9 FAM 504.4-2(A)  (U) The Packet System

9 FAM 504.4-2(A)(1)  (U) Importance of Standard Procedures

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) Consistency and standardization are important to the IV process. In the past, the Department used standardized mailings in the IV process, known as the packet system. More recently, electronic resources have provided the ability to address a wider range of questions.

b. (U) Remember that the IV process remains confusing to many applicants, especially those who do not have regular access to the Internet.

c.  (U) Upon receipt of an approved petition, NVC will send the beneficiary the NVC Welcome Letter (formerly Packet 3) or "Notice of Registration as an Intending Immigrant" letter for physical petitions (formerly Packet 3A) notifying the beneficiary of receipt of the petition and advising the beneficiary what steps, if any, to take in applying for a visa.  For all PIVOT cases, the NVC Welcome Letter will be sent to all parties on the case.  See 9 FAM 504.4-2(B).

9 FAM 504.4-2(A)(2)  (U) General Guidelines

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) Inquiries Regarding Immigration:

(1)  (U) The following standardized mailings are no longer used:

(a)  (U) Packet 1;

(b)  (U) Packet 2; and

(c)  (U) Packet 2a

(2)  (U) Respond to general inquiries regarding immigration by sending the appropriate information sheets.  This includes questions about:

(a)  (U) General immigration to the United States;

(b)  (U) Specific family-based immigration programs; and

(c)  (U) Specific employment-based immigration programs.

(3)  (U) Do not retain any record of incoming inquiries on these topics in the consular section correspondence files; and

(4)  (U) Do not retain any record of response to these topics in correspondence files.

b. (U) Packets for IV Processing: There are three standard IV instruction packets:

(1)  (U) NVC Welcome Letter (formerly Packet 3) generated for physical petitions by IVIS or for electronic petitions or petition data by the Pre-IVO Technology (PIVOT) system, instructs the case parties to go to nvc.state.gov for additional information on what actions are needed next;

(2)  (U) Appointment Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants (formerly Packet 4); and

(3)  (U) Modified Follow-Up Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants (formerly Packet 4a).

c.  (U) Combining Packets:

(1)  (U) When combining packets, you must strictly observe the regulations defining:

(a)  (U) entitled to immigrant classification;

(b)  (U) documentarily complete; and

(c)  (U) priority date.

(2)  (U) Use common sense when considering special situations.  9 FAM 504.4-2(B) and 9 FAM 504.4-2(C) below as well as 9 FAM 503.3-2 contain additional guidance.  For example, if you know that the intending immigrant is the spouse of a U.S. citizen you should provide any information requested by the applicant or their agent.  In this situation, you must be careful to remind inquirers of the importance of pursuing the IV process promptly to avoid expired documentation.

9 FAM 504.4-2(B)  (U) Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants From NVC

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) Upon receipt of an approved petition, NVC will send the beneficiary the NVC Welcome Letter (formerly Packet 3) or "Notice of Registration as an Intending Immigrant" letter for physical petitions (formerly Packet 3A) notifying the beneficiary of receipt of the petition and advising the beneficiary what steps, if any, to take in applying for a visa.  See paragraph f below.  The notification will be sent to all case parties' email addresses or by physical mail if email addresses are unavailable.

b. (U) Beneficiaries of Adoption-Related Petitions: USCIS will send approved immigrant petitions for adoptees and approval of Form I-600-A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (or Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) to NVC.  NVC will scan the approved petitions and forward them electronically to the receiving IV unit.  See 9 FAM 502.3-3(C) for additional information on processing orphan visas and 9 FAM 502.3-4(D) for additional information on processing Convention Adoptees.

c.  (U) For physical cases, once an agent has been designated or when the Form DS-261 is not required (see 9 FAM 504.4-3(A)(1) below), NVC populates the IV application fee bill for each applicant to the designated agent.  Applicants processing in PIVOT will receive their Welcome Letter with their NVC Case Number and Invoice ID numbers instructing them to go to CEAC to complete the necessary steps.

(1)  (U) The IV fee bill letter instructs the applicant to go to https://nvc.state.gov and pay the IV fee bill.

(2)  (U) If the IV fee(s) are paid online, the agent will be provided with information online once the fee payment has been confirmed.  No mailing is necessary.

(3)  (U) Both the physical and online instructions inform the agent to complete Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration.

d. (U) NVC is responsible for the dispatch of virtually all instruction packets. The NVC Welcome Letter (formerly known as Packet 3) is described below.

e. (U) It is vitally important to promptly mail or otherwise provide the instruction package for IV applicants to applicants who are:

(1)  (U) Entitled to immigrant status; and

(2)  (U) Whose priority dates are within the Dates for Filing Applications established by the Department.

(3)  (U) Whenever it is not possible to provide the instruction package promptly, the consular section must submit a report, by memorandum, to the Department outlining the reasons it cannot do so.

f.  (U) The process taken at NVC for qualifying a case and scheduling an interview is described in 9 FAM 504.4-5(B)(1) below.

g. (U) When a beneficiary's priority date is earlier than the Dates for Filing Applications established by the Department and published in the monthly Visa Bulletin (see 9 FAM 503.4-3(A)(3)), and if it is not necessary to have a labor certification revalidated, the automated system will generate a cover letter to be transmitted to the applicant or their agent with the appropriate information sheets and forms for further processing.  It is important that IV Units send the information package promptly.  If the applicant is classifiable in more than one category, only the record for each classification in which the applicant's priority date is earlier than the Dates for Filing Applications can be annotated in the automated system.  Ensure that the comments feature in any other cases is updated to reflect actions taken.

9 FAM 504.4-2(C)  (U) Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants From Consular Sections

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) The Instruction Package for IV Applicants from Consular Sections Consists of:

(1)  (U) The cover letter for the instruction package (generated by the IVO system);

(2)  (U) Form DS-2001, Notification of Applicant Readiness (optional);

(3)  (U) Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, and instructions, or Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, as appropriate;

(4)  (U) Instructions for accessing Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration; and

(5)  (U) Supplemental information sheets, as appropriate, on police certificate and civil document availability by country.

b. (U) You may also include a local nonstandard form covering other post-specific matters not covered by material above.

c.  (U) For petitions filed at a consular section abroad, you must send the instruction package for IV applicants immediately to applicants, including immediate relatives, who have provided evidence of entitlement to immigrant classification.  Verify that the applicant's priority date (if subject to a numerical limitation) is within the Dates for Filing Applications established by the Department.  Evidence of entitlement to immigrant classification includes:

(1)  (U) Form I-797, Notice of Action;

(2)  (U) A petition approved at post;

(3)  (U) Proof of derivative status; or

(4)  (U) Proof of entitlement to returning resident status.

d. (U) Provide the Instruction Package to IV applicants and others upon request, regardless of whether the inquirer is entitled to immigrant classification, stressing that they should take no action unless directed by NVC, a visa processing post, or their agent.

e. (U) An applicant is registered for immigration to the United States upon the execution of the Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, and the payment of the prescribed fee.

f.  (U) Upon Electronic Submission of Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration:

(1)  (U) Initiate all appropriate clearances called for in 9 FAM 303 and 9 FAM 304;

(2)  (U) Send additional instructions for accessing Form DS-260 to any derivative applicants along with the interview appointment letter and medical forms. See 9 FAM 504.4-3(A)(2) below; and

(3)  (U) Also, see 9 FAM 504.4-5(A)(1) below for additional discussion of determination that an applicant is documentarily complete.

