While both agencies are involved in immigration processes, they are two distinct agencies with different functions. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security that administers the country’s naturalization and immigration system. USCIS is responsible for receiving and adjudicating petitions, including the petitions filed throughout the EB-5 process — Form I-526, Form I-485, and Form I-829.
After USCIS approves a petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) if the applicant is residing outside of the United States at the time of filing. The NVC is part of the Department of State; its job is to prepare immigrant visa applications for consular officers to review and adjudicate in U.S. embassies around the world. The NVC ensures that the minimum paperwork required by the consular officer is received, properly filled out, and ready to be considered during the visa interview at the appropriate U.S. consulate.
As mentioned above, a petition is only transferred from USCIS to the NVC if the applicant is living abroad at the time of filing. In cases where the applicant is filing from within the United States, USCIS will instead forward it to its offices in the United States for further processes. This difference is particularly important to understand when dealing with actually obtaining an EB-5 visa. While applicants who are filing outside of the U.S. must go through consular processing to obtain a visa, those who file from within the U.S. instead go through adjustment of status (AOS). This enables an EB5 investor to receive their green card without having to return to their home country to complete visa processing. Furthermore, AOS allows for concurrent filing, which can significantly reduce the otherwise lengthy processing times that many EB5 investors go through.