SALE is defined as “the exchange of a commodity for money; the act of selling something”. There must be a seller and a buyer. Without a buyer, there can be no exchange, therefore no sale.
A sale is complete when the buyer and seller agree on the price of the commodity, item or service – and payment is made. In some cases, the sale is made perfect by way of a promissory note, an agreement to make or complete the sale on an agreed future date.
Visas are not goods but products or articles resulting from a service provided. The initial proof of sale is the receipt issued (Notice of Action) after payment of the visa application fee. Upon receipt of payment, the service provider, for example, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins processing the petition until a decision is rendered (approval).
After approval, the application is forwarded to the National Visa Center, where another exchange (fees and services) is carried out. At this point, USCIS has fulfilled its obligation as a service provider. The Department of State, through the National Visa Center (NVC), supports the new transaction.
NVC sends the fee invoice when an immigrant visa applicant’s file is ready to be processed. The notification is called a “file creation letter” where the immigrant visa applicant receives a file number and an invoice identification number. To complete the sale or service, the applicant must pay the fees associated with the visa application: the affidavit fee of $120 and the visa fee of $325 for each applicant (the main applicant and the derivative beneficiaries — spouse and/or minor children, below 21 years).
By uploading a void check sample to NVC, the applicant accepts the sale — the exchange of payment for the services to be rendered.
Upon confirmation of payment, the sale is concluded. From this moment on, the principal applicant and/or the designated representative takes charge of the processing. NVC is a passive service provider, only confirming receipt of payment and submission of completed immigrant visa application forms and civil documents for each visa applicant.
When the visa applicant/designated representative has paid the fee and completed the visa processing, NVC then sends a service completion notice. The applicant is considered “documentarily qualified”, just awaiting the visa interview. The CNV part of the process is complete. The final State Department agency – the specific consular post (in the case of Filipino applicants, the U.S. Embassy Manila) – takes over to finalize the sale (for this visa application originally filed with USCIS) and render service during the consular process. interview.
No refund of fees
Upon filing the petition and commencing visa processing, the visa applicant accepts notification from USCIS and the Department of State/NVC that fees paid for the sale or service to be rendered are non-refundable.
If something – an unexpected event – happens at any stage, the fees paid are not refunded. When paying the service fee, USCIS has this reminder:
“When you send payment, you are agreeing to pay for a government service. The biometric application and service fee is final and non-refundable, regardless of what action we take on your application, petition, or request, or if you withdraw your request.”
For example, if during the processing of an F2B visa application (for an unmarried son/or daughter over the age of 21 of a lawful permanent resident), the visa applicant marries before the applicant becomes a U.S. citizen , the request is automatically revoked. No fees reimbursed.
If the petitioner becomes a US citizen and the F2B applicant marries, the petition is converted from F2B to F3 (married son/daughter of a US citizen), the fee remains for the new category.
Application fees for services
On September 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Immigration Legal Resource Center et al., v. Wolf, et al., 20-cv-05883-JWS, temporarily blocked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing or enforcing additional fees charged by DHS for services to be rendered, primarily by the USCIS.
The most common US visas are work visas, immigrant visas, family sponsorships, and employment visas, and their corresponding fees: work visa application – basic fee of $460; fiancée petition – $535; petition for alien relative – $535; immigrant worker petition – $700; adjustment of status if the applicant is in the United States – $1,140.
The basic fee pays for regular treatment.
In the case of work visas, the application is sent to a specific USCIS Lock Box address where the application is evaluated for completeness before being forwarded to the specific USCIS service center. Regular treatment can take from 1.5 months (Texas) to five months (California).
To facilitate processing, USCIS offers premium processing for an additional $2,500. In exchange, USCIS guarantees a decision “within 15 calendar days”. Take note that USCIS clarifies a “guaranteed decision”, but not a “guaranteed approval”.
No premium processing
In contrast, family-sponsored petitions are processed on a Form I-130 basis and processed on a first-filed, first-completed, and categorized basis. Second, there are the contingent and non-quota categories.
“First Filing” refers to when a petition is first accepted for filing at a USCIS lockbox facility. A notice of receipt is then issued. If there are additional documents or correct fees involved, an RFE letter requesting additional evidence is sent to the applicant. Only after submission of the requested evidence would processing resume. The decision on a visa application completes the sale at this point.
The filing date is the priority date.
A person’s “priority date” – including that of a spouse, minor child, parent of a US citizen – competes with the priority dates of all the other tens of thousands of petitions received a given day for a specific category of family preference.
Spouse, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens, on the other hand, are considered “immediate relatives – IR not subject to annual limits or quotas. Other family-based categories are handled (first-filed basis, of first filled) in the specific preference category. However, despite being exempt from the quota, applications from such next of kin still compete for available USCIS and State Department resources.
Processing times at various USCIS service centers for I-130 petitions as of October 11, 2022 are shown in Table 1.
TABLE 1. PROCESSING TIMES AT VARIOUS USCIS SERVICE CENTERS FOR I-130 AS OF OCT. 11, 2022
When processing is complete (approved), the file is sent to NVC for retention/archive or to begin visa processing. USC IRs belong to the latter; other family-sponsored categories will remain with NVC until their priority date is about to be current and visa processing can continue.
See the number of petitions approved and pending as of November 2021 in Table 2.
TABLE 2. NUMBER OF APPROVED AND PENDING PETITIONS IN NOVEMBER 2021
Explanation of dates and numbers in Table 2: If you file the petition today, after the Form I-130 is considered complete and sent to the NVC visa queue. The approximate date is based on the wait time at the USCIS service center plus the wait time from the Department of State’s November Visa Bulletin deadlines.
For example, an F1 petition from the Philippines expects completion/approval in nine months. This petition should be at the end of the 21,938 F1 applicants from the Philippines.
F1 visa applicants from the Philippines are vying for the limited number (visa allocation) for F1 worldwide, set at 23,400 per year. Assuming the 23,400 are issued (and deducted from the world F1 total), it will take 11 years (of normal visa operations) before an F1 visa applicant from the Philippines can be interviewed at the US Embassy in Manila.
A considerable number of those who are already “documentary qualified” are already at the visa gate. As of October, the State Department reported that 399,286 DQ applicants across all family categories were awaiting their interview dates at consular posts around the world, including the US Embassy in Manila.
These pending DQs are among the 3,969,573 total immigrant visa applicants worldwide as of November 2021.
Hopefully Covid-19 would have been eradicated and no sub-variants or other viruses cause another pandemic causing the visa interview date to be set. Upon completion of the interview, USCIS and State Department services are considered complete and delivered.
As previously stated, completion of the services does not guarantee approval of a visa application and subsequent visa application. There are several reasons why a visa application may be refused. So passing the visa interview is another matter.
In case of refusal, the sale of the visa is concluded, but the applicant does not have the object. At this point, beware of a person on the corner in a hat and long coat who whispers “Psst – visas any?”