Are you in the process of applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad? If so, one of the important steps is to must submit an electronic form called the DS-260. Its purpose is to convey some information to the National Visa Center (NVC), which is responsible for collecting some information from you and transferring your file to a U.S. consulate near where you live.
For more information about this part of the process of applying for an immigrant visa (and U.S. lawful permanent residence), see “What Happens Between I-130 Approval and Consular Interview?"
The DS-260 application can be submitted only online, and only after you have paid your required visa processing fees. There may be a few days’ delay between the time you pay your fees and when you will be allowed to access the form.
Go to the “Sign In” page of the U.S. Department of State’s “Consular Electronic Application Center” (CEAC) and log in. Follow the links to Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application.
The form consists of quite a few pages, which ask you a number of questions. There will be biographical questions, such as all names used, all addresses where you have lived, work and educational history, and family member information.
You will also be asked questions to determine whether you are admissible to the United States. (U.S. law has a number of grounds of “inadmissibility,” such as commission of crimes, presenting a security risk, or being likely to require government assistance due to financial need.)
The CEAC system will not let you go on to the next page of the form if you leave any important information blank. If you find you can't move forward, look for the error message and red arrow pointing out where you need to supply missing information.
You must complete this form in English, using English characters only. Plan ahead, and have someone ready to help you if you aren’t confident in your English-language ability.
It is important to save your work, preferably after you complete each page of the form. The system will “time out” and lose all your work (since the last save) if you let it sit idle too long. Look for the “save” button at the bottom of each page.
If you can’t finish the DS-260 all in one sitting (it’s pretty long!), don’t worry. You can save your DS-260 and come back to it later if you need to.
It will disappear after 30 days if you don’t do anything with it, though. Fortunately CEAC allows you to save your application data to your computer and upload it back into the system later, so you should do that if you have to leave your application for a while. That’s a good precaution even if you think you’ll be back within 30 days.
Before you can electronically sign and submit the DS-260, the system will make you review all your answers. Take advantage of this opportunity, because submitting erroneous or incomplete answers on the DS-260 can hurt your chances of getting a visa.
After you submit the DS-260, print out the confirmation page in order to bring it to your interview.
Although you are not required to do so, it doesn’t hurt to also print out a copy of the entire form, so that you can refer to it when needed. You can log into CEAC anytime to print these pages, if you don’t do it right away.