From VjWiki - The Immigration Wiki
IMPORTANT!! This is ONLY for I-130, IR/1 and CR/1 cases. This does NOT apply to I-129F (K1 or K3) people.
James's Shortcuts are used to reduce the time spent in the postal system for IR/1 and CR/1 cases being processed at the National Visa Center (NVC). This time spent in the mail can be significant portion of the total NVC processing time.
James's Shortcuts were originally posted by James in VJ forum on May 14, 2005. Later in May, 2007 James updated these shortcuts due to NVC process change and called James's NVC Shortcuts - Version 2.0. There have been a few modifications over the years by forum members based on their suggestions and comments but the majority of the process remains the same today.
James's Shortcuts mainly focus on generating bar codes for your documents and sending applicable documents while you are waiting for mail from the NVC. The NVC forms are available to anyone regardless of whether using the shortcuts or not but generating bar codes of your NVC case number and sending it to the NVC can cut major time normally spent waiting to receive those documents from the NVC via snail mail.
There doesn't seem to be any risk in using James's Shortcuts and there has been no reports of the NVC refusing anything generated using James Shortcuts. Although, some people are not comfortable with generating bar codes, James's Shortcuts can help them understanding the NVC process, provide tips, and prepare ahead of time on getting necessary documents for specific steps in the NVC process.
To use these shortcuts, you must:
- Be able to read, and understand English, otherwise you will make mistakes and it will only make your time at the NVC longer.
- Be able to use a computer and follow directions.
- Read the and understand NVC flowchart, and be aware of what is expected from USC and foreign spouse at each step as you go through the NVC process.
- Be familiar with acronyms, abbreviations and terminology used at VisaJourney Forums.
- Need to understand that you can not speed up the processing of your forms at the National Visa Center. James's Shortcuts will only reduce the time spent in the mail.
In order to use James's Shortcuts it is assumed that you will make the petitioner or USC the agent on the DS-3032.
Step 0 (Before NVC)
You can do most of below steps BEFORE your case gets transferred to the NVC. You will not know your NVC case number, but other than that you should have the following forms completed:
- DS-3032: - Have it signed by the foreign spouse (beneficiary) and mail it to the petitioner in US before your case gets to the NVC.
The DS-3032 mailed out has the NVC case number barcoded on the top.
- Use a black marker and write the NVC case number in the horizontal box that says "Place Case Barcode Strip Here Before Mailing to the National Visa Center.". Make sure to include the 3 letters in addition to the 10 numbers. Please write it clearly so the NVC case number can be easily read.
- Generate barcode by following these DS-3032 barcode instructions then print your own barcode. Use paste (not tape) to glue your barcode on the page. Tape will interfere with barcode reader.
- Alternatively, the beneficiary can email their choice of agent in lieu of mailing the DS-3032. See Step 1.
- I-864: - The petitioner can complete this form, and have it ready to mail in before your case arrives at the NVC. The petitioner can also start accumulating supporting documents to send with I-864.
- Employment Letter: You need to collect a proof of current employment or self employment to send with I-864.
- Federal Tax Returns: You need to collect copy of completed federal tax returns with all supporting schedules and W-2s for the 3 most recent tax years. Make sure to sign copy of tax returns. If you don't have a copy of W2's then you may request it via contacting your employer(s).
- IRS transcripts: You can request your tax return transcripts for previous 3 years for free from the IRS. There is no charge for the transcript and you should receive it in 10 business days from your request received at IRS.
- Call (800) 829-1040 and follow below steps as per prompt in the recorded message to request tax return transcript. This documents will be mailed to the address where you last filed your tax return.
- Press 2. Questions about your refund, payments or account.
- Press 2. Questions about your tax account.
- Enter SSN.
- Press 1. If you entered SSN.
- Press 1. If you entered correct SSN.
- Press 3. To request transcript.
- Enter NUMBER of street address. For example, enter '123' if you filed your recent tax return from the address '123 Main Street'.
- Press 2. To receive transcript of tax return.
- Enter 4 digit (YYYY) year. Enter '2007' to request transcript for year 2007.
- Press 1. To confirm correct year.
- Press 2. To request transcript for additional year.
- Press 3. To end your transaction.
- DS-230: - part 1 and 2 (remember do NOT sign part 2). Have the foreign spouse (beneficiary) complete this, sign it, and have it in the petitioner's hands before you get to NVC. You may also begin gathering documents to send with the DS-230 to the NVC. These documents must be in original or certified copy. Certified copies are copies certified by issuing agency and not by a notary. For more country specific document details please refer to reciprocity by country.
