- 1 General Information
- 2 Step 0 (Before NVC)
- 3 Step 1 (DS-261 and I-864 Fee Bill)
- 4 Step 2 (Filling out the I-864 form and putting together the AOS packet)
- 5 Step 3 (IV Fee Bill)
- 6 Step 4 (DS-260 and IV packet)
- 7 Step 5 Post-NVC: after interview, receiving visa, and paying USCIS ELIS fee
- 8 RFE Shortcut
- 9 Helpful Links
- 10 Edited & updated by SofiaIsabella on 11 April 2014
IMPORTANT!! This is ONLY for I-130, IR/1 and CR/1 cases. This does NOT apply to I-129F (K1 or K3) people.
This guide has been updated by SofiaIsabella to reflect the most up to date information as of 2014-04-11
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.
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.
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 , 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-261.
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:
- 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 '2013' to request transcript for year 2013.
- Press 1. To confirm correct year.
- Press 2. To request transcript for additional year.
- Press 3. To end your transaction.
- You may begin gathering documents to send with the IV Packet 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.
- 2 Passport-sized photos of foreign spouse
- Photocopy of Valid Passport Biographic Data Page 
- Police Certificate(s) 
Birth Certificate No longer required
- Marriage Certificate 
- Marriage Termination Documentation 
- Military Records 
- Court and Prison Records 
- Deportation Documentation 
- 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 calling the NVC at 603-334-0700. </FONT>
Step 1 (DS-261 and I-864 Fee Bill)
When NVC receives petition from USCIS, it takes 20 - 30 business days for them to enter the information into the system. Once they do, you can log on the CEAC  website. The DS-261 is available electronically as is the bill for the AOS, which is $88 (2014).
I-864 AOS 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 $88 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.
Use USPS Priority Mail with tracking option to send your fee bill and cashiers check to:
National Visa Center
Option 2:- I-864 Fee Bill  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.
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 AOS 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 (Filling out the I-864 form and putting together the AOS packet)
Once you have made the I-864 AOS payment, it takes 24 - 48 hours for the system to process the payment. In the meantime, print out the barcode that CEAC generated and you can send off your AOS packet.
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 the poverty guidelines and be sure to have enough evidence 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 the instructions and I-864A (optional) as each step is explained in detail. The NVC site is also very useful as they have published general information and common questions.
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:
- AOS barcoded cover sheet (obtained after paying the AOS fee on the CEAC site)
- I-864 Cover letter
- I-864 form
- IRS Tax transcripts (Preferred over tax returns)
- Copy of federal tax returns from last three years along with copies of W2s if you do not have tax transcripts
- Letter of employment (Proof of current employment or self employment)
- Last three pay stubs (optional)
Make sure to write your case number in the upper right-hand corner of EVERY supporting documents page. It is advisable to buy Avery labels for your printer and print them out so that they can be appended to all supporting documents.
Send the package to:
National Visa Center
Step 3 (IV Fee Bill)
After your DS-261 and AOS fee are received by NVC and posted, the IV (Immigrant Visa) fee bill will be generated.
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 via the CEAC website .
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
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 1-2 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 site link. The IV fee is $230 (2014).
Step 4 (DS-260 and IV packet)
The DS-260 is available online after paying the AOS fee and submitting the DS-261.
Even more country-specific information regarding the civil documents required by the NVC/Embassy is located at Documents the Applicant Must Submit to the NVC or jump straight to Country Civil Documents.
You will need to attach the barcode that was generated after paying the IV fee before sending in the IV packet.
The NVC is requesting 2 passport photos be returned with the IV packet with the beneficiary's name, date of birth, and NVC case number written on the back of the photos.
If you are going through Appointment Post NVC Processing country, you will need to include not only the photocopy of the biographical information page from the passport, but also 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 IV packet cover sheet.
You can use this template to create a cover letter for the IV packet. 
Step 5 Post-NVC: after interview, receiving visa, and paying USCIS ELIS fee
- 1. You must pay the $165 fee online using USCIS ELIS after you receive your immigrant visa package from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (including Canada and Mexico) and before you depart for the United States.
- 2. Do NOT open the sealed envelope that is sent when your passport is returned.
- 3. Check your visa for any errors.
- 4. NOW, you can purchase your ticket(s) to USA
- 5. Regardless of final destination, POE (Point of Entry), is the first American location that your plane lands in.
- 6. You will handover your sealed visa package to an Immigration Officer, after arrival.
- 7. There will be a brief interview and processing.
- 8. The sealed envelope will be taken from you, your passport will be stamped, and you'll be on your way.
CR-1 and IR-1 are single entry visas. They essentially die once used. However, the I-551 stamp that goes in the passport upon entry acts like a temporary green card until the actual green card arrives in the mail sometime later. The stamp, like the green card to follow, signifies permanent resident status. US permanent residents can re-enter the US as often as they like.
When NVC requires more information for AOS or IV packet 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.
- When your case completes, go to Dwheels76's spreadsheet to estimate how long until your interview takes place