9 FAM 504.4-2(D)  (U) Immigrant Visa (IV) Appointment Letter

(CT:VISA-1753;   04-05-2023)

a. (U) The Immigrant Visa Appointment Letter provides instructions for IV applicants to make formal application for an IV:

(1)  (U) This letter is generated automatically by IVO or by IVIS/PIVOT; and

(2)  (U) The instructions in this letter and the links that it provides advise applicants about preparations for the medical examination, obtaining original documentation, providing photographs, and reviewing visa guidelines.

b. (U) Consular sections or NVC must send the Immigrant Visa Appointment Letter to beneficiaries who are documentarily completed and for whom an appointment has been scheduled.  Do not schedule appointments for applicants chargeable to a numerical limitation before receiving allocations of visa numbers from the Department.

9 FAM 504.4-2(E)  (U) Records Updated to Reflect Information Provided

(CT:VISA-1753;   04-05-2023)

a. (U) When the IV Unit prints the Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants cover letter from the automated Immigrant Visa Overseas (IVO) system, IVO will automatically record the printing date.

(1)  (U) Provide this letter and attachments promptly after printing; and

(2)  (U) If you provide later copies of the Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants to the applicant, make a record in the comments field of IVO to reflect this fact.

b. (U) NVC will also record the date the Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants is generated or downloaded from the CEAC in IVIS or PIVOT after the IV fees are paid (see 9 FAM 504.4-2(A) above and 9 FAM 504.6-5(B)).

9 FAM 504.4-3  (U) Standard and Nonstandard Forms

9 FAM 504.4-3(A)  (U) Standard Forms

9 FAM 504.4-3(A)(1)  (U) Form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent for Immigrant Visa Applicants

(CT:VISA-1753;   04-05-2023)

a. (U) This form allows the principal applicant in an IVIS-based case to designate an agent for their case that will be processed in the IVIS system. 

b. (U) "Agent" means the person who will receive mailings from NVC:

(1)  (U) The agent may be the petitioner, an attorney, a friend, or a nongovernmental or community-based organization;

(2)  (U) The agent cannot sign documents on behalf of the applicant;

(3)  (U) The agent can assist with fee payments and document collection; and

(4)  (U) The principal applicant may choose to designate themself as the agent.

c.  (U) For cases in the IVIS system, NVC holds the file until the principal applicant signs and submits Form DS-261 via CEAC.  If there is no contact with NVC within one year and a visa number is available, the NVC will begin the case termination process.  See 9 FAM 504.13-2(D) for further details.

d. (U) No Form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent, is required if:

(1)  (U) The beneficiary is self-petitioning;

(2)  (U) A beneficiary is a child and is being adopted;

(3)  (U) NVC receives the petition from USCIS with a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, on file; or

(4)  (U) The beneficiary's case is in the PIVOT system.

e. (U) When NVC sends instructions for accessing Form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent, to the applicant, NVC also will send an Affidavit of Support (AOS) fee bill to the petitioner, for some visa classifications.  Applicants in PIVOT cases will receive this information when they log into CEAC.  When IVIS cases become active, the initial NVC Welcome Letter (see 9 FAM 504.2-2(E)) includes the following:

(1)  (U) AOS fee bill;

(2)  (U) Instructions describing how to pay the fee(s);

(3)  (U) Instructions for accessing Form DS-261;

(4)  (U) IV fee bill;

(5)  (U) Instructions to submit the Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration;

(6)  (U) Instructions to collect documents; and

(7)  (U) Guidance on how to submit forms and documents to NVC.

f.  (U) NVC also notifies that no further action can be taken until the fees are paid.  PIVOT users will receive this information when they log into CEAC.  Upon payment confirmation of the AOS fee, the petitioner is instructed to complete the AOS form and return it to NVC.

(1)  (U) The AOS fee should be paid online.

(2)  (U) After AOS fee payment has been confirmed, the petitioner will be provided with information to complete one of the Affidavit of Support (AOS) Forms that will be uploaded to CEAC for submission to NVC.

9 FAM 504.4-3(A)(2)  (U) Application Forms

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) The only questionnaire-type form that may be used under standard procedures is Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration.  This form cannot be submitted in any language other than English.  Any nonstandard form that you believe is necessary because of an unusual local situation must be submitted to the appropriate post liaison officer in CA/VO/F/IE, for review, and may not be used without advance approval.  See 9 FAM 504.4-3(B) below.  The Paperwork Reduction Act requires OMB approval before a U.S. Government agency may employ a new form to collect information.  This requirement includes forms for local use by overseas consular sections. 

b. (U) Importance of U.S. Address:  DHS uses the address stated on Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, as the applicant's destination to mail the Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card (machine-readable green card), to the visa recipient.  It is important, therefore, that the applicant furnish as complete an address as possible, including ZIP code.  The applicant may use the address of a prospective employer if there are no friends or relatives to whom Form I-551 may be forwarded.

9 FAM 504.4-3(A)(3)  (U) Medical Forms

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

(U) You should send copies of the fillable PDF forms of the paper medical forms (Form DS-2054, Form DS-3025, Form DS-3026, and Form DS-3030)  to the panel physicians electronically.  Panel physicians must access the eMedical form (DS-7794) by logging into the eMedical system.

9 FAM 504.4-3(B)  (U) Post-Specific Information Sheets and Forms

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) You may prepare an additional information sheet containing post-specific information.  Keep this information sheet concise and make it available through post’s Internet site and in hard copy.  Provide an electronic copy of all post-specific information sheets to CA/VO/F/IE.  Although you do not have to receive prior approval to use a nonstandard information sheet, VO wants information sheets to be coordinated and consolidated in the interests of efficiency.  Therefore, you must send copies of all new nonstandard forms to NVCPost@state.gov. 

b. (U) Do not translate forms used in the IV process into the local language.  You may prepare a local language information sheet explaining the forms.

9 FAM 504.4-4  (U) Supporting Documents

9 FAM 504.4-4(A)  (U) Basic Document Requirements

(CT:VISA-2021;   07-05-2024)

a. (U) An applicant applying for an IV must follow all instructions on travel.state.gov for submitting the following documents, if available:

(1)  (U) Birth Certificates:  The applicant must obtain an original or certified copy of their birth certificate and those of any family member immigrating with the applicant. 

(2) (U) Court and Prison Records:  If the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime, they must obtain an original or certified copy of each court and prison record, even if later granted amnesty, a pardon, or other act of clemency.

(3)  (U) Marriage Records:

(a)  (U) Marriage Certificates:  The applicant must obtain an original or certified copy of the marriage certificate of every marriage if the applicant is or has been married.