- Get NVC Case Number: You don't have to wait until you receive the NOA2 in the snail mail to find out your NVC case number. Once the online USCIS page says your case has been forwarded to the NVC You need to keep checking NVC Automated Messages during this time. You can enter your USCIS case number in the NVC Automated Messages. As soon as the NVC assigns a case number message will change to
"...This case was entered in the NVC computer system on _______. The case number assigned by the NVC is (Case #). Please allow 6-8 weeks from this date for the beneficiary to receive the documents"
Step 1 (DS-3032 and I-864 Fee Bill)
When NVC receives petition from USCIS, it takes few weeks to generate and mail I-864 fee bill and DS-3032. The DS-3032 will be mailed overseas to the foreign spouse (beneficiary) and I-864 fee bill will be mailed to USC (petitioner).
You need to keep checking NVC Automated Messages during this time.
The NVC phone message will say something like: "...NVC will mail...the beneficiary..." OR "DS3032 and AOS Fee Bill has been generated on________"
As soon as you hear above message, You have option to send DS-3032 (Choice of Agent Form) via either of two methods.
- Option 1: Mail DS-3032. If you have DS-3032 signed by your foreign spouse as per STEP 0.
- Option 2: E-mail. If you don't have the DS-3032 signed by your foreign spouse.
Option 1:- Choice of Agent selection via mailing DS-3032
If you choose option 1 to mail DS-3032 then as per step 0 you should have DS-3032 with barcode attached and signed by the foreign spouse. Use next day express mail to send DS-3032 at below address.
National Visa Center
Option 2:- Choice of Agent selection via E-mail
If you decide to choose option 2 to use email, then have your foreign spouse send an e-mail to NVC. You may or may not receive automated confirmation as NVC receives an e-mail. It takes about a week for NVC to send return e-mail with choice of agent acceptance e-mail. For details and e-mail template see Email DS-3032 form.
I-864 Fee Bill
As soon as you hear the NVC Automated System message above, you have the option to send the I-864 (Affidavit of Support) Fee Bill via either one of two methods:
- Option 1: Send cashier's check or money order via regular Mail.
- Option 2: Online using U.S. based checking or savings account.
Option 1:- I-864 Fee Bill Payment via regular mail
Get a $70 USA cashier's check or money order made payable to: Department of State. Make sure to put your NVC case number in the memo field.
If you choose to Option 1: mail the I-864 Fee Bill, you have two choices:
- Option 1.1: Wait on the fee bill to arrive from NVC and use original bar code. This method will not delay your overall time.
- Option 1.2: Make your own fee bill. I-864 Fee Bill Instructions
Use USPS Priority Mail with tracking option to send your fee bill and cashiers check to:
National Visa Center
Why is there no rush on the I-864 fee bill? As per the NVC Flowchart the foreign spouse side of the flowchart is slowed down later because as an agent you MUST wait for the IV fee bill. Also the I-864 does not have any dependencies for generating the IV fee bill or the DS-230. Thus the petitioner's (USC) paperwork can be sent in a little slower without affecting the overall NVC time line. However, it is advisable to do everything as fast as possible because if you make mistake or get an RFE then you would still have enough time to rectify the situation without impacting the overall NVC time line.
Option 2:- I-864 Fee Bill ACH Payment via Online
Please read FAQ for I-864 fee bill online payment available from NVC website before proceeding with online payment. It is advisable to use Internet Explorer browser when you pay online.
Starting April 2008, the NVC has an option to pay the I-864 Fee Bill Online using a secure website. All online payments are processed by the Department of Treasury through the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center. This approach also has the advantage that once they have received the funds you can print or e-mail the required cover sheet (if someone else is assembling the form package for you), instead of having to create you own, as explained below.
You will need the NVC Case Number and Invoice Identification Number (IIN) from the I-864 fee bill letter. Your IIN can be obtained by contacting the NVC by telephone and speaking to a live operator. The same IIN can be used again to pay Immigration Visa (IV) Fee bill in Step 3.
You will also need your U.S. based bank's routing number and your checking (or savings) account number. If you are paying from your checking account, this information is available on the bottom of one of your checks. It takes about 2-3 business days to clear this payment. Transaction for your Affidavit of Support Fee payments will appear as 'NVC AOS FEE' in your bank statement. You can not use your credit card as a method of payment.
You will have the option of printing or e-mailing an online receipt for your reference.
Note: If you pay I-864 fee bill online then I-864 barcoded cover sheet will become available online in same website upon successful transaction. NVC will NOT mail petitioner any barcoded coversheet for I-864.
Step 2 (I-864)
Once the NVC system shows that it has received your AOS fee, it will generate the AOS/I-864 itself. This may take anywhere from a week to a month after you send the I-864 fee at the NVC.
The automated phone message will say something like: "...NVC has received the DS3032, Choice of Agent and Address form on______. and will send further instructions within the next few weeks..."
