Endless online resources are available to individuals trying to navigate the consular processing of a visa to come to the United States. From government sponsored websites to chat rooms, the information available online can lead one to believe that the process can be handled just as effectively and efficiently without the assistance of a lawyer. Is this the case? This article will focus on the trials and tribulations of consular processing a family based immigrant visa and the benefits an experienced lawyer provides during this process.
A lawyer’s role starts well before the case reaches or the National Visa Center (“NVC”) or for the consular post. In fact, a qualified lawyer considers all case circumstances during the preparation and submission of the petition that initiates the immigrant visa process. For example, has the applicant traveled to the United States previously? If so, has the applicant violated the terms of any prior visa? What representations were made during such prior visa applications? What are the challenges in processing a visa in the consular post of the applicant’s home country? Answers to these questions, and many others, can impact the processing of an immigrant visa and such answers are best resolved as early as possible in the consular process to prevent delay and/or significant legal consequences.
Once the initial immigrant visa petition is approved, it is forwarded to the NVC for additional case processing. A lawyer’s role is again valuable during this transition, particularly if the petition is not forwarded promptly to the NVC. Attorneys have the ability to email the NVC directly by using an email address only available to attorneys. Frequently, this ability to contact the NVC affords the lawyer with the ability to resolve case matters faster than the unrepresented applicant.
Working through the challenges of the NVC can be exceptionally frustrating, and if not handled properly, can cause significant delay. To complete the NVC process, an applicant must submit an online DS-260 application along with other identity and financial documents. An experienced attorney reviews all of the applicant’s responses to the DS-260 application to ensure completeness and to confirm no visa ineligibility exists. Furthermore, if a document requested by the NVC is not provided, or if the I-864, Affidavit of Support, is not properly completed, such incomplete submissions further delay the processing as the NVC will continue to request the documents needed until complete. Common issues involve providing the correct version of a birth certificate, adequate criminal records, and confirming the petitioner’s financial sufficiency for the affidavit of support. An experienced lawyer knows how to handle these questions before they become an issue. Experience at the NVC stage of the consular processing stage matters as generally speaking, each checklist can cause a delay of 30-60 days.
Once the processing is complete at the NVC, an interview will be scheduled at the consular post abroad. The lawyer’s role during this step is to prepare the applicant for the interview, to ensure all the documents are in order, and to attend to any issues that arise during the consular interview. Should the consular officer request additional documents or need additional information, a lawyer’s expertise affords the applicant with the ability to provide a quick and more complete response to resolve any lingering detail. This quick resolution facilitates a faster visa issuance and a faster entry to the United States.
Online resources are useful in that they provide guidance to the applicant as to how to approach the consular process. The drawbacks to such resources are that they are not always written by professionals and contain anecdotal information as to how to approach important intricacies of consular processing. Incorrect information, incomplete or insufficient documentation, and inadequate case monitoring all prevent a case from consular processing as fast as it otherwise could. Ultimately, a lawyer’s role in this process is invaluable as it takes the stress of the processing from the applicant and affords him the goal of being reunited with his family as quickly as possible.