United States: FAQ for Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
U.S. consulates and embassies will soon require nonimmigrant visa applicants to use Form DS-160, the Department of State’s fully electronic nonimmigrant visa application, instead of Form DS-156, the paper-based application. Form DS-160 has been in use at selected U.S. diplomatic posts for some time, but the State Department announced late last year that all U.S. posts will require the online form by April 30, 2010 at the latest. Many posts have already adopted the form, and more will begin to require it as April 30 approaches.
The following are some frequently asked questions about using the DS-160 online application. More information on the form, including technical instructions and requirements, is available at the State Department’s website here.
Form DS-160 is available at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/.
NOTE: The DS-160 website has been experiencing widespread technical slowdowns and may be inaccessible for lengthy periods of time. The State Department is aware of the problem and is attempting to address it. If you are unable to access the DS-160 site or complete the form, contact the consulate where you will apply for your visa. As an interim measure, the consulate may accept Form DS-156, the paper-based nonimmigrant visa application, until the DS-160 problems are resolved. See Questions 12 and 13 below for more information.
1. How can I find out whether a specific U.S. embassy or consulate requires Form DS-160?
To find out whether DS-160 is being used at the U.S. diplomatic post where you will apply for a nonimmigrant visa, contact the post. Links to all U.S. embassies and consulates websites can be found at http://usembassy.gov/.
The form is currently in use at many diplomatic posts, and more will be adding the requirement between now and April 30, 2010. Visa application requirements are subject to frequent change without notice, so even if the post does not currently require Form DS-160, make sure to check again before your visa appointment to ensure that you meet the most current requirements.
2. How is Form DS-160 different from Form DS-156?
Form DS-160 consolidates several nonimmigrant visa application forms into a single electronic document. It replaces Form DS-156 and most of the paper supplements to that form, including Form DS-157, the supplemental nonimmigrant visa application used by male applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 among others, and Form DS-158, the contact and work history form used by applicants for student or exchange visitor visas.
Unlike Form DS-156, Form DS-160 is completely electronic. It is filled out and submitted to the State Department online. While Form DS-156 can be filled out online, it has to be submitted in hard copy to the consulate.
Form DS-160 contains all of the questions included in Forms DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158, but also asks for some details that were not previously requested of nonimmigrant visa applicants, such as whether the applicant has ever held a U.S. driver’s license or Social Security number.
As you move through the DS-160 electronic form, you will be asked to input your application information. Depending on your answers to certain questions, you may be asked follow-up questions. For example, if you answer “yes” to the question whether you have previously visited the United States, follow-up questions about your previous trips will appear on the screen. If you answer “no” to this question, no follow-ups will appear.
3. While I am filling out Form DS-160, should I save my work as I go along? Should I save an electronic copy once I am finished?
Yes. It is very important to save your work periodically as you progress through the form, because Form DS-160 website will “time out” and your data will be lost if more than 20 minutes go by without any activity. You may also experience problems with your internet connection or with the State Department’s DS-160 website that could lead to data loss. Using the save options on Form DS-160 can help minimize these problems. You should also save a copy of your completed form.
There are two ways to save your work. Choosing the “save” button on Form DS-160 will save your work temporarily as you progress through the form, but will not save your data if you close your web browser or if the DS-160 website times out because of inactivity. To permanently save a partially or fully completed form, choose the “save application to file” option, which will allow you to save the form to a computer hard drive or CD. You can then use the saved file to reload your data when you’re ready to resume working on the form. You can also use a permanently saved file to load your data to a subsequent DS-160 visa application. Note that if you elect to reload saved data, you will be asked some security questions to confirm your identity.
State Department technical instructions on saving Form DS-160 are available here.
4. I am applying for a specific type of nonimmigrant visa, but Form DS-160 does not seem to have a selection for the category I need. How should I fill out the form in this situation?
If you are the principal visa applicant (i.e., not a dependent family member of a principal applicant), you will be asked to enter the purpose of your trip to the United States and select from several options, such as “Business/Conference Visitor (B1),” “Tourist/Personal Travel Visitor (B2),” “Student/Exchange Visa (F, M, J, Q)” or “Other.” If you do not see the specific purpose of your trip listed in this question, select “Other.” Once you make this selection, a second list of options, titled “Other – Specify,” will appear. This list will include selections for the E, H, L, O, P and other nonimmigrant visa categories that do not appear in the preceding list. Choose the appropriate visa category from this second list.
It is very important to select the correct visa classification for your application. If you do not choose the correct category, your application could be rejected when you appear for your visa interview at the consulate.
5. My spouse is the principal visa applicant and I am applying for a visa as his/her dependent. Form DS-160 does not seem to have any selections for the kind of dependent visa I need. How should I fill out the form in this situation?
If you are the dependent of a principal visa holder or application – for example, you are the spouse of an H-1B visa holder and you are seeking an H-4 dependent visa – the DS-160 online system will ask you questions about the principal to determine the appropriate visa category for you.
Once you begin filling out Form DS-160, you will be asked whether you are the “principal applicant” for a nonimmigrant visa. If you are a dependent, you should answer “no” to this question. You will then be asked to enter the name of the principal visa holder, the purpose of his or her trip, and possibly other information, such as the receipt number of the principal’s USCIS nonimmigrant visa petition or, in the case of a principal F student or J exchange visitor, his or her identification number in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your visa category will be determined based on your answers to these questions.
