The time between USCIS approving an I-526 petition and the NVC receiving the case varies widely. Generally, cases are forwarded within five to six weeks. Occasionally, the NVC doesn’t receive cases for two to three months. In rare cases, the delay is longer.
Applicants should wait four to five weeks before contacting their attorney or USCIS if they haven’t received a welcome letter from the NVC. The Department of State publishes NVC timeframes on its website. Applicants can use this information to assess whether the NVC is experiencing delays in case creation. They can also check the status of their case through the USCIS Case Status Online portal. (The equivalent NVC system requires a case number, which is issued only once the NVC receives the petition.)
When USCIS approves a petition, it issues a Notice of Approval (I-797) and sends the petition to the NVC. In some cases, the Notice of Approval is delayed, or there’s a delay between USCIS issuing the notice to the applicant and sending the petition to the NVC. Once the NVC receives the petition, it assigns it a case number and issues to the applicant, by post or email, a welcome letter that contains the case number.
Extraordinary circumstances can also cause delays at USCIS and the NVC. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the widespread closure of public offices—and even U.S. embassies and consulates. Transportation systems experienced delays, which caused delays in the transfer of documents such as I-526 petitions between government departments. Of course, the 2020 immigration ban meant that the NVC focused on first reviewing cases that were not subject to the ban, but the temporary closure of businesses and government offices complicated the process of gathering supporting documentation. Additionally, because of the embassy and consulate closures, immigration interviews ground to a halt.