9 FAM 504
(U) Immigrant visa process overview
(Office of Origin: CA/VO)
9 FAM 504.1-1 (U) statutory and regulatory Authorities
9 FAM 504.1-1(A) (U) Immigration and Nationality Act
(U) INA 101(a)(16) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(16)); INA 201 (8 U.S.C. 1151); 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 203(g) (8 U.S.C. 1153(g)); INA 204 (8 U.S.C. 1154); INA 221(a) (8 U.S.C. 1201(a)); INA 221(g) (8 U.S.C. 1201(g)); INA 222(a) (8 U.S.C. 1202(a)); INA 222(b) (8 U.S.C. 1202(b)); INA 222(e) (8 U.S.C. 1202(e)); INA 224 (8 U.S.C. 1204).
9 FAM 504.1-1(B) (U) Code of Federal Regulations
(U) 22 CFR 40.6; 22 CFR 42.41; 22 CFR 42.51; 22 CFR 42.52; 22 CFR 42.55; 22 CFR 42.62; 22 CFR 42.63; 22 CFR 42.65; 22 CFR 42.67; 22 CFR 42.81.
9 FAM 504.1-2 (U) Pre-application Processing
a. (U) Sending Instruction Package:
(1) (U) NVC: Upon receipt of an approved petition granting a beneficiary immediate relative or preference status, the National Visa Center (NVC) must 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 them what steps, if any, to take in applying for a visa. See 9 FAM 504.4-2(A).
(2) (U) For Petitions Filed at Post: You must send the instruction package for IV applicants immediately to applicants who have provided evidence of entitlement to immigrant classification. You should also 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 the NVC, the visa section, or their agent.
b. (U) Documentarily Complete: Once the beneficiary of an approved petition is documentarily complete, an IV number can be allotted (if necessary) and an appointment scheduled.
(1) (U) For petitions filed at post, an applicant is documentarily complete after completing the two following steps:
(a) (U) The beneficiary 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 consular section that they are prepared for interview (see 9 FAM 504.4-5(A)(2) regarding the optional use of Form DS-2001); and
(b) (U) The consular section 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 regarding the reporting of documentarily complete applicants.
(2) (U) For petitions processed through NVC, an applicant is documentarily complete after completing the four following steps:
(a) (U) Paid all required fees;
(b) (U) Completed Form DS-260, Online Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, for each traveling applicant;
(c) (U) Completed and returned a properly completed Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act, and supporting documents (see 9 FAM 601.14) for cases in which INA 212(a)(4) applies; and
(d) (U) Presented all required police certificates for each traveling applicant as required by 22 CFR 42.65(c) or available based on the reciprocity table (see 9 FAM 504.4-4(B)).
c. (U) IV Numbers: The documentarily complete figures submitted monthly (see 9 FAM 601.4-5) provide the Department the known total (by priority date, chargeability, classification, and post) of visa applicants who are awaiting only visa numbers to apply formally for a visa. After collation of these data, the Department makes monthly allotments to the extent available visa numbers permit. See 9 FAM 503.4. If demand exceeds the supply of available numbers, the priority date of the first applicant for whom a number is not available becomes the issuance final action date for the categories and foreign states concerned. The documentarily complete totals are used for setting the final action dates. It is therefore essential that the following general guidelines set forth in 9 FAM 504.3-2(A) be strictly observed in preparing the monthly reports of documentarily complete applicants.
d. (U) Scheduling Appointments:
(1) (U) NVC provides the IV (non-DV) scheduling functions for most consular sections. Appointments are generally scheduled in the chronological order of the documentarily complete applicants. Consular sections provide NVC with their appointment capacity and the percentage of cases/applicants they want for Immediate Relative and Preference categories. Other issues, such as possible mailing delays or travel time by applicants to post, may be taken into consideration in scheduling appointments. Once the scheduling is completed by NVC, the visa section will receive visa numbers for the numerically controlled IV applicants from CA/VO/DO/I. The case files and electronic data will be received from NVC. When visa numbers and the electronic data files are received, you should ensure that these items are properly recorded in the automated IV processing system (IVO). NVC will send all appointment letters for cases scheduled through NVC. You will use IVO to send any appointment letters scheduled by you.