(i)     (U) This requirement does not apply to IR-5 applicants, except when they qualify for the visa as a stepparent or when the consular officer otherwise deems it necessary or pertinent to visa eligibility, and

(ii)    (U) This requirement does not apply for any prior marriage for which the applicant has submitted marriage termination documentation under part (b) below, except when the consular officer otherwise deems it necessary or pertinent to visa eligibility.

(b)  (U) Marriage Termination:  If the applicant was previously married, they must obtain evidence of the termination of every prior marriage.  The evidence must be an original or certified copy of a final legal divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers.

(i)     (U) This requirement does not apply to IR-5 applicants, except when they qualify for the visa as a stepparent or when the consular officer otherwise deems it necessary or pertinent to visa eligibility. 

(4)  (U) Military Records:  If the applicant has ever served in the military of any country, they must obtain an original or certified copy of their military record. 

(5)  (U) Petitioner Documents: 

(a)  (U) If the applicant is applying for an IR5 or an F4 visa, they must obtain an original or certified copy of the petitioner’s birth certificate. 

(b)  (U) If the applicant is applying for an IR1, CR1, or F2A visa as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR and the petitioning spouse was previously married, they must provide evidence of the termination of every prior marriage of the petitioning spouse.  The evidence must be an original or certified copy of a final legal divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers. 

(c)  (U) If the applicant is a stepchild and is applying for an IR2, CR2, F2, or any other visa classification requiring that the applicant be a child, they must obtain an original or certified copy of the marriage certificate of every marriage of the petitioner and the applicant’s natural parent.  If the petitioner or applicant’s natural parent was previously married, the applicant must obtain evidence of the termination of every prior marriage.  The evidence must be an original or certified copy of a final legal divorce decree, death certificate, or annulment papers.

(6)  (U) Passport:  The applicant, and each family member immigrating with the applicant, must submit a photocopy of the biographic data page of a currently valid passport and provide the passport at the interview.  In certain circumstances, this passport requirement may be waived. See 9 FAM 201.2 for details on immigrant travel without a passport.

(7)  (U) Police Certificates:  If the applicant is 16 years of age or older or if there is reason to believe a police record exists, they must provide original or certified copies of police certificates.  See 9 FAM 504.4-4(B) below. 

(8)  (U) Adoption Documents:  If the applicant is an adopted child and the application to immigrate is based on a parent-child relationship, they must submit:

(a)  (U) An original or certified copy of the adoption decree;

(b)  (U) The legal custody decree if custody occurred before adoption;

(c)  (U) A statement showing dates and places where the applicant resided with the adoptive parent(s); and

(d)  (U) If the applicant was adopted when ages 16 or 17, evidence that they were adopted with, or after, the adoption of a natural sibling under the age of 16 by the same adoptive parents.

b. (U) Availability of Supporting Documents:  For information regarding the availability of documents, see Visa Reciprocity and Country Documents Finder for the country concerned.

c.  (U) Validity of Application and Supporting Documents:

(1)  (U) Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration: 

(a)  (U) In general: Form DS-260, Electronic Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, is valid for one year from the date of the biometric oath. 

(b)  (U) Temporary extension: Effective now through June 30, 2024, the validity of the DS-260 has been extended for individuals who have been interviewed and have sworn to and signed an IV application under oath in person before a consular officer (biometric oath), but whose visas have not been approved within one year of the biometric oath. 

(i)     (U) As the DS-260 oath verification functionality in IVO is designed to enforce an oath renewal after one year, you will need to give a reason for not collecting an e-Signature as part of the oath verification procedure. 

(A)    (U) In the IVO oath window, after clicking "Re-Take Oath," you should check the “other” box in the “Select a reason if not collecting an e-Signature” section.  If the applicant has resubmitted their DS-260, you must enter the following note in the “Oath Remark” box: “Original oath captured on DD-MON-YYYY, re-oath temporarily waived per authorization by VO.” 

(B)    (U) IVO will prompt you to confirm that a physical signature is being collected and scanned into the system.  As an electronic signature was already collected, a physical signature is unnecessary, and you may click "Yes" to allow IVO to proceed.

(C)    (U) If the applicant has a new passport or if there are material changes to the information in the DS-260, the applicant needs to resubmit a Form DS-260 but need not re-appear in person for a new oath because the updated DS-260 is deemed to be part of the continuing IV application under this temporary policy. 

(ii)    (U) You should follow guidance in 9 FAM 504.6-5 to determine if a new fee is required. 

(iii)    (U) You may also take other steps to verify an applicant’s eligibility for a visa, such as requesting additional information or documentation by email or phone.  

(iv)   (U) If the applicant has not resubmitted their DS-260, you must delete the CEAC number from IVO, save the IVO record, and enter the following note in the IVO case notes: “Original oath captured on DD-MON-YYYY, re-oath temporarily waived per authorization by VO. CEAC number XXXXXX.” 

(v)    (U) You may require the applicant to appear for an interview if more information is needed for you to adjudicate the application.  In this case, you should re-capture an expired biometric oath as opposed to waiving it.

(2)  (U) Medical Examination:  The validity of medical examination varies depending on the class condition.  See 9 FAM 302.2-3(C) for medical examination validity periods.  In no instance is the medical examination valid for more than six months.

(3)  (U) Supporting Documents:  Typically, civil documents such as birth, marriage, death, and divorce certificates are not subject to change and do not expire. Police certificates are valid for two years from the date of their issuance.  This includes police certificates from any country visited or inhabited after the previous clearances but does not apply to police certificates from an area to which the applicant has not returned since previous clearances.  You may request updated police certificates if there is a concern that an individual has a more recent police record that should be reviewed.  Any other supporting documents that are subject to change, except for police certificates, are valid for one year.  Documents must be valid on the date of visa issuance.

(4)  (U) Affidavit of Support:  The AOS remains valid indefinitely.  However, because the AOS is based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines in effect when the AOS is submitted, you have the discretion to ask for updated tax information but should only do so if you are concerned the sponsor no longer meets those poverty guidelines.  See also 8 CFR 213a.2(a)(1)(v)(B), 9 FAM 302.8-2 and 9 FAM 601.14.

9 FAM 504.4-4(B)  (U) Police Certificates

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) Police Certificate for Applicants 16 or Older:  An applicant 16 or older must present an original or certified police certificate for:

(1)  (U) Their country of current residence if they have lived in that country at least six months.  

(2)  (U) Their country of nationality, if they have lived in that country at least six months at any time.

