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The National Visa Center (NVC) is where immigration cases can start to get really, really complicated. This post walks you through how to take care of paying your visa fee once you receive an invoice from the NVC. We assume you’re working on a family-based case for this discussion. Before you begin make sure you have (1) your NVC invoice and (2) a copy of a check from the account you plan to use to pay. NVC does not accept credit/debit card payments.
Notice that the letter from the NVC contains three different documents: (1) a cover letter; (2) an Affidavit of Support Fee Invoice; and (3) an Immigrant Visa Fee Invoice. The Affidavit of Support refers to the Form I-864 that must be filed by the petitioner at the NVC. (Learn more than you ever want to know about the Form I-864 here). The Immigrant Visa refers to the DS-260 that the intending immigrant will file with the NVC. This is the immigrant’s formal application to seek a visa from the State Department, as opposed to the Form I-130 filed by the U.S. petitioner, which I think of as an invitation immigrant.
What is the NVC anywhy and why are you here? It’s a good thing, actually, because it means your case is progressing. Originally you filed your I-130 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. At this point you will have received an approval notice from USCIS. That means that they are done with your petition. Since your spouse is applying through a U.S. consulate, the case is forwarded to the State Department, which handles such consular applications. The NVC serves as a document clearing house for the State Department. It is the job of the NVC to collect your visa fee, receive your online DS-260 visa for, and compile all the supporting documents. Once the NVC has everything that it believes is required in your case – and only then – the case will be forwarded to the appropriate consulate. (Important note: if you spouse is planning to adjust status in the U.S. then you need corrective action to get your case back on track. You should not be at the NVC if your spouse is planning to adjust using Form I-485.)
Step (1) – Go to the “Consular Electronic Application Center.”
To pay your NVC fees, navigate to http://ceac.state.gov. This is the State Department’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website. It will be used to receive your payment, and later to submit your online DS-260 visa application. I recommend using an updated Internet Explorer browser to access the site, as there can be problems with other browsers. (Download Internet Explorer for free here). I would also discourage you from using your smartphone, as these browsers are also not supported. Before logging into the website, make sure you have the invoice with you since you’ll need information from it.
After navigating to http://ceac.state.gov, select the “fee payment” option.
Step (2) – Log in using your case-specific information.
To log into CEAC you need to numbers from your invoice. Your NVC Case Number appears on the cover letter you received, and on the two separate invoices attached to the letter. The NVC Case Number is used from this step forward by the State Department to identify your case. The other number you need is an Invoice I.D. Number. There are different Invoice I.D. Numbers on the Affidavit of Support and Immigrant Visa Fee Invoices you received. But both are linked to the same case file and will take you into the same CEAC screen. Find the NVC Case Number and Invoice I.D. Number by looking at the Immigrant Visa Fee Invoice – usually that’s the last page in the correspondence from the NVC.
That information gets entered into the CEAC screen as shown below. Notice that you need to select from the pull-down menu what your relation is to the case. If you filed the Form I-130 you are the petitioner; if you are the person applying for visa you are the applicant. Your attorney can also log-in on your behalf if you have one. At our firm we give clients the option of paying the fee themselves or having the firm do it.
Step (3) – Select one fee at a time.
Remember that we said above you have two separate invoices to pay: the Affidavit of Support Fee Invoice and the Immigrant Visa Fee Invoice. At the time I’m writing this the affidavit fee is $120 and visa fee is $325, but they go up periodically. Both invoices are tied to the same case, but the invoices have to be paid one at a time. No, it doesn’t make sense to me either.
Step (4) – Enter bank account information.
You’ll next be given the opportunity to enter your bank account information. The routing number and account number can be found on a check from your personal bank account.
Step (5) – Pay the second fee.
After paying the first invoice, just return to the main screen of your CEAC case and repeat payment for the second invoice.
Step (6) – Wait.
You’re probably already good at waiting at this point. Typically the NVC will issue you a payment receipt by email within 48 business hours. If you don’t see one then you should see if something went wrong. (There have been many problems with the NVC payment system lately). The NVC can be contacted at 603 334-0700 (Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 12:00 AM Eastern Standard Time) or firstname.lastname@example.org.