6. What happens if I don’t fully answer a question on Form DS-160 or answer incorrectly?
It is very important to answer all questions on the DS-160 completely and accurately and fill in all fields requested on the form, because mistakes and omissions could cause your application to be rejected. Some important pointers:
- Make sure to enter your complete, correct name, exactly as it appears in your passport. If you have several middle names, enter all of them on the application.
- Include your complete education history, including your high school education.
- Include your complete travel history. Unless you are applying for a crewmember visa, you must list all of your overseas travel on Form DS-160.
- Avoid entering “not applicable” or “none” unless you are specifically offered that option on the form.
7. Is a photograph required with Form DS-160?
Yes. You may upload a digital photograph when you electronically submit Form DS-160. Click here for State Department instructions on digital photographs for Form DS-160.
If you are unable to upload a digital photograph – either because you don’t have one or because your attempt to upload one was unsuccessful – you must bring to your visa appointment a print photograph that meets State Department requirements. Click here for print photograph instructions for nonimmigrant visa applications.
Note: Some consulates that use Form DS-160 may require you to submit a digital photograph, and may not accept a print photograph. Please contact the consulate where you will apply for specific information.
8. After I fill out Form DS-160, will I need to complete any other application forms?
No, with some exceptions. Most DS-160 applicants won’t need to complete any other visa forms. However, if you are applying for an E treaty trader/investor visa or a K-1/2 fiance(e) visa, you may need to submit other forms in addition to or instead of Form DS-160. See Questions 9 and 10 below.
9. I am applying for an E treaty trader/investor visa at a consulate that requires Form DS-160. Do I need to fill out any other forms for my application?
Possibly. You or your employer may also need to fill out a paper Form DS-156E, the Nonimmigrant Treaty Trader/Investor Application to bring to your visa appointment.
A paper Form DS-156E is required if you are applying for an E-1 treaty trader visa or an E-2 treaty investor visa as an executive, manager, or essential employee. If you are applying for an E-2 treaty investor visa as a principal investor, you do not need to fill out Form DS-156E.
Form DS-156E is available here. In the future, the Department of State will issue a fully electronic nonimmigrant treaty trader/investor form, but it has not done so yet.
10. I am applying for a K-1/2 fiance(e) visa. Which nonimmigrant visa application forms must I fill out?
If you are applying for a K-1/2 visa, do not fill out Form DS-160. You must use the paper nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-156, and Form DS-156K, the Nonimmigrant Fiance(e) Visa Application. Form DS-156 is available here; the DS-156K is available here.
11. Once I’ve completed and submitted Form DS-160, will I need to bring a copy of the form to my visa interview? Should I print out or save the filing confirmation that appears after I’ve submitted the form?
You don’t need to bring a copy of the entire form to the interview. However, after you fill out and submit the form, make sure to save and print out a copy of the filing confirmation. You must bring a copy of the confirmation to your appointment.
We also recommend that you save an electronic copy of your completed DS-160 form in case you need to resubmit the application or want to use your data for a future visa application.
12. Have visa applicants experienced any technical problems with Form DS-160?
Yes. Recently, foreign nationals trying to use the online Form DS-160 have encountered persistent problems, due to widespread technical slowdowns with the DS-160 website. These problems have increased lately because, as of March 1, 2010, a large number of consulates implemented the DS-160 and many more applicants began to use the online system, resulting in system overloads. The State Department is aware of the problems and is attempting to address them, but foreign nationals may be unable to access the DS-160 for lengthy periods.
As an interim solution, many consulates have resumed accepting Form DS-156, the paper-based application, until the DS-160 problems are resolved. If you are unable to access the DS-160 website, contact the consulate where you will apply for a visa to see whether it will accept Form DS-156. See Question 13 for more information.
If you are able to access Form DS-160, make sure to save your work frequently. Many applicants have lost data because the form “timed out” or because of a faulty internet connection.
13. I have been unable to access the DS-160 website for some time, and my visa appointment will take place soon. What should I do?
If you are unable to access Form DS-160 because of the current State Department technical issues (discussed above), contact the consulate to see whether it will accept Form DS-156, the paper-based nonimmigrant visa application, and related paper forms (available here). Because of the recent DS-160 technical problems, many consulates have resumed accepting Form DS-156, the paper-based application, as an interim solution.
Form DS-156 is completed online but must be printed out and the hard copy brought to your visa appointment. Because there could be technical slowdowns on the DS-156 website as well, make sure to complete the form well in advance of your visa appointment, if possible.
14. I am applying for a nonimmigrant visa at a consulate that does not use Form DS-160 yet. Which forms do I need to fill out?
If you will be applying for a nonimmigrant visa before April 30 and the consulate where you will apply does not yet use Form DS-160, you should plan to fill out Form DS-156, the paper-based nonimmigrant visa application (available here) and any other forms required by the consulate. Form DS-156 is completed online but must be printed out and the hard copy brought to your visa appointment. Because there could be technical slowdowns on the DS-156 website, make sure to complete the form well in advance of your visa appointment, if possible.
Even if the consulate does not currently require the DS-160, you should check back with the consulate before your visa appointment in case it has adopted the electronic form and will require you to use it. More and more consulates are adding the DS-160 requirement every day.
We are closely monitoring the roll-out of Form DS-160 at U.S. diplomatic posts. If you have any questions about the form, please contact your designated Fragomen professional.