(3)  (U) Any countries of previous residence in which they lived for one year or more since attaining the age of 16.  If an applicant has presented a comprehensive police certificate fully meeting the requirements of 22 CFR 42.65(c) from the applicant’s country of principal residence, you need not require a police certificate from other places of former residence, if the applicant presents other satisfactory evidence of good conduct.  For example, it has been held that proof of membership in or affiliation with a reputable religious organization in a religious capacity during periods of foreign residence may be accepted as such evidence. 

b. (U) Police Certificates from Countries Where the Applicant Has Been Arrested or a Police Record May Exist:  Regardless of age, if the applicant has ever been arrested or you have reason to believe that a police or criminal record which would render the applicant ineligible to receive a visa might exist, you must require the applicant to obtain an original or certified police certificate from the relevant country.  If the police certificate is not obtainable from the local authorities, the applicant must present other convincing evidence that they are not ineligible to receive a visa.

c.  Unavailable

d. Unavailable

e. Unavailable

9 FAM 504.4-4(C)  (U) Military Record

(CT:VISA-1753;   04-05-2023)

(U) Military records must contain a complete record of the applicant's service and conduct while in the service.  The record must show any convictions of crime before military tribunals.  See Visa Reciprocity and Country Documents Finder to determine availability of military records.

(1)  (U) Member of Armed Forces Applying Outside Own Country:  In any case involving a member of the armed forces of a foreign country who applies for an IV outside their own country, consider the applicant’s military record unobtainable under 22 CFR 42.65(d) if the applicant’s government refuses to furnish certified copies.

(2)  (U) Member of Armed Forces Applying in Own Country:  When a member of the armed forces of a foreign country applies for an IV in their own country and the government refuses to furnish the applicant's military records, you will defer action on the application in view of the possible foreign relations implications.  Direct an informal inquiry to the local authorities to determine their position.  Depending on the response of the local authorities and actions they may take, you will decide whether to proceed with the consideration of the visa application.  If, within a reasonable time after notification, the local authorities do not take appropriate action to prevent the applicant’s departure, you will proceed with the consideration of the visa application.  However, if political sensitivities become evident, you will consult with individuals at appropriate levels of the consulate or embassy concerning the matter.  Consult the Department as necessary.

9 FAM 504.4-4(D)  (U) Documents Required for Spouse or Children Not Accompanying Principal Applicant

(CT:VISA-1302;   06-16-2021)

(U) In addition to the personal documentation required of an applicant, a principal applicant is also required to submit documentation establishing the relationship between such principal, the spouse, and all children, including those who will not accompany the principal applicant.  If a male principal applicant has an illegitimate offspring who meets the definition of child in INA 101(b)(1)(D) (8 U.S.C. 1101(b)(1)(D)), as amended, require documentation for that child.

9 FAM 504.4-4(E)  (U) Affidavits of Support

(CT:VISA-1753;   04-05-2023)

a. (U) For cases in which INA 213A applies, all applicants must submit a properly completed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, and supporting documents (see 9 FAM 302.8-2 and 9 FAM 601.14).

b. (U) For cases in which INA 213A does not apply (for example, NIVs such as K-1 fiancé(e) visas), applicants may submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, or may submit alternative forms of evidence to overcome the public charge provisions of the law.

9 FAM 504.4-4(F)  (U) Unobtainable/Unreliable Documents

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) Unobtainable Documents:

(1)  (U) If a required document cannot be procured without causing the applicant or a family member actual hardship, other than normal delay or inconvenience, you may consider it unobtainable, and permit the applicant to submit other satisfactory evidence in lieu of such document or record, per 22 CFR 42.65(d). Use this authority sparingly.

(2)  (U) If you find that a required document is unobtainable, you must complete and sign Form FS-0552, Certificate Regarding Documents Required by 22 CFR 42.65(b) Which Are Unobtainable and attach to the Form FS-0552 secondary evidence and/or a certificate from the appropriate authority, if obtainable, showing that in this case the missing document was never properly recorded.

b. (U) Unreliable Documents:  We recognize that some documents may be obtainable, but may also be unreliable either because of local corruption, or the ease with which such documents can be altered or counterfeited.  It is, nevertheless, a legal requirement that the applicant present supporting civil and other documents specified in the application procedures if such documents are available.  In some instances, you might detect an altered document that might trigger a revealing line of inquiry on the applicant's criminal record.  For example, if you find the presentation of a fraudulent document was an effort to conceal a line of inquiry, which might have resulted in a proper denial of the visa, submit an AO.  On the other hand, if you can establish that presentation of the document clearly involved misrepresentation of an independent ground of ineligibility, the application should be immediately refused under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(C)(i)). In this latter case do not submit an AO.

c. (U) Secondary Evidence in Lieu of Supporting Document:  INA 222(b) (8 U.S.C. 1202(b)) lists the documentation that applicants are required to provide.  Documents listed as available in Visa Reciprocity and Country Documents Finder rarely are unobtainable.  If, however, you are satisfied that a document is unobtainable, you must require substitute documentation or secondary evidence.  22 CFR 42.65(d)(2) requires you to affix a signed statement describing in detail the reasons for considering the record or document unobtainable and for accepting the secondary evidence attached to the visa. In these cases, the applicant must submit proof of the unavailability of the missing document; for example, a statement from the local authorities that records for the year in question were destroyed by fire, or proof of the attempts made to obtain the document.  When accepting substitute documentation or secondary evidence, complete Form FS-0552, Certificate Regarding Documents Required by 22 CFR 42.65(b) Which Are Unobtainable, upon which the officer will make the statement required by 22 CFR 42.65(d)(2) and scan the Form FS-0552 into the visa case in the CCD.

9 FAM 504.4-5  (U) Documentarily Complete

9 FAM 504.4-5(A)  (U) Determining Applicant Documentarily Complete

9 FAM 504.4-5(A)(1)  (U) Definition of Documentarily Complete

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) For petitions filed at consular sections abroad, an applicant is documentarily complete after satisfying the two following steps:

(1)  (U) The applicant has returned the optional Form DS-2001, Notification of Applicant Readiness, and declared that they have obtained all the required documents, or has otherwise notified the IV Unit that they are prepared for interview; and

(2)  (U) The IV Unit has completed all required clearance procedures or has reason to believe that they will be completed before a visa number will be available for the applicant.  See 9 FAM 504.4-5(A)(3) below regarding the reporting of documentarily complete applicants.

(3)  (U) When you are notified during the reporting period that an applicant is documentarily complete, update IVO promptly.  See 9 FAM 503.4-3(A).

b. (U) For petitions processed through NVC, in IVIS, the requirements for an applicant to be considered documentarily complete differ between minimally and fully qualified requirements.  See 9 FAM 504.4-5(B)(2) below for more information on minimally and fully qualified post requirements.  Cases processed through NVC via PIVOT must be deemed fully qualified before they can be updated to documentarily complete.

9 FAM 504.4-5(A)(2)  (U) Use of Form DS-2001, Notification of Applicant Readiness, Optional

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) The use of Form DS-2001, Notification of Applicant Readiness, by the applicant is optional:

(1)  (U) This form is provided as a simple way for applicants to communicate with IV units by mail or fax;

(2)  (U) Accept any reasonable notification from the applicant, signed or unsigned, in determining qualification for further processing;

(3)  (U) Electronic means of notification are equally acceptable; and

(4)  (U) Consider cases received from NVC that are not classified as expedited cases to have received notice of the applicant’s readiness.

b. (U) NVC does not collect or use Form DS-2001, Notification of Applicant Readiness, as part of the qualification process.  Refer to 9 FAM 504.4-5(B)(1) below for more information.