As per Step 0, you should have already completed the Form I-864 and accumulated the supporting documents pursuant to the instructions that come with the I-864 (federal tax returns, tax transcripts, plus anything else your personal situation may need. Read the I-864 NVC instructions).
Please check poverty guideline and be sure to have enough evidences to prove that you are already meeting income requirements. You may need to ask your family members to be your co-sponsor and have them fill out I-864A and include their income and asset evidences. Please read instructions on I-864 and I-864A (optional) as each step is explained in detail. NVC site is also very useful as they have published general information and common questions as well as I-864 forms checklist.
Now follow I-864 Coversheet Instructions to generate barcode and attach it to I-864 cover sheet. This step is only necessary if for some reason you were unable to pay the I-864 online. If you were, then as explained earlier when you confirmed that the payment was receivd you should have been given the option to print/e-mail the required cover sheet.
You should include a cover letter with the I-864 package. With the cover letter, the order recommended by the NVC for the documents in the I-864 package is:
- I-864 Cover letter
- I-864 barcoded cover sheet
- I-864 form
- Copy of federal tax returns from last three years along with copies of W2s
- IRS Tax transcripts (Alternative to copy of tax return but you can send both)
- Letter of employment (Proof of current employment or self employment)
- Last three pay stubs
Make sure to write your case number in the upper right-hand corner of EVERY page including I-864.
Send the package to:
National Visa Center
Step 3 (IV Fee Bill)
After your DS-3032 is received by NVC, the IV (Immigrant Visa) fee bill will be generated. Unfortunately, because NVC generates an apparently random transaction number and puts it after the case number in the barcode on the IV fee bill, it is not possible to send in the IV fee bill as soon as NVC generates it therefore you will have to use the one NVC sends you.
However, an experimental shortcut/payment stub has been developed by Chris Parker and was attempted by a VJ forum member indianheart. Unfortunately these steps did not work.
You have the option to send the IV Fee Bill via either one of two methods:
- Send cashier's check or money order via regular Mail.
- Online using U.S. based checking or savings account.
Mail the IV Fee Payment to the following address. If you are still need to pay AOS Fee Bill then you can use following address:
National Visa Center
Starting April 2008, the NVC has an option to pay IV Fee Bill Online using a secure website. All online payments are processed by the Department of Treasury through the Immigrant Visa Invoice Payment Center.
You will need the NVC Case Number and Invoice Identification Number(IIN) from the IV fee letter. This number can also be obtained by contacting the NVC by telephone.
You will also need your U.S. based bank's routing number and your checking (or savings) account number. If you are paying from your checking account, this information is available on the bottom of one of your checks. It takes about 2-3 business days to clear this payment. Transaction for your Immigrant Visa Fee payments will appear as NVC IV FEE in your bank statement.
You will have the option of printing or e-mailing an online receipt for online IV Bill payment and the associated bar-coded cover sheet. Since this cover sheet is required for your DS-230 package (see below), getting this official is highly recommended.
FAQ for IV fee bill online payment can be found at this link.
Step 4 (DS-230)
Back in Step 0, your spouse should have download, fill out, and sign the downloadable version of the DS-230. Depending on the country, your spouse may only need to fill out and sign part I because he or she will be sent part II by the embassy when the interview appointment is given. (This is called "Standard Processing" by NVC.) However, NVC requires that applicants from certain countries (called "Appointment Posts" or "Appointment Processing" by NVC) send in part II (filled out but unsigned), as well as original copy or certified copy of birth, marriage, divorce, police certificates, and various other records -- plus translations of everything. (This is so irrespective of whether you sent such documents in with your I-130 petition.)
You should find out as early as possible (e.g., at least by the time your NOA2 is approved) whether your spouse will have to obtain these extra documents and have her or him do so in order to have them in hand by the time you need to send in the DS-230. Go to http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/info/info_3734.html to see the current list of embassies and consulates making use of Appointment Post procesing. If your embassy is not on this list, then Standard processing applies for your spouse, i.e., you will be submitting your official document when requested to the embassy in question instead of going through the NVC.
Either way, in general certain documents will have to be collected by your spouse. If you are going through Appointment Post NVC Processing, see the list http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/info/info_3195.html  under the topic heading "Documents the Applicant Must Submit" for a list of documents your spouse will have to send into the NVC with the DS-230. For special country-specific rules regarding the collection of these documents, see the page http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/info/info_3830.html . (The spouses of those going through Standard NVC processing will generally still have to obtain the same documents, but they will be brought to the embassy, which will provide the instructions as to those documents after it sets the interview date.)
Even more country-specific information regarding the civil documents required by the NVC/Embassy is located at the Dept of State web site - Select your country from the drop-down menu, then click "Jump to Country Documents" on the page that follows.
