How to complete the American visa application form
If you are a non-US national planning to travel to the USA for a temporary period, and you are not eligible for visa-free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to complete form DS-160 to apply for a nonimmigrant visa.
You can access the American visa application form on the Consular Electronic Application Center website.
In this guide, we outline the information you will need to provide when completing your American visa application form.
What is the American visa application form?
Form DS-160 is the American visa application form for temporary travel to the United States. Visa applicants must submit a completed DS-160 for all nonimmigrant visa categories. This can range from a business or tourist visa, to a treaty trader or investor visa.
Consular officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a face-to-face interview, determine the applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.
What questions does the American visa application form ask?
The American visa application form is fairly lengthy and asks you a wide range of questions, from your name and address to your medical and criminal history.
The DS-160 is set out under the following sections:
- Personal information – this includes your name, current address, date and place of birth, country of origin and marital status.
- Passport information – here you are required to provide your current passport details, including its issue and expiry date.
- Travel information – you will be required to explain the purpose of your trip, together with details of any specific travels plans, including your intended date of arrival and departure.
- Travel companions information – you must provide details of any persons travelling with you and your relationship to them.
- Previous US travel information – this asks for detail of previous trips and whether you have been previously refused entry to the US.
- US point of contact information – you will need to provide a US point of contact, with their name, address and relationship to you, for example, a work sponsor.
- Family information – you will be asked to provide details of both of your parents, as well as any spouse.
- Present work/education/training information – the questions here range from your current income, to whether you have any affiliation with rebel or paramilitary organisations.
- Security and background – this includes detailed questions about your medical and any criminal history.
Once completed, you must electronically sign your American visa application form by clicking the “Sign Application” button at the end. This certifies that you have read and understood the questions in the application and that your answers are true and complete to the best of your knowledge and belief.
The submission of an application containing any false or misleading statements may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the US. It also constitutes an offence of perjury.
Will I need to upload a photograph with my American visa application form?
Your photo is a vital part of your visa application. If you are applying for a nonimmigrant visa using the American visa application form DS-160, the form will instruct you to upload your digital image as part of completing the online application.
There are very specific digital image requirements when uploading or scanning an existing photo which can be found on the Consular Electronic Application Center website. In particular, the photo must be in colour, taken directly facing the camera with a neutral facial expression, and without glasses. It must also be taken within the last six months to reflect your current appearance.
The acceptance of your digital image or photo is at the discretion of the US Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Some consulates also require visa applicants to bring a photo, which meets the requirements, to the interview.
On the day of interview, your fingerprints will be electronically scanned. By providing your fingerprints, you will again certify that you have answered all questions on your American visa application form truthfully, and that you will tell the truth during your visa interview.
What documents do I need to complete the American visa application form?
When completing your American visa application form DS-160 you will need to refer to various documents. These include the following:
- Your passport
- Your travel itinerary, if you have already made travel arrangements
- The dates of your last five trips, if you have previously travelled to the US
- Your curriculum vitae, where you may be required to provide information about your current and previous education and work history.
Some applicants, depending on their intended purpose of travel, will be asked to provide additional information when completing the American visa application form DS-160. For example, petition-based temporary workers will require a copy of form I-129, whereas students and exchange visitors will be asked to provide their SEVIS ID, which is printed on their I-20 or DS-2019.
What other forms must be completed to obtain a nonimmigrant visa?
The online American visa application form DS-160 replaced the DS-156, DS-157, DS-158 and DS-3032, so these additional forms are no longer necessary.
However, treaty trader and treaty investor visa applicants may also need to complete form DS-156E, in addition to the DS-160. If you are a treaty investor (E-2) applicant, you need only complete the American visa application form.
If you are a treaty trader (E-1), or an executive, manager or essential employee (E-1 or E-2), you must complete the DS-160, and you or your employer must complete the paper DS-156E form.
Tips for completing the American visa application form
You must take care to answer all questions on the American visa application form accurately and completely, otherwise you may have to correct your application and reschedule your visa interview appointment.
Most questions are mandatory, although you may leave spaces blank when the questions are marked optional. The online application form will display an error message if mandatory questions are left unanswered and you will be unable to proceed further with your application.
Where the question is not applicable, you can answer “DOES NOT APPLY”. Further, where you have been unable to obtain the information you can state “DO NOT KNOW”. That said, any incomplete information could result in your application being delayed or even denied.
All answers must be in English, although translations of questions are available in many languages from the drop-down menu available on the online application. An application submitted in any language other than English will be denied, and you may be required to submit a new application.
What other steps must be taken in the visa application process?
Once you have completed your American visa application form, you will need to electronically submit it to the Department of State. You do not need to print out the full application, but you must print and retain the DS-160 barcode page.
Once you have submitted your online application, you must pay the visa application fee. You will also need to contact the US Embassy or Consulate to schedule an interview appointment with a consular officer. You can find country-specific instructions on the US Embassy or Consulate website to which you apply.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.