Foreign nationals wishing to travel to the United States need to obtain a visa. Getting a visa typically involves filling out multiple forms, mailing a document packet, and waiting months for a decision. The process can be confusing, expensive, and time-consuming.
However, qualifying travelers can simplify the process through a nonimmigrant visa application online via Form DS-160. Learn from this guide when to use Form DS-160, who it’s for, how to fill it out, and what happens after submitting the form electronically to USCIS.
What Is Form DS-160 Used for?
Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) is used to apply for a temporary U.S. visa. You can use this form if you plan to visit the United States for six months or less. Form DS-160 can also be used to apply for a K-1 fiancé(e)visa.
Most applicants using this form will be traveling for business or leisure purposes. If you want to move to the United States permanently, you will have to petition to get a green card.
Who Needs to Use Form DS-160?
Anyone who wishes to visit the United States temporarily must file Form DS-160 electronically. This includes:
- Business travelers
- Mexican citizens applying for a TN visa
- K-1 petitioners entering the U.S. to get married
K-1 petitioners entering the United States to marry a U.S. resident need to get married within 90 days of entry and apply to adjust status to remain in the United States.
A Form DS-160 needs to be submitted for each person visiting the U.S. Travelers who are visiting the United States with children will need to file a separate form for each child. Parents who file on the behalf of their children must be identified at the end of the form on the page titled “Sign and Submit.”
Filling Out Form DS-160
Form DS-160 is submitted electronically. You can save your progress and complete the form within 30 days. Alternatively, you can download the form to your computer and upload it once you have completed it. The estimated time it takes to complete Form DS-160 is 90 minutes.
After filling out one DS-160 form, additional forms for family members can be added. Following the confirmation page, you will have the option to create a family application. A family application can automatically fill in fields for multiple family members.
Necessary Documents to File Form DS-160
Filing Form DS-160 will be easier if you have the necessary information ready. Documents you should have available while you file include:
- Employment history
- Your travel plans
- Your passport
- Any other government-issued ID
- A recent digital photo
If applicable, have your U.S. documents at hand also, such as your social security card or taxpayer ID. If you are visiting the U.S. to work, you will need your I-129. Students will also need to know their school address and have a copy of their SEVIS ID.
Starting Your Form
To fill out Form DS-160, you first select the location you are applying from. Your application ID will appear on the next page along with a security question. Write down your security question answer and application ID number so you may access your application again.
Your application remains active for up to 30 days. If you need to find personal information documents or need more time to work on your application, save your progress. You can return to your application or download it and complete it offline.
The first part of your application will require you to provide personal information. You will need to enter your name, birth date, marital status, and nationality. This is where you will enter your national identification number, as well as your U.S. social security number and U.S. taxpayer identification number if applicable.
This section asks you to explain the nature of your visit to the United States. You will need to disclose your arrival and departure dates as well as the address where you intend to stay. Approximate dates may be given for your intended visit if you do not have concrete plans yet.
List anyone who will be accompanying you on your visit to the United States. Be sure to include children, other family members, or friends you are traveling with. Tour group participants should include this information here.
If you are visiting the U.S. for work, you do not need to include coworkers on their applications.
Previous U.S. Travel
If you have ever traveled to the United States before, report that information here. You will need to know your past travel dates and details about your trip.
You will be asked if you have petitioned for an immigrant visa with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as well as whether you have ever been denied a U.S. visa.
Address and Phone
This part simply requires your current address and contact information. Enter your phone number, email address, and an alternate mailing address if you have one.
A recent addition to Form DS-160 may require additional thought. You will need to list all screen names for social media accounts you have used in the past five years, such as:
This section of the application requires your passport or travel document number. If applicable, enter your passport book number. Give the location where your passport was issued, the issue date, and the expiration date. Note whether or not your passport has ever been lost or stolen.
U.S. Contact Information
On this page of your DS-160 form, enter a contact you have in the United States who can confirm your identity. If this is your first visit to the U.S. and you do not have any contacts yet, enter the name of a business you plan to visit.
This section of the application will ask you for information about your parents as well as any family you may have in the U.S. Married applicants will also be asked to provide their spouse’s name, birth date, nationality, and address.
This portion asks for details about your educational background and work history. Include anything from the last five years. If you have any special training or organizational affiliations, disclose that on this page.
Security and Background
This page will ask you 25 questions concerning security and background information. Read each question carefully to ensure that you answer correctly.
This part of your application where you are asked to submit a photo. Your picture must be in color, less than six months old, and show a clear view of your face. Similar to U.S. passport photo requirements, do not wear glasses. No hats may be worn unless required by your religion.
It’s highly recommended that you not take the photo yourself. To ensure the lighting and proportion are acceptable, let someone else take your photo. You can upload a digital photo to have it printed at CVS or Walgreens.
A digital version of your photo is required for your Form DS-160 application. However, you will also need to bring a hard copy of your photo when you attend your interview.
Review and Submit
Review each part of your application for accuracy before you submit it. Any errors on your application could result in delays or your travel visa being denied. You may be asked to confirm some of your answers before your application is submitted.
Once you agree to the terms and conditions and submit your application, you will see a confirmation page. Print this page. You need to bring this confirmation page to your interview.
After Submitting Form DS-160
After you complete your Form DS-160, it will be processed by a U.S. embassy or consulate. You can check the status of your application on the U.S. Department of State website.
Your next step will be to attend a visa interview. You have to schedule your interview after looking up your local U.S. embassy or consulate. Bring your printed photo and Form DS-160 confirmation page to your visa interview.
There is no fee to submit Form DS-160 but you will need to pay a visa application processing fee. The fee typically ranges from $160-$190 but may vary by country. You can determine your country-specific visa fee and payment instructions by contacting your local U.S. embassy or consulate.