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2017 Spouse Visa processing time

Today's question is: How long does it take to get a CR1 Spouse visa?

As of 2017 the answer is 10 to 14 months on average. Unless your case is processed at the Texas Service Center. More on that later.

(1 - 2 months USCIS
5 - 6 months NVC
2 - 5 months Consulate

I regularly get calls from people saying those numbers must be wrong, because they found a website or person who promised a MUCH shorter processing time so whats their secret?

Well the secret is they are either telling you what "you want to hear" so they can get your money, or just referring to one step of the process, not ALL the steps from initial submission of your petition, to visa embossed onto your spouse's passport

When I give time estimates I always use what is relevant to the couple, and that is starting from the day USCIS receives the petition, ending on the day your foreign spouse gets the visa.

Two different departments of the US government are involved.

USCIS (homeland security) and the Department of State.

USCIS has now tasked 5 centers around the USA to process Spouse Visas. These are located in California, Nebraska, Texas, Vermont and Missouri. In general, USCIS recently is getting their job done EXTREMELY fast, in general in only 1 to 2 months (this compares to a 5 month processing standard they have set for themselves..

But with one EXCEPTION. The center in Texas is seriously behind.

When most of my cases are approved in 1 - 2 months at the other 4 centers, cases that are assigned to Texas that have SRC as the first 3 letters of the case number, are taking 6 months or more.

This is actually an improvement for SRC, last year it took 9 months. Hopefully they will eventually get their act together and work as efficiently as the other centers.

Can you choose which center your case is processed at?

No you can't. Historically cases were sorted geographically. East coast went to Vermont, West Coast to California. Now, it still seems to be mostly geographic, however your case could be assigned to any one. You just have to hope for the best and wait and see where your case is assigned.

Processing includes a background check by the FBI

The most common and prolonged delays are caused by avoidable mistakes made during the preparation of the petition

If USCIS finds the petition is incomplete, items are missing or illegible, or even if the payment amount is not exact, Processing grinds to a halt, until the problem is fixed.

Once USCIS approves, the case is passed to the US Department of State.

The Department of State has a processing center in New Hampshire, called the National Visa Center or NVC.

The NVC first contacts your spouse, asking her to confirm a "Choice of Agent". Basically this is to confirm that You are allowed to be copied on correspondences sent to your spouse. It sounds strange as you are the original sponsor of the petition, but I believe this is a privacy issue, that NVC must address.

After NVC receives the signed Choice of Agent form. They contact you via email with invoices for adjustment of status, and visa application fees.

Once paid, you then then submit a packet of documents to NVC. I call this the "mini petition". This includes the proof of payment of fees, civil documents, financial evidences, etc.

Once NVC is satisfied that all required documents have been presented, it forwards your case on to the American Consulate reponsible to issue the visa. And at the same time notifies you and your spouse the date and time your spouse's interview has been scheduled for.

Within a few weeks the consulate contacts your Spouse directly with final instructions on attending the medical exam and required document checklists.

Some consulates are busier, more efficient, and or work faster than others.

In Philippines the process is very efficient and fast. Interviews can be booked for 1 to 2 months later.

In Vietnam and Dominican Replublic it may be 2 to 5 months before the interview is scheduled.

The Approval/Denial decision is made during the interview.

This is where the higher VisaCoach standard, for crafting "front loaded presentations" wins the day. The consular officer reviews the case file before the interview starts. He should see many good reasons why she should trust you and approve the visa. When he decides to say "yes", even before the interview starts, your interview ends up fast and friendly. Most VisaCoach clients report their visas are approved in 3 to 4 minutes.

Then in about 2 weeks the passport with its new CR1 visa is returned.

Just as in medicine commercials on TV. "Your results may vary".

Some of my clients get their visas faster, some slower.

If in 2016 you plan for between 9 to 13 months average CR1 Spousal Visa processing time you won't be far off.

By Fred Wahl

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