Consular processing at the NVC

The growing threat of international terrorism, which apparently is without territorial boundaries, has prompted the Department of State (DOS) to tighten its rules of entry into the US.  DOS is the governmental entity that works hand in hand with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is in charge of prospective immigrants to the US.  Immigrant visa applicants will find it more difficult these days to process their papers before they can even be scheduled for interview at the US embassy that has jurisdiction over them .

The screening process at the consular level is more complicated.  There is a long list of required documents which tends to be confusing and so the review process in turn becomes longer.  The National Visa Center (NVC), the ‘heart’ of the DOS, coordinates with the DHS and the US embassies  to make sure that all applicants who pass the screening process are in compliance with both the eligibility and admissibility requirements imposed by law.  Pre 9/11, the NVC would not have been faced with the  formidable and monumental task of ensuring that each applicant from any country all over the world has the purest of intentions in wanting to live in the United States.    By requiring the filing of immigrant visa applications online, the data of those entering the US would be directly   linked into the US government information database. This newly introduced system would allow, hopefully, the early detection of false and fraudulent entries in the forms.    To ensure an expedited and safe method of paying immigrant visa and other fees, an online transaction is required.  These procedures have been set in motion not just for security but also because this is now the digital age.  However, recently, hacking of US government sites (which are reputed to be ‘invincible’) and the consequent  identity theft  and money laundering has  put some doubt in the  reliability of the process.  Due to these ‘scary’ possibilities, perhaps constant changes or upgrades have to be made with the consular processing system ‘online’, to keep the information and the money safe. Moreover, the ‘online’ system has only been initiated sometime in 2012-2013 and one might say, is in its experimental stage.  Break downs are common if the system becomes overloaded, which is presently what is happening.  NVC acknowledges that there are some applicants who “continue to experience technical difficulties accessing Form DS-260, Form DS-261 or paying immigrant visa fees.”  (  The ‘Note’ redirects the applicant to a different page for further instructions on how to proceed.   NVC explains that the system must be overloaded at this time and therefore the ‘technical difficulties’.   Frustration with such difficulties can lead to errors.

Fifteen (15) years ago, one might simply disregard the thought of hiring an immigration lawyer to assist them in the consular processing of their immigrant visas.  But times have changed and complying with all the paperwork required by the NVC prior to an interview  can be  daunting to an applicant who has no access to a computer or who is not computer-savvy or  who has no idea how the poverty guidelines rules work, etc…   Today, the NVC and the US embassies all over the world are swamped with problems that are far more important than letting an immigrant finally fulfill their dream of having a white Christmas in the Land O’ Plenty.  The challenges for these consular officers are multi-layered; how do you assess evil intent on the spot?  Sometimes or most times   an actual physical interview takes less than an hour.  On the web it is easy to pretend you are in Asia, Europe, the Americas, and not in the terror breeding grounds. On the other hand, with some help, that immigrant might hold the solution to online insecurity.

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Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby is a licensed attorney in Michigan.  She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law. She specializes in immigration and practices in Las Vegas, Michigan, California and other states.  Bernadette Bretana, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and Ms. Stuby are licensed attorneys in the Philippines. Please call @702-403-4704 or email her at [email protected] or go to for any questions on this article.

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