(2) (U) An appointment for a beneficiary not subject to numerical limitations may be scheduled by either NVC or the consular section. If you are scheduling the appointment, you should enter the appointment date into IVO. If the appointment is scheduled through NVC, the case files and electronic data will be forwarded by them.
9 FAM 504.1-3 (U) IV Application Processing
a. (U) Definition of "making an immigrant visa application": For an IV applicant, "making a visa application" requires the applicant to:
(1) (U) Pay the prescribed application fee;
(2) (U) Appear in person and submit a completed Form DS-260 for formal adjudication by you, except:
(a) (U) You may waive the appearance of a child under the age of 14 who is not the principal applicant, and
(b) (U) You may waive the appearance of certain replacement IV applicants issued on or after August 4, 2019, so long as they are seeking and qualify for an IV in the same classification and pursuant to the same approved petition as the previously granted IV or are seeking and qualify for an IV in a classification which was automatically converted due to the death or naturalization of the petitioner of the previously-granted IV, and have no changed circumstances that could affect the applicant's eligibility for the visa. This waiver authority is effective through December 13, 2023.
(c) (U) Individuals whose appearance is waived must still submit a completed Form DS-260 for formal adjudication by you;
(3) (U) Affirm that all information on the DS-260 and all statements made during the interview are true, subject to 18 U.S.C. 1001, which provides a penalty for making a false statement or using a false document in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the U.S. government; and
(4) (U) Biometrically sign their application under oath by providing a fingerprint unless the personal appearance is waived (see 9 FAM 504.1-3 paragraph a(2) above). An application by an applicant under the age of 14 or one who is physically incapable of completing an application must be biometrically signed under oath by the applicant's parent or guardian, or if there is no parent or guardian, by any person with legal custody of, or a legitimate interest in the applicant.
b. (U) Before Appointment:
(1) (U) An applicant who arrives on time for their scheduled interview is entitled to receive prompt attention. Consular staff should pull and review the appointment list and case files before the appointment date.
(2) (U) Consular staff must send unclassified material to the document checker for review. You must review classified material.
c. (U) Document Checking: When the applicant presents the documents, the consular staff must check the documents for completeness and legibility. The document checker should ensure each question on Form DS-260 has been answered. They should use the “Add Remarks” function associated with a section of the application that needs correction or amplification. If Form DS-260 is incomplete, the document checker must reopen the application via the “Reopen DS-260” button at the top of the online IV application report and direct the applicant to log back onto the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC), complete the missing information, and resubmit the Form DS-260.
d. (U) Verification of Documents by Consular Officer:
(1) (U) When an applicant presents a photocopy of any of the required documents listed under 22 CFR 42.65(b), it is important that the original document be inspected by consular staff. After inspection, they must endorse the paper copy with a rubber stamp that imprints the name of the post and the fact that the original has been seen and compared. For copies of these required documents that have been uploaded electronically into a consular system, the staff will either click the 'Original Seen and Compared' button in eDP or make a case note in the CCD that indicates the original has been seen and compared to the scanned copy in eDP Web Post. This procedure does not constitute a certification within the meaning of Item 47 of the Tariff of Fees, since neither the full signature of a consular officer nor the official seal of the post is used or required. This service is performed without fee, whether on public documents required under INA 222(b) or on documents submitted in support of Form ETA-9089, Application for Permanent Employment Certification.
(2) (U) You may accept a certified document that is not identical to a required scanned document in eDP Web Post if the information contained in the certified document is taken from the same legal source as the scanned document (i.e., the appropriate civil registry or other host nation government office responsible for issuing such documents) and there are no fraud concerns for either document. You should enter the case note “certified copy seen and compared” to indicate that a certified copy of the required document has been seen and compared to the scanned document. The scanned document in eDP will be the document of record for the applicant’s A-file. You do not need to scan the document physically presented at the window into the system.
(a) (U) For example: a beneficiary’s true original birth certificate is in the possession of the petitioner in the United States who uploads an electronic copy into eDP through the CEAC portal. To prepare for their interview, the beneficiary obtains a new certified birth certificate. Even though the document may be different from the original in terms of physical appearance or serial number, the substantive information presented on the document remains the same, and it was issued by the appropriate host nation government office. In this instance, barring any unresolved fraud concerns, you would enter the case note “certified copy seen and compared” to indicate that a certified copy of the required document has been seen and compared to the scanned document, and continue processing the case. You should not check the “seen and compared” button in MIV, nor is staff required to rescan the document presented at the interview if the document in eDP is an accurate and attributable document sufficient for the applicant’s A-file.