9 FAM 504.4-5(A)(3)  (U) When an Applicant Has Required Documents

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) When an applicant notifies you that they are prepared to present the required documents, enter the date into IVO to indicate that the applicant is documentarily complete (see 9 FAM 504.4-5(A)(1) above for discussion of the concept of "documentarily complete").

b. (U) Include the priority dates of all applicants who have become documentarily complete since the previous report in the IV unit's monthly report of documentarily complete demand.  See 9 FAM 504.3-2(A).  This is automatically done when an IV unit generates Report 20, Monthly Report of Documentarily Complete Immigrant Visa Demand, in IVO.

9 FAM 504.4-5(B)  (U) National Visa Center (NVC) Document Review, Support and Scheduling

9 FAM 504.4-5(B)(1)  (U) Pre-Appointment Processing

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) NVC collects and reviews required documents and schedules IV appointments; it will instruct the agent or applicant to submit completed forms after paying the processing fees for visa application.

(1)  (U) This process is called "appointment post processing."

(2)  (U) When the file is complete, using the Enterprise Appointment Management System (EAMS), NVC will schedule an appointment at an IV unit and send the IV appointment letter to every valid email address associated with the case record (physical letters are only sent if a valid email address has not been provided).  NVC will then forward or transfer the physical and/or electronic case file to the IV unit. NVC will work directly with IV units to ensure that their scheduling preferences are implemented.

(3)  (U) NVC performs the appointment post processing for all IV-issuing posts.

b. (U) NVC Will Review the Following Forms (When Applicable) for Each Case File:

(1)  (U) Form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent;

(2)  (U) Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration;

(3)  (U) Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act; and

(4)  (U) Civil documents, financial supporting documents, and police certificates.

c.  (U) Depending on the Visa Category, NVC Will Follow One of Two Possible Paths:

(1)  (U)  Collect photocopied versions of paper documents and forms by mail, including Affidavit of Support forms, which petitioners will still submit to NVC for initial evaluation; or

(2)  (U) Collect Documents and Forms Electronically:

(a)  (U) In electronic (paperless) processing, if USCIS sends the approved paper petition, NVC will digitize the original petition and documentation provided by USCIS.  If USCIS transmits the data from the approved I-130 petition via their ELIS system, PIVOT will ingest the data into PIVOT directly;

(b)  (U) For PIVOT cases, the petitioner and applicant upload digital images of the forms and documents to CEAC;

(c)  (U) NVC will ingest the images provided by the petitioner and applicant to the PIVOT record and review the documentation for accuracy;

(d)  (U) The appointment letter and CEAC upload function contains explicit instructions explaining that the applicant must bring original documents and forms to the visa interview; and

(e)  (U) IV units can download the electronic record into IVO once the case is transferred and have access to the documents at least 30 days before the interview appointment is scheduled.

9 FAM 504.4-5(B)(2)  (U) Incomplete Cases or Cases Lacking Documentation

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) If the case file is incomplete or lacks proper documentation, for IVIS cases, NVC will send a checklist to the applicant, petitioner, and/or agent indicating what changes are needed.  For PIVOT cases, a CEAC message will be posted with instruction on what changes are needed.  They will be told to return the required information to NVC.  If the petitioner or agent does not return the documents or maintain contact with NVC within one year and a visa is available, NVC will initiate the administrative process to begin case termination.

b. (U) For minimally qualified IVIS cases containing at least the four items below, after two reviews by NVC, the files will be scheduled for an interview, even if it still contains errors or omissions, if, at a minimum:

(1)  (U) All required fees are paid;

(2)  (U) The petitioner has submitted a signed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act;

(3)  (U) All traveling applicants have completed Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration; and

(4)  (U) All required police certificates have been provided.

c.  (U) If Form I-864 is free of critical errors but the IVIS case lacks supporting financial documentation, NVC will send an Assessment Letter to the petitioner or agent with a list of missing items, instructing the visa applicant to present the required information to the consular officer during the visa interview.  The Assessment Letter is included in the case file for your information for IVIS cases.

d. (U) Under specific circumstances approved by VO for some IVIS cases and for all PIVOT cases, NVC will not schedule a visa interview until all requested documentation has been provided.  NVC refers to this as the Fully Qualified process.

e. (U) A case that is required to be Fully Qualified will be reviewed for the following:

(1)  (U) All required fees are paid;

(2)  (U) All AOS forms are submitted and void of critical errors;

(3)  (U) All IV application forms are received and void of critical errors;

(4)  (U) All civil documents are received and meet the guidelines in the Visa Reciprocity and Country Documents Finder;

(5)  (U) Any required supporting financial evidence from all sponsors is received. (NVC will send an assessment letter for IVIS cases if all other requirements are met); and

(6)  (U) The only exception to these rules is if an applicant informs NVC they cannot obtain certain civil documents.

f.  (U) For cases that are required to be Fully Qualified, there is no limit to the number of requests for information that are sent.  NVC will continue to send requests for information until all necessary fees, forms, and documents are received and accurate.  If the petitioner or agent does not return the documents within one year and a visa is available, NVC will initiate the administrative process to begin case termination.

9 FAM 504.4-5(C)  (U) Post Document Review, Support, and Scheduling

9 FAM 504.4-5(C)(1)  (U) Need for Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) Standard Procedures and Forms Have Been Developed and Installed in All IV units to:

(1)  (U) Ensure uniformity in explaining the requirements of the law to visa applicants;

(2)  (U) Reduce individual correspondence and possible misunderstandings arising therefrom; and

(3)  (U) Eliminate needless files and record-keeping by requiring applicants to retain their personal documents until the final step in the processing of the case is reached.

b. (U) Document Review Systems Ask Applicants to Obtain Documents Required for IV Interview and Then Submit Them by Upload, Mail, Courier, or Drop Box for IV units to Review:

(1)  (U) If possible, applicants should not appear in person with these documents until scheduled for interview; and

(2)  (U) Under such a procedure, applicants are "documentarily complete" only when they have demonstrated that they have in their possession all the documents required.

c.  (U) It is important in such a prescreening procedure that detailed SOP provide guidance to LE Staff screeners to limit misunderstandings and accusations of impropriety. Specifically, the SOP must provide:

(1)  (U) Written standards for documents submitted;

(2)  (U) Escalation procedures in cases when, despite repeated appearances at the consular section, the applicant remains unprepared;

(3)  (U) Procedures for handling multiple secondary documents submitted in lieu of requested primary documents;

(4)  (U) Procedures for documenting contacts with applicants or their agents as the documents are submitted and reviewed.  Notes recording these contacts should be concise but complete and should utilize the comments feature in the IVO system; and

(5)  (U) Provisions for regular officer oversight of the process, including regular detailed audits of individual cases and questions to applicants during the interview concerning their experience with the prescreening process.

