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The DS-160 Application: Your Online Nonimmigrant Visa Guide

Overview of the Application Process


Are you looking to apply for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa? If so, you’ll need to fill out the DS-160 application, which you must do online, before your visa interview. You’ll need to come prepared with certain information and documentation to help you through the process. If the information you provide is incomplete or incorrect, it will delay the processing of your application or lead to denial of the application. 

Be ready to provide personal details and answer questions about topics like your family, education, or any trips you’ve made to the U.S. in the past, and make sure to set aside some time to complete the forms so that you don’t feel rushed. If you make mistakes on your nonimmigrant visa application form, you may not be able to correct them after submission. 

The DS-160 Application: An Overview

A DS-160 application is a secure online form for those looking to obtain a USA nonimmigrant visa. There are different types of nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas and K-1 visas. No matter which type of nonimmigrant visa you are looking to apply for, you will need to start a new application and fill out the DS-160 electronic form. 

Once you’ve completed and submitted your online form, it’s sent directly to the Department of State for consideration. The Consular Officers, also known as Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), are the ones who make the final decisions on these types of visa applications. 

One of a Consular Officer’s primary responsibilities is to determine whether or not to allow foreign nationals into the United States. However, Foreign Service Officers also work to end human trafficking, help handle adoptions, and prevent cross-border fraud

Next, we’ll take a more in-depth look at the application process; read on to learn what you can expect as you navigate the DS-160. 

The Application Process 

When you’re ready to get started on your DS-160 application, you can find the form on the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website. Make sure you set aside an adequate amount of time to complete your visa form and have all of the paperwork you need before you begin, such as your passport information and documented work experience. 

You’ll be asked a series of questions related to your personal life and background, along with security questions. Be prepared to upload a clear photo of your face during this process as well. 

The application may take you some time, but the form is not complex.

New Questions You Will Need To Answer 

Recently, the rules surrounding the DS-160 application process have gotten stricter. The United States authorities are now requiring the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to gather more data. Those looking to apply for a nonimmigrant visa will now have longer forms to fill out since new questions have been added. 

The new questions include: 

  • Social media. If you’re a social media user, be prepared to provide information about your accounts. Don’t worry—you won’t have to disclose any passwords. You’ll need to choose from a list of which social media platforms you’re active on and share the name you go by on each one. 
  • E-mail. You will also be asked to provide every email address created and used by you within the past five years. If you have had several, make sure you’re taking your time, and don’t forget to include any on the form.
  • Phone number(s). Be prepared to disclose all of the phone numbers used by you within the past five years. If you have had several, make sure you’re taking your time, and don’t forget to include any on the form.
  • Family members. There will be questions regarding the activities of your family members. These questions will help determine whether or not any of them is potentially involved in terrorism, drug trafficking, and/or money laundering. 
  • Deportation and expulsion. If you have ever been forced to leave a country, you’ll need to disclose this information as well. 

As a result of the new questions, there will be longer application processing times and potentially higher rates of visa refusal. U.S. Officials are spending lengthy amounts of time cross-checking forms with applicants’ social media accounts. If any information on your social profile doesn’t align with what you wrote on your application, you risk refusal. 

What Information Will You Need To Have Prepared?

Before you sit down to begin your visa application, make sure you have all of the information you need so you can answer the questions to the best of your ability. Here are some of the line items you’ll need to fill out your DS-160 application forms, along with other questions you’ll be required to answer. 


  • First, middle, and last name 
  • Marital status 
  • Birthdate and place of birth 
  • Home country 
  • Other nationalities (if applicable) 
  • If you’re a permanent resident in another country (besides your home country) 
  • Address of primary residence
  • Personal and work phone numbers
  • Passport data 
  • Why you’re traveling to the United States 
  • Travel plans (when are you arriving, who is with you, where are you staying, etc.) 
  • Information on past trips you’ve taken to the U.S. 
  • Information on previous visas (if applicable) 
  • When and where you’ve been declined entry into the United States (if applicable)

Family Information

  • Family members that are based in the United States
  • The name of your spouse, their date of birth, their place of birth 
  • Your parent’s given names (first, middle, last) 

Employment, Education, and Training

  • Your primary job, location, when you started, salary (local currency), and responsibilities
  • Past jobs 
  • If you have an education at or above a secondary level 
  • Languages you are proficient in 
  • Places you’ve traveled and when 
  • Charities or social and professional institutions you’re involved with
  • Special training (firearms, etc.) 
  • Veteran status


  • Do you have a disease you have that could be seen as a public health threat (leprosy, tuberculosis, etc.)? 
  • Do you have mental or physical health issues that could endanger yourself or the public?
  • Do you have a current or previous drug addiction?
  • Have you ever been arrested or convicted of any offense at any level? 
  • Have you ever been involved with illegal controlled substances?
  • Have you ever laundered money? 
  • Are you related to anyone who has been involved with human trafficking? Have you knowingly benefited from their behavior? 

These lists are not exhaustive. You will be required to answer other similar questions on your DS-160 application as well. Remember to set aside plenty of time for yourself to complete all of them. Otherwise, you could end up rushing and making mistakes.

Other Things To Know About the Application 

There are a few other things that are important to keep in mind when you’re filling out your forms as well, like how the application portal works and how to save your confirmation page after submission. Here are seven important points to keep in mind when filling out your DS-160 application. 

Your required photo can’t be more than six months old.

Additional photo requirements can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website. Make sure to follow all photo guidelines to ensure the timely processing of your visa application. 

