I have been waiting overseas for my U.S. immigrant visa for a long time, but I just checked this month's Visa Bulletin, and my Priority Date is getting closer to the cutoff date listed. What do I do next? Do I need to wait to be notified by the U.S. government?
Yes, even with a current Priority Date, you will need to wait to be notified by the U.S. government before taking the next step toward applying for an immigrant visa and U.S. lawful permanent residence. (Note that the scenario is different than for people living in the U.S. and planning to apply for their residence using the procedure known as "Adjustment of Status." They can and should submit their application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as soon as they have a current Priority Date.)
You and your petitioner (the U.S. employer or relative who is sponsoring you) will receive a welcome letter or email from the National Visa Center (NVC) when your Priority Date becomes current in the application filing chart, or is likely to become current within the next year. The welcome letter will give you your case identification number and invoice number, both of which you will need in order to go online to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to pay your fees and fill out the visa application form. (After doing so, you will be scheduled for a consular interview, at which your visa application will be reviewed and hopefully approved.)
Just in case you do not receive this welcome letter, you should check the application date filing chart in the State Department's Visa Bulletin each month (or subscribe to monthly emails) to stay informed about whether the NVC is currently accepting applications for cases with your Priority Date.
If your date is current (the cut-off date in your preference category in the application filing date chart is a later date than your priority date or simply says "C" for "current") but you have not yet received the welcome letter from the NVC, send a message through the public inquiry page.
You should also make sure that the NVC is aware of you and your family-member or employer petitioner's current addresses and that NVC has an email address on file for you, as much of the process can be completed via email. If you need to add, update, or change your contact information, you can reach NVC at 1-603-334-0700 or fill out the NVC public inquiry form.
Once your Priority Date becomes current or you have received the welcome letter from the NVC, don't let too much time go by before you take action. You will have one year in which to contact the NVC. If you wait longer than that, the U.S. government will assume you are no longer interested in getting a visa and move on to the next applications in line.
For more about the waitlist and checking the Visa Bulletin, see How Long Is the Wait for Your Priority Date to Become Current?