You will need to attach the coversheet to the completed DS-230 before sending it in. Ideally you shoud have taken advantage of the option given if you paid the IV bill online when you confirmed that the payment was receivd to also print/e-mail the required cover sheet and you will not need to go through the detailed instructions below to create your own unofficial cover sheet. If for some reason you did not do that, you can still log back in to reprint or e-mail over again the official cover sheet that is available from that web page.
If you were unable to pay online, here is an alternate way to prepare an unoffical bar-coded cover sheet.
- Download the MS Word copy of the DS-230 Part I coversheet.
- Change the BGT2007123456 at the bottom to your case number
- go generate the barcode at idautomation .
- Type in the case number under "Data to encode."
- Under "Barcode symbology," select CODE 39.
- Select "No" for the "Add check digit,"
- Select "No" for the "Add check digit to text,"
- Select "No" for the "Show text below barcode" options.
- Change the "X dimension" (bar width) to 0.07
- Change the "Barcode bar height" to 0.7.
- Click on "Create Barcode."
- In the resulting window, right click on the barcode and click on Copy.
- Paste the image into a graphics editing program such as IrfanView (either by selecting Paste under the Edit menu or hitting Ctrl + V on the keyboard)
- Crop out the gray text "Powered by IDAutomation.com (i.e., draw a box around the barcode only and, e.g., in IrfanView, select Crop selection under the Edit menu).
- Copy the image from the graphics program either by selecting Copy under the Edit Menu or by hitting Ctrl+C on the keyboard.
- Go to the MS Word copy of the DS-230 coversheet and left click on the old barcode that's already at the top, to the left of the words "INSTRUCTION PACKET AGENT."
- Hit the Delete key.
- Click on Paste under the Edit menu (or hit Ctrl + V on the keyboard).
- The barcode may be underlined -- left click on it again and then de-select the "U" underline button in the MS Word Toolbar.
- You then need to further adjust the size of the barcode by double-clicking on it.
- Select the "Size" tab in the box that pops up.
- De-select "Lock Aspect ratio" if it is selected
- Change the height to 0.26"
- Change the width to 2.13".
- Click on OK.
- Then go to the old barcode at the bottom of the page and select it.
- Hit the Delete key.
- Click on Paste under the Edit menu or hit Ctrl + V on the keyboard. (You may have to re-copy the generated barcode if you have somehow managed to copy something else in the interim.)
- You then need to further adjust the size of the barcode by right-clicking on it and clicking on "Format Picture."
- Click on the "Size" tab.
- De-select "Lock aspect ratio"
- Change the height to 0.4"
- Change the width to 3.45".
- Click on "OK."
- Change the date on the cover sheet to the date your DS-230 was generated at NVC (i.e., the day -- usually a Monday -- before the IVR was changed to reflect DS-230 generation).
Note: I don't believe anyone cares about this date, so just do the best you can.
- Replace the bracketed "[Agent Name]" below the small barcode at the top with your name (First Name Last Name) (not your spouse's), assuming you are the agent named on the DS-3032.
- Replace the bracketed "[Beneficiary Name]" in the first line of the letter with your spouse's name (First Name Last Name).
- Change the "BGT2007123456" in big bold letters at the bottom to your own embassy post/case number if you have not done so already.
- In the second to last line of the cover sheet, replace the bracketed "[Petitioner Name]" with your name (Last Name, First Name).
- Print the cover sheet out on a color printer if possible so the blue Statue of Liberty logo shows up as blue. (I’m not sure what, if anything, will happen if you print out in black and white, but if you don't have a color printer, you can send the document by e-mail to Kinko's and they can print it out in color.)
If you are going through Standard NVC Processing the only thing you will have to include beyond the DS-230 Part I and the cover sheet is a simple (i.e., not notarized) photocopy of the biographical information page from your spouse's passport.
Note: For China they also wanted EMS (The postal system in China) labels pre made out to send the p4 packet to the beneficiary. Wouldn't hurt to send them labels no matter what, but check with some of your countries forums to see.
Note2: As of 1-1-2008 NVC is requesting 2 passport photos be returned with the DS-230. Better send those in too.
If you are going through Appointment Post NVC Processing country, you will need to include not only the DS-230 Part I and a photocopy of the biographical information page from the passport, but also a filled out but unsigned DS-230 Part II and the other documents indicated in the Appointment Post NVC Processing Instructions discussed above. Send all of these things to the NVC address listed on the barcoded DS-230 cover sheet.
You can use this template to create DS-230 Cover Letter
When NVC requires more information for I-864 or DS-320 then NVC will generate checklist requesting missing documents. This is very rare if you followed above instructions. This shortcut was developed by Chris Parker when he received RFE for I-864. You can view steps by clicking HERE.
- NVC Online Payment System For I-864 Fee Bill and IV Fee Bill