New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets

New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets

All About New US eVisa System

Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets

About New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets

Today’s post is about the New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets. Herein, we discuss the following:

  • US Government Entities with Visa Involvement
  • Existing and Previous Hand Carrying of Visa Packet
  • New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets
  • Implementation of New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets

US Government Entities With Visa Involvement

After the embassy issues your visa, it sends information back to USCIS concerning your particular visa issuance. Because the embassy (Department of State) and USCIS (Department of Homeland Security (DHS)) are different US government entities, they have to send documents and information back and forth. Why do they send information back and forth?

  • The process begins with USCIS with the I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance or I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
  • After USCIS approves the petition, the case goes to the National Visa Center (NVC) and then the embassy. As we note above, USCIS is part of the Department of Homeland Security. On the other hand NVC and the embassy are both part of the Department of State (DOS).
  • The DOS is responsible for issuing the visa.
  • After visa issuance, responsibility for entry into the US and subsequent processing falls back again to USCIS.

Therefore, DHS and the DOS must communicate and send documents to each other.

Next, we discuss the past, current and future ways that DHS and the DOS communicate and send documents to each other.

In particular, we discuss the New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets.



Hand Carry Visa Packet

About the Hand Carry Visa Packet

us visa packetIn the past, after visa issuance, the only method for the embassy to send documents and information back to USCIS was for the intending immigrant to hand carry a packet. For example, see the picture to the right for an example of a visa packet.

For this purpose, the embassy sends the intending immigrant a package containing their passport and receive a sealed packet containing documents.

Upon receipt of the visa package, you remove your passport. For a great explanation on how to remove your passport from the visa package, see our blog post, Open Visa Package Retrieve Passport Protect Visa Packet.

As a result of removing your passport, you have the visa packet left. With regards to the visa packet,  you must present it to U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port-of-entry upon arrival in the United States. Above all, you must not open the sealed visa packet.

For example, see the “Important Notice” on the visa packet. This notice says, “To be opened only by United States immigration or public health officer. This is your visa. It must be surrendered to the United States immigration officer at a port of entry into the United States. Do not pack it. It must be hand carried.

As a consequence, this places a lot of burden on the intending immigrant not to lose, damage or open the visa packet.

If you open the packet intentionally or accidentally the immigrations officer may not allow you to enter the United States. As a result,  you may have to return to the US Consulate and ask them to reseal the packet.

Therefore, make sure not to open the visa packet before you give it to the immigration officer at the Port of Entry.

Whats in The Visa Packet, Whats It For, and Where Does it End Up

Many people ask “What is in the visa packet envelope?”. Also, “what is it for and where does it end up in the end?”

Specifically, the visa packet contains the following items:

  1. A copy of your visa application,
  2. copy of your medical exam, and
  3. a copy of any information that the officer at the consulate deems appropriate for the officer at the border to have.

Once you hand the visa packet to the US immigrations officer at the Port of Entry, the officer opens and reviews it. In addition, the officer makes entries and not into the USCIS computer system.

Finally, the officer keeps the packet. In the end, the packet is sent to a USCIS office. As a result, you never see it again. USCIS places this information into the immigrant’s A file.

Hard Carry Visa Packet Seems Archaic

Given that the hand carry visa packet is only for the embassy to send documents and information to USCIS, this hand carry method seems obsolete for our day and age.

Now, in the information age, it is easy to send documents securely through electronic systems.

In addition, sending documents electronically saves time and money.

Also, the intending immigrant does not have to worry about loosing, damaging or opening the hand carry visa packet.

However, some people like the hand carry documents as they feel they have some assurance that the visa information is available at the port of entry.

New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets

Modernized Immigrant Visa (MIV)

Accordingly, the USCIS and the DOS has begun development, roll out and trial of a New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets.

The government is calling this upgrade “Modernized Immigrant Visa” or “MIV” for short. MIV is part of the DOS and DHS’s initiative to transition from paper to electronic processing for immigration applications.

The implementation of MIV for the New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets is one of several pilot programs associated with the Integrated Digital Document Management Program (IDMP).

Integrated Digital Document Management Program (IDMP)

MIV Visa email from embassy

In my research, the reference information includes the Privacy Impact Assessment Statement for the Integrated Digitation Document Management Program, dated February 28, 2017.

The DOS uses a computer system that the National Visa Center (NVC) or the embassy scans and uploads documents. Namely, this program is the Consular Consolidated Database (CDC).

The DHS uses a separate computer system for USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Namely, this program is the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS).

Previously, these separate computer systems could not talk to each other or share information. Consequently, the embassy sent the hand carry visa package via the intending immigrant to USCIS at the port of entry.

Recently, the DOH and DOS developed separate computer systems to electronically transfer DOS immigrant visa documents from CDC to USCIS Ellis. Namely, these systems are the Enterprise Document Management System (EDMS) and Immigrant Visa Content Service (IVCS).

How MIV Works

Now, lets discuss how MIV works for the New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets.

This information comes from actual immigrant beneficiaries and their petitioner that have gone through the IV process as part of the pilot program. In particular, the information comes from members of our LoveVisaLife Facebook Visa Discussion Group.

Now, DOS can send the visa information electronically to USCIS. Consequently, the immigration officers at the POE can pull up this information on their computer screen.  Therefore, this eliminates the requirement for the hand carrying of the visa packet.

As a result, the only requirement for the intending immigrant is to show their passport with visa to the immigration officer at the port of entry.

foreign passport with eVisa

Then, the immigration officer looks at your passport and visa. In addition, the officer pulls up your visa information on his or her computer screen. If all is well, the officer stamps your visa and you are on you way.

US immigrations officer inspecting foreign passport with new eVisa.

For more information on the Port of Entry, see our pages, K-1 Fiance Visa Port of Entry Summary or Port of Entry US Spouse Visa Summary

Implementation of New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets

Currently, the New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets is a pilot program.

This pilot program began in March of 2017 at some selected embassies.

In other words, it’s a trial at some small embassies to see how well it works before implementing it across all embassies.

Right now, the only embassies that I have seen it in use is Romania and Cambodia. This is from discussions with members of my Facebook Visa discussion group.

As a result, the hand carrying of visa documents is still the normal case at most embassies.

When or if this new system will be implemented across all embassies remains to be seen.

However, I believe that the transition to a fully paperless system is a good thing.

2 thoughts to “New US eVisa System Replacing Hand Carry Visa Packets”

  1. Kevin,
    Very informative article. I had no idea there was a transition in progress to go paperless from the DOS to the DHS. I’m sure it’ll be a welcome change for both K visa applicants as well as the CBP. Now we won’t have to worry about hand carrying the packet for the Port of Entry.
    This is just how many other processes are going paperless for the K visa process. For example, the NVC is going digital when transferring approved I-129F to the DOS Embassy. Or like how the Embassy is now relying on email to invite the applicant for a K visa. Keep up the good work.
    -Prem

    1. Thanks Prem. Yes, modernization of visas by going paperless and sharing documents between departments electronically are good changes. Great job over at your website too.

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