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June 13th 2023

What is a Form DS-160 and how do I fill one out?

Form DS-160, otherwise known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form, is for foreign nationals who want to travel temporarily to the United States temporarily and for K fiancé visa applicants.

Form DS-160, otherwise known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form, is for foreign nationals who want to travel temporarily to the United States temporarily and for K fiancé visa applicants. The form may only be submitted online to U.S. State Department, after which applicants will have a personal interview with a U.S. Consular Officer to help them determine their eligibility  to enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant or K visa.

How can I get a copy of Form DS-160? 

You can find Form DS-160 online by visiting the U.S. Department of State Consular Electronic Application Center.

Under "visa,” you’ll find "DS-160, online nonimmigrant visa application." Clicking this link will redirect you to a page where you may select the location where you intend to apply for a visa from a drop-down menu. You may then be asked to enter a code generated below the box where the code is requested.

After you've selected a location and provided the code, you will have three options for your application:

  • Start an application, which will let you start a new application 

  • Upload an application, which will redirect you to an application you've already started 

  • Retrieve an application, which will let you  pull up an application you've completed in the past by entering an application ID number and answering a security question

What documents do you need to complete Form DS-160? 

To complete Form DS-160, you may be required to provide the following documents: 

  • Your passport

  • Your travel itinerary, if you have already established where you'll be staying, what you'll be doing, and your flight information to the U.S.

  • The dates of your last five trips to the U.S., if you've traveled to the U.S. before. You may also be requested to provide your international travel history over the last five years 

  • Resume and curriculum vitae, if applicable. You may also have to provide information on past education and past work history, including the contact information and address of previous employers, previous titles that you held with the employers you worked for, the name of your supervisors at positions you previously held and descriptions of your previous job responsibilities

  • If you’re traveling to the U.S. for business, you may be required to provide the name and address of your employer, your salary, your employer’s contact number and a description of your job duties  

Applicants of certain visas may also have to provide other documents or information when completing Form DS-160. Below is an overview of these requirements:

  • Student and exchange visitors (F, J and M visas).

     Applicants of these visas will typically require their SEVIS ID, which may be found on their I-20 or DS-2019

  • Petition-based temporary workers (H-1B, H-2, H-3, CW1, L, P, R, E-2C visas).

     Applicants who completed a Form I-129 should also have it available while completing their DS-160 

  • Other temporary workers.

     If you do not fall in the above categories, you may be asked questions that pertain to your employers, including the name and address of your employer.

Common questions when completing Form DS-160

To further help foreign nationals who are interested in temporarily staying in the U.S., below is a list of frequently asked questions about completing Form DS-160, as well as their respective answers.

Should all questions be answered? 

Unless a question is marked as “optional,” provide an answer to all questions on the form except those marked optional questions, which you may be leave blank. For questions that do not apply to your case, you may simply write “does not apply” in the answer section. 

Do answers have to be in English? 

Yes. All answers must be written in English. If you’d like to read the  form in another language, you may find a translated copy in a drop-down box in the upper-right corner of the form. Translated forms, however, should still be answered in English when being submitted.

Does Form DS-160 need to be signed? 

Yes. Because the application is electronic, you’ll have to use an electronic signature. Signing the form certifies that you have read, understood and answered all the questions truthfully and to the best of your ability. You may sign the form by clicking on “sign application” at the very bottom of the form.

Can someone else complete the application for you? 

Form DS-160 should only be completed by the applicant unless he or she is unable to do so because of extenuating circumstances. In such cases, the assisting party should be identified on the “sign and submit” portion of the form.

Applicants under the age of 16 may have a parent or guardian to complete and sign the form on behalf of their behalf. In the absence of a parent or legal guardian, any individual with legal custody or legitimate interest in the applicant may also complete and sign the application.

What if your session times out? 

Form DS-160 may take more than an hour to complete due to the number of optional and mandatory fields that must be answered. To protect your private information, the form DS-160 will “time out” after 20 minutes of being idle; this is when no new information has been provided. Unless you regularly save your progress, you may risk having to start the form all over again. 

To save your application progress, click the “save” button located at the bottom and center part of the application. This saves your data temporarily. To save your data permanently, select “save application to file” which lets you download DS-160 along with your current progress so you may import and complete it at a later, more convenient time. 

If a session times out, you are typically required to copy the application ID number displayed on your computer and click “recover application.” You may input this ID number when a window appears that says “session timed out” to retrieve your application. Several security questions may also need to be answered which typically requires you to provide:

  • The first five letters of your last name 

  • The year you were born

  • An answer to a security question such as your grandmother’s maiden name

After you have provided the answers to these security questions, you may click “retrieve application” where you may be directed back to your application to continue completing the form. 

Can you save the application? 

You may save the application to a computer’s hard drive or a disk. Once you do, you will regain access to the form after 30 days. 

If you would like to permanently save your application to your computer’s hard drive or a disk, click on the “save application to file” button and click “save” on the download window. Once the download is done, you may select “close” and you will be returned to the live application. 

To protect your information, avoid saving the application on a shared or public computer.

What happens after you submit Form DS-160?

After submitting the form, you will likely be required to schedule an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy. During the interview, your fingerprints may be scanned and you will typically be asked questions related to the information you provided in the application and your reasons for wanting to travel to the U.S. Your answers to the interview will be cross-referenced with information in your DS-160 to determine the validity of your case and whether or not you’re eligible to receive the visa you applied for. 

The takeaway

Completing Form DS-160, just like any other immigration form, requires time and dedication. However, it’s a crucial first step to take for foreign nationals who wish to start  a new chapter of their lives in the U.S.

There are many more important documents and steps to take before you’ll be ready to move to the country however. For example, did you know that your credit history doesn’t automatically transfer with you when you immigrate? That means that companies and financial institutions will have no record of your previous financial history. In turn, that can make it very difficult to secure loans, secure an apartment lease, mobile phone companies, and other service providers.  

Nova Credit's Credit Passport® technology helps people bring their credit history with them when they move to the U.S. While your credit history won’t be transferred to national bureau databases, Nova Credit partners with companies to include information from your Credit Passport® in applications to make it easier for newcomers to get approved for credit cards, loans and other products. Once you establish a U.S. credit account using the credit you’ve earned, you can start building a local credit history. Nova Credit currently connects to international credit bureaus in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea and the UK. 

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A strong credit score helps you access a lot in the U.S., and a credit card is an easy way to start building your U.S. credit score. Access your free international credit score, and see which U.S. credit cards could be right for you.

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The ultimate guide to the F-1 visa

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The ultimate guide to the O-1 visa

How to check your USCIS case status

How to read the Visa Bulletin

How to build credit after moving to the US

How to get a social security card

How to get an apartment with no credit history

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