9 FAM 504.4-5(C)(2)  (U) Flexibility in Determining Whether Applicant Is Documentarily Qualified/Complete

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) Means of Establishing Whether Applicant Is "Documentarily Qualified/Complete" for Cases Where Petitions Were Filed at a Consular Section Abroad:  The concept of documentarily complete is important in IV processing, particularly in numerically controlled visa categories.  Documentarily complete means that the applicant has returned Form DS-2001, Notification of Applicant Readiness, or has otherwise informed the IV unit or NVC that all required documents have been obtained, and that all clearance procedures have been completed.  Different operating environments may call for flexibility in processes used to determine whether an applicant meets this standard, but any process used to determine that an applicant is documentarily complete must:

(1)  (U) Be used consistently throughout the IV processing district;

(2)  (U) Have the prior approval of VO if prescreening procedures will be used; and

(3)  (U) Be rigorously monitored for compliance with the goals of fairness, efficiency, and adequate internal controls.

b. (U) Individual Declaration Versus Prescreening for Cases Where Petitions Were Filed at the Consular Section:

(1) (U) In many countries, you may determine that self-attestation by visa applicants is adequate evidence of being documentarily complete for cases where the petitions were filed at your consular section.  In those cases, the applicant may declare that they are documentarily complete and prepared for interview simply by returning the DS-2001 or otherwise formally notifying the IV unit.  When you are notified during the reporting period that an applicant is documentarily complete, update IVO promptly. 

(2) (U) In other countries, you may determine that a prescreening mechanism of some sort is appropriate to verify that an applicant is documentarily complete.  In considering the implementation of a prescreening mechanism, consular managers should address the following questions:

(a)  (U) How high is the overall INA 221(g) refusal rate in IV processing?  To what extent could this rate be reduced by more rigorous prior review of the documents submitted in connection with the application to ensure that the applicant really is "documentarily complete"?

(b)  (U) Will implementation of a prescreening mechanism reduce the number of times the applicants enter the consular section, thus improving both customer service and security?

(c)  (U) Prescreening will add time at the beginning of the IV process before formal application and interview.  How does the length of this additional prescreening time compare to the average amount of time and effort expended to resolve INA 221(g) and other refusals?  The fact that prescreening takes more time than resolving a refusal is not necessarily an argument against implementing this type of strategy.  Added time taken up with mailing documents back and forth is arguably less burdensome on both the IV unit and the applicant than time spent waiting in line and in waiting rooms, often in a city other than the place of normal residence.

(d)  (U) If you have processing backlogs, does time spent processing unqualified applicants delay processing for qualified cases?

(e)  (U) At lower volume IV units, does the small number of cases makes it difficult to realize economies of scale?  Would pre-screening streamline the process?

(f)   (U) In the IV process, the burden of preparing for interview rests primarily upon the applicant.  Would a prescreening process ensure that the IV unit does not do work on behalf of the applicant?

(g)  (U) What is the real cost to the U.S. Government of any additional screening process?

c.  (U) Prescreening Strategies:

(1)  (U) When IV prescreening appears justified, you should employ mechanisms such as:

(a)  (U) Document review and interview scheduling by NVC; or

(b)  (U) Document review by the IV unit before interview.

(2)  (U) Regardless of how you choose to prescreen IV cases, you must coordinate prescreening programs with VO and should not begin without prior authorization:

(a)  (U) Among other things, CA/VO will require a written Standard Operating Procedure with details on internal controls and exceptions handling and the opportunity to review any new forms or information sheets that you plan to utilize; and

(b)  (U) Bear in mind regulations concerning use and approval of nonstandard forms as described in 9 FAM 504.4-3(A)(2) above.

9 FAM 504.4-6  (U) Scheduling Appointments

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) NVC schedules the non-DV IV appointments for all consular sections worldwide in EAMS.  Upon visa availability, NVC generally schedules appointments in the chronological order of the documentarily complete applicants.  IV Units generally provide NVC with their appointment capacity and the percentage of applicants desired for Immediate Relative, Preference categories, FSC, visa class, system source (IVIS or PIVOT), and language.  You and NVC may take other considerations, such as possible mailing delays or travel time by applicants to post, into consideration in scheduling appointments.  Once NVC completes the scheduling, you will receive visa numbers for the numerically controlled IV applicants from CA/VO/DO/I.  NVC will send the case files and/or electronic records to the IV Unit.  You should ensure that these items are properly recorded in IVO.

b. (U) Appointment for Beneficiary Not Subject to Numerical Limitations:  When NVC or the IV unit schedules an appointment date for a beneficiary not subject to numerical limitations, the IV unit should enter the appointment date into IVO.  NVC will send case files and/or electronic records for appointments scheduled through NVC.

c. (U) Appointment Letters:  NVC will send all Appointment Notifications for cases scheduled through NVC.  IV Units will use IVO to send any appointment letters scheduled at post.

9 FAM 504.4-7  (U) Medical Examinations

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) INA 221(d) (8 U.S.C. 1201(d)) requires all applicants applying for IVs to undergo a physical and mental examination.  The results of this statutorily required medical examination are used to determine the applicant’s eligibility for such a visa.  The medical finding by the panel physician or the CDC, if referred to that agency, is binding on you.  See 9 FAM 302.2.

b. (U) The medical examination must be conducted by a panel physician who has been designated by the visa-issuing post to conduct medical examinations of applicants in the consular district in which the applicant applies for a visa.  Visa-issuing posts may accept medical examinations from other consular districts in limited circumstances involving transfer cases or with the agreement of CA/VO/F when other extenuating circumstances exist.  In situations where a case has been transferred from one consular section to another in a different consular district, the receiving IV Unit may accept still valid medical examinations conducted in the sending post’s district, however, the medical exam must have been conducted before the case was transferred.  The sending post must scan the medical exam into the electronic case file in the IV system as well as ship the original to the receiving IV unit with the rest of the paper file.  If you believe other extenuating circumstances exist which would justify accepting a medical examination from another consular district, you should contact your CA/VO/F liaison for guidance.

c.  (U) Visa medical examinations may not be conducted in the United States.  Inform an applicant pursuing a visa application abroad, while physically present in the United States, that the medical examination must be conducted by a panel physician who has been designated by the visa-issuing post to conduct medical examination of applicants in the consular district in which the applicant applies for a visa.

9 FAM 504.4-8  (U) Place of Application

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) IV Applications:  Section 222(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that every individual “applying for an immigrant visa . . . shall make application therefor . . . at such place as shall be by regulations prescribed.”  The Department at 22 CFR 42.61 has prescribed regulations that govern the place of application for immigrant visa applicants as described below.  

b. (U) Distinct from IV Petitions:  The guidance here addresses only the place of IV application.  Different rules govern consular jurisdiction to accept and adjudicate certain “clearly approvable” IV petitions in accordance with DHS-delegated authority.  See 9 FAM 504.2-4(B).

c.  (U) IV and Diversity Visa Cases:  For IV and diversity visa (DV) cases, you may accept jurisdiction for processing a DV case if the applicant meets the residency requirements or is physically present in your district and likely to remain in country for the time it normally takes to complete processing of the DV. Post has discretion to accept or refuse requests of persons neither resident nor present in the consular district in accordance with the hardship factors at 9 FAM 504.4-8 (D).

d. (U) Summary of IV and DV Acceptance for Processing:


Consular Section Must Accept for Processing

Consular Section May Accept for Processing

Applicant is Resident in district


(see 9 FAM 504.4-8(B))


Applicant is physically present in district, and you conclude the applicant is able to remain for the time required for processing.