(b) (U) VO acknowledges consular sections operate in different fraud environments. You should use resources as appropriate to establish that the documents submitted electronically or in person are, in fact, non-fraudulent documents issued by the appropriate governmental authority and are attributable to the applicant.
(3) (U) The DHS procedures differ from those described in the above paragraph in that DHS does not routinely require the submission of original documents or certified copies with the filing of petitions. So, you must ensure that photocopies of required documents (birth certificate, marriage, and divorce certificates) submitted in support of petitions are compared with original documents at the interview. Original documents connected with petition filing, but not required for IV issuance, should not be routinely required unless there is reason to doubt their authenticity. However, you may require submission of any original document to compare it with a photocopy upon which a petition was approved.
e. (U) Collecting Fees:
(1) (U) A single fee is charged combining the costs of processing and issuance of the IV. An individual registered for IV processing at a post designated for this purpose by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services must pay the processing fee. The fee must be paid when the individual is notified that a visa is expected to become available soon and they are requested to obtain the supporting documentation needed to apply formally for a visa.
(2) (U) NVC Collection of IV Fees: Most cases are processed through the NVC, and the processing fee will have already been collected in the United States before the case was forwarded to post. The NVC's Post Supplement Report, included in the file of IVIS cases scheduled by the NVC, will indicate whether the fee has been paid. If the Post Supplement Report is unavailable, you can determine if the fee has been paid using the IVIS Beneficiary Report in the CCD. You can also review the fee payment details for PIVOT cases in the IVO case notes once loaded into the system. If there are any questions about whether a fee was paid while a case was at the NVC, you should email NVCPost@state.gov.
(3) (U) Paying Processing Fee at Post: For cases processed through the NVC, this fee will normally be collected during initial processing by NVC. Consular sections will collect the visa processing fee only for those cases in which the petition is filed at post or in which the visa file otherwise indicates that the fee has not yet been collected. In cases where the applicant has completed and submitted Form DS-260, once the medical forms and other documents have been placed in logical order or are uploaded and accessible in eDP Web Post, the applicant must proceed to the cashier and pay the processing fee. The applicant must pay before the interview. In situations described in 9 FAM 504.6-5(B), the cashier must not collect a new processing fee. After the fee has been paid, the document checker must give the completed file to you to interview the applicant. The document checker should not print out the online IV application report associated with the submitted Form DS-260 or any other documents accessible in eDP.
f. (U) Interview: Decisions to issue or refuse an IV application must be based on a personal interview, during which you must ensure that all required documentation has been provided, that there is a legal basis for the applicant to immigrate, and that there are no ineligibilities that would affect visa issuance.
(1) (U) You must make every effort to conduct visa interviews fairly and professionally. Any semblance of aggressive cross-examination, assumption of bad faith, or entrapment must be avoided. Applicants should be given sufficient time to answer questions without interruption. In cases where the determinations are difficult to make or which are or may become the subject of controversy, you must make a thorough and carefully written record of the interview so that the basis for the final action can be fully documented. See 9 FAM 504.11.
(2) (U) Interviewing visa applicants is one of your most demanding jobs, requiring composure, judgment, and diplomatic skills. Techniques for good interviewing, including the critical skill of how to ask the right questions, deserve careful attention. Training materials on effective interviewing and fraud interviews are available through the Fraud Prevention Program’s Consular Affairs Web page.
g. (U) Adjudications: Once an application has been executed, you must either issue the visa or refuse it. You cannot temporarily refuse, suspend, or hold the visa for future action. If you refuse the visa, you must inform the applicant of the provisions of law on which the refusal is based, and of any statutory provision under which administrative relief is available. See 9 FAM 504.11 for the refusal procedure and 9 FAM 305.2 for waiver relief.
h. (U) Issuances: The machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV) is printed on the same adhesive foils used for NIVs and includes the following information:
(1) (U) Biographic data about the IV applicant;
(2) (U) Information about the IV itself (issuing post, visa type, case number, date of issuance and date of expiration);
(3) (U) The registration number (A-number) assigned to the immigrant;
(4) (U) Any annotations entered to reflect waivers or other information useful for POE upon the applicant's admission to the United States;
(5) (U) A digitized photo of the visa recipient; and
(6) (U) Two lines of machine-readable data which will be scanned by the immigration officer at the POE.