You Must Answer the Form Questions in English With English-Language Characters. 

This doesn’t include your birth/given name, which is to be written as it was assigned to you at birth. 

You Must Schedule Your Follow-Up Interview With the Same Embassy (Or U.S. Consulate) You Selected on Your Application

This interview will happen after your forms have been submitted. If you don’t schedule your interview, it will not be scheduled for you. 

Session Expiration

If you step away from your computer for more than 20 minutes, your session will expire, and you’ll have to start from the beginning. 

Make sure to save your progress frequently. You should also write down your Application ID number (located on the top right of the application page) and keep it in a safe place. This way, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off if you need to step away or experience technical difficulties. 

Form Validity

Along with session expiration, you’ll also need to keep in mind that DS-160 forms are only valid for 30 days from the date you begin filling them out. So if you need to save your application for later, make sure you come back to it and submit it before the 30 days is up. Otherwise, you’ll need to start over. 

Print the Confirmation Page

When you’ve completed your application, you’ll see an alpha-numeric barcode appear on the confirmation page. Print it and store it in a safe place until your follow-up interview with the Consulate or Embassy. You will need to bring it with you. 

Save a Backup Copy of Your DS-160 Application

Once you’ve printed your confirmation page, make sure to keep a copy of your complete DS-160 for your records. You won’t need them for the interview

Forms and Barcodes Aren’t Reusable

If you’ve applied for a nonimmigrant visa in the past, you aren’t allowed to use your old application form or barcode to expedite the process. If you attempt to do either, your information will not be accepted, and your visa application will be put on hold. 

It’s Recommended To File at Least 48 Hours Ahead of Your Interview

This is to ensure your information is processed properly ahead of your meeting with the Consulate or Embassy. 

For more information about the DS-160 application process, you can visit the U.S. Department of State website. Just in case you missed it before, you can find the application form here


Understandably, many applicants have questions about the DS-160 application and how everything works. Here are some commonly asked questions from those undergoing the U.S. nonimmigrant visa application process. 

Does It Cost Money To Submit a DS-160 Application? 

It will not cost you any money to file your DS-160 application online. Simply fill out the required forms to the best of your ability, save a copy for your records, then print your DS-160 confirmation page and barcode for your interview.

Please note that while you don’t need to pay to file an application, you do need to pay for your visa. U.S. nonimmigrant visas commonly range from $160 all the way up to $265. The amount you pay will depend on the type of visa you select. 

How Do I Pay My Visa Fee? 

Once you’ve completed your DS-160, you will need to schedule an interview. When scheduling the interview, you will be given instructions on how to pay the visa fee. The method for paying the visa fee varies. You may be able to pay the fee online using a debit or credit card. In some instances, you will have to pay at a specified bank or other location. 

Can My Family All Be on the Same Application?

If you’re looking to travel to the United States with family members, everyone will need to apply separately. This includes minor children as well. Applicants are considered on an individual basis; therefore, each applicant must have their own DS-160 forms and unique alpha-numeric barcodes.

What if I Need to Edit My Form After Submission? 

After submission, you’re not able to go back in right away and edit the same application to fix a mistake. However, there are a couple of ways you can fix errors if you make them. The first way is to retrieve it from the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) system. Please note this option only works if you submitted the form within the past 30 days. If it has been longer, you’ll need to try option two. 

The second option is to start over from the beginning. Fill out a new DS-160 application, save a copy of your new forms, and print your new confirmation page with the alpha-numeric barcode. You’ll need to take the updated and original versions of your confirmation page and DS-160 forms to your interview appointment with the Consulate or Embassy. 

In normal cases, you wouldn’t need to bring a copy of the application forms since you have the confirmation page. The alpha-numeric barcode on that page allows the officials to pull up your application. However, if you make changes, you’ll need to bring in both sets of documentation.

How Long Does the Application Take? 

The DS-160 application typically takes about 90 minutes to complete. However, due to its lengthy forms, it could take some applicants longer. Remember to set aside an appropriate amount of time to complete your application. This can help prevent you from making mistakes while answering the questions. 

When Do I Have My Interview?

It depends. For most nonimmigrant visas types, the Consulate or Embassy will not schedule your interview. You’ll need to set up a time on your own. Appointment availability varies depending upon the type of visa you are applying for and location. 

Remember to schedule your interview at the same Embassy or Consulate you selected on your DS-160 application. You can find the appropriate location to reach out to on the Embassy website by selecting your country or area of residence.

What Happens Next?

Once you’ve completed the interview process, the Consular Officer will let you know whether your application has been approved or denied. If you’re approved, they will let you know the procedure and timing for obtaining your visa and getting your passport back. 

If your DS-160 application is denied by the U.S. Government, you won’t receive a nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States. However, you can apply again whenever you’re ready. There is no limit to how many times you can submit an application, and there is no waiting period to reapply. 

How We Can Help You

We believe the American dream should be an option for everyone, no matter where they were born. The process of applying for and obtaining a U.S. nonimmigrant visa takes time, and it can be confusing for some people. 

At Cohen, Tucker, and Ades, we can help you navigate the process. We’ll help you understand the options that are available to you and get on the path you need to be on to reach your goals. 

Our dedicated and experienced team of immigration attorneys is passionate about guiding their clients through often complicated processes and representing their best interests. We’re the longest-standing immigration firm in New York City — around since 1964. 

With so much history and combined experience, each one of our clients is in capable hands. Need assistance? We’re ready to help. Reach out today.


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