(see 9 FAM 504.4-8(C)a.)








Applicant is neither resident nor present.


(if the Department directs acceptance)


(Absent a direction by the Department to accept the case, consider 9 FAM 504.4-8(D) factors)

Applicant is resident in U.S., but consular district is last foreign residence.


(see 9 FAM 504.4-8(B)a.)





Department directs acceptance (e.g., via assignment or reassignment by NVC or KCC, or via post designation for homeless nationalities).



(see 9 FAM 504.4-8(B)b.-c.; 9 FAM 504.4-8(E); 9 FAM 504.4-9c.-d.)



9 FAM 504.4-8(A)  (U) Determining Place of Application by Residence, Not Country of Nationality

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) Background:  Department regulations designate the applicant’s residence as the determining factor for the place of application under normal circumstances.  This is based on the view that a consular officer assigned to the country of the applicant’s residence is in the best position to resolve questions relating to visa eligibility.  It is easier for an officer familiar with the culture, language, and legal and political framework of the country in which the applicant lives to interpret local documents and evaluate claims made by the applicant.  A fraudulent claim or document that might quickly be spotted in the country of the applicant’s residence could go undetected at an IV unit in another part of the world.  An applicant fearing visa refusal may wish to apply away from home to keep possible grounds of ineligibility from being discovered.  Accordingly, officers should refer to the guidelines in the following notes when dealing with the case of any immigrant wishing to pursue an application outside the applicant’s place of residence.

b. (U) Defining Residence:  INA 101(a)(33) states, in part: The term residence means the place of general abode; the place of general abode of a person means their principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent. If an applicant can show that their principal dwelling place is or was in a specified country, the fact that the applicant does/did not have, or intend to have, the status of an LPR or any other legal status in that country is not relevant.

9 FAM 504.4-8(B)  (U) Usual Place of Application

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) As a general rule, IV and Diversity Visa applicants should apply for a visa in the consular district where they are resident and an applicant in the United States should apply for a visa at the post in the consular district of the applicant’s last foreign residence.  Unless the Department directs otherwise, post is required to accept the case for processing.

b. (U) Alternatively, unless the Department directs otherwise, applicants may make their visa application in the consular section having jurisdiction over their place of physical presence, if the applicant can establish that they will be able to remain in the area for the period required to process the application.  See 9 FAM 504.4-8(C) paragraph a.

c. (U) You must also accept, when so directed by the Department, an IV application from any applicant, including a Diversity Visa applicant, regardless of the applicant’s current residence, physical presence or last residence abroad.

d. (U) The assignment of an IV petition to a consular section by the National Visa Center (NVC) or a diversity visa application by the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) in the United States will constitute such a direction by the Department.

9 FAM 504.4-8(C)  (U) Third Country Processing for Applicants Abroad

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) Application of Nonresident Applicant Physically Present in District: Department regulations provide that, unless otherwise directed by the Department, a consular section must accept an application from an IV or DV applicant physically present in the consular district even though not a resident in that district, provided the applicant  can establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer, that they will be able to remain in the consular district for the time it normally takes to process an application.  The time it normally takes to process an application should not include the potential time it might take for administrative processing, as an applicant may choose to depart the country while such processing is pending.  In assessing the applicant’s ability to remain in the consular district, the consular section may take into consideration the applicant’s ability to do so legally and in accordance with the requirements of the host country, among other relevant factors.  The applicant’s prospective ability to obtain a visa to apply for admission to the country where the consular district is located does not qualify an applicant as being “physically present” in the consular district, but if you are satisfied that the applicant will be physically present by the time of application, you are permitted to accept the transfer ahead of the applicant's relocation to permit case preparation and reduce logistical delays upon the applicant's arrival.

b. (U) Application in Third Country by Applicants Abroad:  An applicant from a country where IVs are routinely processed should not normally be allowed to apply for an IV in a third country unless physically present there.

(1)  (U) IVs:  Should you wish to accept such a case in exceptional circumstances, you must first obtain Department (CA/VO/F) approval by email, making sure to include the post of primary jurisdiction.

(2)  (U) DVs: Posts that receive a transfer request from a scheduled DV applicant neither resident nor physically present in post’s consular district have discretion to accept or refuse the request in accordance with 9 FAM 504.4-8(D).  Should a post wish to accept the transfer request of an applicant whose case has already been scheduled at another location, a post-to-post transfer can be initiated in accordance with 9 FAM 504.4-9.  If an unscheduled DV applicant sends a request to post, post should direct applicants to KCCDV@state.gov.  Applicants should follow any instructions provided by KCC, which generally require that applicants include their case number, full name, and date of birth with their request, along with the address in the new consular district where the applicant is or will be resident or physically present and able to remain for the period required to process the application.  

c. (U) Possible Delays in Processing Out-Of-District Applications: IV units must exercise particular care to ensure that documentation and other elements of an out-of-district application are in order.  It may be necessary to consult with the post of primary jurisdiction for background information or document verification.  This may cause delays, possibly after the formal visa interview has taken place.  The applicant should be informed of this possibility when the case is accepted for processing.

d. (U) Residence of Applicant with No Fixed Address:  According to 22 CFR 42.61 (see 9 FAM 504.4-1 above), the residence of an applicant with no fixed address, such as a member of a crew, may be determined as follows:

(1)  (U) The residence of the applicant’s spouse and/or children, if any, can be applied to the applicant;

(2)  (U) If paragraph (1) above does not apply, the home port of a vessel may be used, or the location of the company employing the beneficiary; or

(3)  (U) If neither of the above paragraphs applies, the country in which the applicant has resided the longest as an adult or the country of the applicant’s nationality applies.

e. (U) Spouses with Different Residences:  Although it is preferable for the couple to apply where the principal applicant resides, the residence of the other spouse may be used if more convenient for both spouses.

f.  (U) Petitions Received for Applicants Outside Consular District:

(1)  (U) If you receive a petition for a beneficiary not residing in your consular district and you choose not to process the application under your discretionary authority (see paragraph b above), you have two options:

(a)  (U) Transfer the petition to the IV unit having jurisdiction, usually the applicant’s last place of residence abroad (see 9 FAM 504.4-9, paragraph below); or

(b)  (U) Keep the petition, if the city or country having jurisdiction is not designated to handle IV applications.  The IV unit should not return IV petitions to DHS.

(2)  (U) Notifying Beneficiary:  Notify the beneficiary of the receipt and disposition of the petition.  See 9 FAM 504.4-2(B) above.  Should you retain the petition, you must make clear to the applicant that the petition will be kept on file until another IV unit accepts the transfer.