i. (U) Refusals:
(1) (U) There are no exceptions to the rule that once a visa application has been properly completed and executed before a consular officer, a visa must be either issued or refused. For statistical and comparison purposes, all visa sections should follow the identical refusal procedures and report refusals the same way in their required reports of visas issued and refused. See 9 FAM 601.4-5. Accordingly, any applicant to whom a visa is not issued by the end of the working day on which the application is made, or by the end of the next working day if it is normal procedure to issue visas to some or all applicants the following day, must be found ineligible under one or more provisions of INA 212(a), 212(e), 221(g), or other applicable ground of ineligibility set forth in 9 FAM 302. This requirement to find an applicant ineligible when a visa is not issued applies even when:
(a) (U) A case is medically deferred;
(b) (U) You request an AO from the Department;
(c) (U) You decide to make additional local inquiries or conduct a full investigation; or
(d) (U) The only deficiency is a clearance from another post.
(U) There is no such thing as an informal refusal or a pending case once a formal application has been made.
(2) (U) Manner in Refusing Applicants:
(a) (U) You should convey visa refusals in a sympathetic but firm manner. The way in which visa applications are refused can be very important in relations between the post and the population of the host country. You must be careful not to appear insensitive.
(b) (U) You should aim for a measured, sympathetic but firm style which will convince the ineligible applicant that the treatment accorded was fair. You should refer to pertinent statements of the applicant, written or oral, or to a conviction, medical report, false document, previous refusal, or the like, as the basis of the refusal. You should then explain the law simply and clearly.
9 FAM 504.1-4 (U) Special Procedures
9 FAM 504.1-4(A) (U) Revocations
9 FAM 504.1-4(A)(1) (U) When May a Visa be Revoked?
(U) You are authorized to revoke an IV under the following rare circumstances:
(1) (U) You know, or after investigation are satisfied, that the visa was procured by fraud, a willfully false or misleading representation, the willful concealment of a material fact, or other unlawful means;
(2) (U) You obtain information establishing that the applicant was otherwise ineligible to receive the visa when it was issued; or
9 FAM 504.1-4(A)(2) (U) Reconsideration of Revocation
a. (U) The applicant may ask that you reconsider the revocation of their IV. You should review any evidence submitted with a request for reconsideration.
b. (U) If you find that the evidence is sufficient to overcome the basis for revocation, you should issue the applicant a new IV.
(1) (U) Be certain to make the appropriate notations of the action taken and the reasons therefore in the case files.
(2) (U) If you have already sent notice to carriers, the Department, and/or the issuing office per the above guidance, send the appropriate notifications that you have issued a new IV.
c. (U) Per 9 FAM 504.6-4, you may not collect a fee in connection with the application for, or issuance of, a reinstated visa.
9 FAM 504.1-4(B) (U) Termination of Registration
a. (U) When a Case is “Inactive”: An application becomes subject to possible termination of registration under INA 203(g) if the applicant:
(1) (U) Has not made an application within one year of receiving the IV appointment letter. The beneficiary has one year to apply for a visa, beginning on the date NVC or consular section mails or emails the IV appointment letter to the beneficiary.
(2) (U) Does not respond to the appointment notice included with the IV Appointment Package, meaning that the applicant fails to appear for the final visa application interview on the scheduled appointment date and fails to take further action on the case within one year of the scheduled interview;
(3) (U) Is refused at the interview under INA 221(g) and fails to provide you with evidence to overcome the refusal within one year. The one-year period is extended each time an applicant presents evidence reasonably purporting to overcome the INA 221(g) ineligibility; or
(4) (U) Fails to comply with the Follow-up Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants within one year.
b. (U) Applicants Whose Cases are Subject to Termination Under 203(g): INA 203(g) procedures apply to applicants who are immediate relatives, family-preference immigrants, employment-based immigrants, and special immigrants who have received notification of the availability of a visa (i.e., who have been sent Appointment Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants (formerly Packet 4) or Modified Follow-Up Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants (formerly Packet 4(a)). See 9 FAM 504.13-2(A)(2).