(3)  (U) Locating an IV Unit to Accept Jurisdiction:  Make it clear that it is the applicant’s responsibility to locate an IV unit willing to accept the case and to ask the receiving IV unit to request transfer of the petition on their behalf.  (For further instructions regarding transferring files, see 9 FAM 504.4-9 below.)

9 FAM 504.4-8(D)  (U) Discretionary Cases for Hardship Reasons

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) The Department Strongly Encourages IV Units to Consider Discretionary Acceptance of the Case of a Beneficiary Residing in the United States if:

(1)  (U) The beneficiary demonstrates that it would be a hardship if they were required to return to the country of last foreign residence; and

(2)  (U) The additional workload is acceptable.

b. (U) IV Units Encouraged to Accept Cases Clearly Involving Hardship: The Department urges IV units to accept legitimate hardship cases (see paragraphs c and d below) when the workload permits.  The Department also encourages IV units to be flexible in accepting cases which guidance below indicates should ordinarily be processed at another post in the same country.

c. (U) Determining Hardship:

(1)  (U) A wish to not return to the place of last foreign residence only because of inconvenience or expense does not usually support a claim of hardship.

(2)  (U) A brief absence from work is not generally a hardship.

(3)  (U) Inability of a beneficiary to travel long distances because of physical infirmity or advanced age would be considered a hardship.

(4)  (U) The presence of war, widespread civil disturbance, revolution, or other similar events in a beneficiary’s country of last foreign residence would be evidence that it would be a hardship if the beneficiary were required to return to that country.  If the post is inclined to accept a case but has doubts about the beneficiary’s claim regarding a disturbance of some kind in the beneficiary’s last country of residence, the Department’s advice may be sought by contacting CA/VO/F.

(5)  (U) The lack of a visa-issuing post in the beneficiary’s home country would generally mean the applicant has entailed hardship, in cases where no alternative processing post has been designated by the Department.

d. (U) Department and IV Unit of Jurisdiction Informed When Discretionary Case Accepted:  An IV unit accepting a discretionary case must inform both the CA/VO/F and the IV unit with jurisdiction over the beneficiary’s place of residence.  Reports of acceptance must be made in each individual case, except when the beneficiary is a member of a group or class of beneficiaries routinely accepted by the IV unit and the Department has already been informed of the policy, or when a group or class of beneficiaries has been the subject of instructions from the Department.

9 FAM 504.4-8(E)  (U) Homeless Cases

9 FAM 504.4-8(E)(1)  (U) Definition of Homeless Cases

(CT:VISA-1865;   11-16-2023)

a. (U) Generally, a homeless visa applicant is one who is a national of a country in which the United States has no consular representation or in which the political or security situation is tenuous or uncertain enough that the limited consular staff is not authorized to process IV applications.  Countries whose nationals are homeless are listed in paragraph b below.

b. (U) List of Homeless Nationalities:




Addis Ababa and Nairobi


Abu Dhabi, Ankara, and Yerevan







South Sudanese





Amman, Beirut (For Palestinians with Syrian Travel Documents)


Frankfurt, Warsaw





9 FAM 504.4-8(E)(2)  (U) Location of Homeless Applicant

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) Homeless Physically Present in the United States:  Most applicants residing in valid status in the United States may elect to apply for adjustment of status with DHS under the provisions of INA 245, and thus rarely require visa processing abroad.

b. (U) Homeless Physically Present in a Third Country:  Homeless applicants residing in a third country are processed by the IV unit that ordinarily covers applicants in that country.  IV units must accept applications from any IV applicant who is physically present in their consular district, if the applicant has the permission of the host government to remain there legally for a period sufficient to complete processing of the application.  This does not include persons who have been determined not to be refugees, and who are subject to return to their country of origin.

c. (U) Homeless Physically Present in Home Country:  VO has designated specific posts to process IV applications from these homeless applicants.  See 9 FAM 504.4-8(E)(1) above for a list of nationalities considered homeless and the posts selected to process such cases.

9 FAM 504.4-8(E)(3)  (U) Processing Homeless Cases

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) The National Visa Center (NVC) will screen and assign all petitions for homeless beneficiaries to the appropriate IV Unit for processing.  The original post code will be maintained in instances where that benefits operations at NVC and post.

b. (U) Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) processes homeless Diversity Visa cases and assigns them to the same designated posts.  If a designation has not been made for a country without consular services, those cases will remain assigned to the original post but will be approved for reassignment to an operational DV-processing post on request from the applicant or the receiving post.

9 FAM 504.4-9  (U) Transferring Files

(CT:VISA-1984;   05-08-2024)

a. (U) Locating IV Unit to Accept Jurisdiction:  Make it clear that it is the applicant’s responsibility to locate an IV unit willing to accept the case and to ask the receiving IV Unit to request transfer of the petition/DV case on their behalf.

b. (U) Request to Receiving IV Unit:  The IV/DV applicant (beneficiary) must request in writing that the intended receiving IV unit accept the case.  There is no prescribed form or format for such a request, and the applicant may make the request by letter, e-mail, or other written or electronic formats as the IV unit allows.  The applicant must send the request, along with a justification for the request, to the intended receiving IV unit.

c.  (U) Role of the National Visa Center (NVC) in Post Assignment and Request to Change Post:

(1)  (U) Upon receipt of petitions from USCIS, NVC will assign the post code based on the applicant’s current country of residence.  If the applicant lives in the United States, the IV unit assigned is based on the applicant’s place of last foreign residence.  If there is insufficient information to determine a post, the applicant will be assigned based on their country of nationality.

(2)  (U) NVC often receives requests from applicants to change their processing post while their petitions are already in process at NVC.  If NVC receives such a request, NVC attempts to collect proof of residency as well as an address in the new country requested.  If the current or prior residency of an applicant remains in question, NVC will request IV unit concurrence before reassigning a case.

(3)  (U) Some IV units require specific eligibility documentation to allow applicants to process at their post.  The IV unit will send exemplars of acceptable documents to show proof of residency to NVC (scanned images (exemplars) that are used as reference tools at NVC).  NVC will collect the appropriate documentation from applicants before scheduling interviews for IV units.

d. (U) Role of the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) in Post Assignment and Request to Change Post:

(1)  (U) Upon the ingest of the selected entries from CST, KCC will assign the post code based on the applicant’s current country of residence.  Applicants living in the United States can choose USCIS as their processing location and will be designated for an adjustment of status instead of visa processing at a post.

(2) Unavailable

e. (U) Action by Receiving IV Unit:  Upon receiving the applicant's request for a transfer of the case, you must decide whether you will (or must) accept the case for processing.  See 9 FAM 504.4-8 and chart above for information concerning place of application. 

f. (U) Record of Transfer by Transferring IV Unit:  Once the receiving IV unit informs you that it will accept the transfer, you must prepare a record of the transfer of a pending or refused visa case by making the appropriate entry in IVO.  Both offices must transfer electronic cases using the procedures provided in the automated IV processing system (IVO).  In no case should a paper file be transferred without first following proper procedures in the automated system.