DS-260 Form – What Is It and How to Fill It Out?

You can qualify for an immigrant visa in several ways as a foreign national. The United States (U.S.) offers immigrant visas based on family relationships, work, adoption, special immigrant categories, and diversity visas.
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HomeUS Visa & ImmigrationDS-260 Form – What Is It and How to Fill It Out?

You will receive a green card once you enter the country on an immigrant visa and are admitted as a permanent resident. A person with a green card is permitted to live and work permanently in the U.S.

If you are one of the foreign nationals applying for a green card from outside the U.S. using the Form DS-260, you have come to the right article. 

This is our guide to filling out the online DS-260 form. 

What Is DS-260 Form?

The form DS-260 is an immigrant visa application that must be submitted if you are making an application for a family-based or marriage-based green card (permanent residency) from outside of the U.S.

The DS-260 form or immigrant visa application is processed through the National Visa Center (NVC) of the U.S. State Department and your local U.S. embassy or consulate. 

If you are already in the country, you may be able to apply through the adjustment of status, but if you are applying from outside the country, you must go through consular processing.

It can be said that the form DS-260 online is a formal request for an immigrant visa.

What To Do Before Filing Form DS-260?

The first step is to send an immigrant visa petition for an immigrant visa to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In this case, submit the family sponsorships form (I-130), Petition For Alien Relative with USCIS, along with the supporting documents. 

A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident must sponsor you if you want to immigrate to the United States through a relative or a spouse who is a green card holder.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will mail your sponsor a receipt notice in roughly two weeks. This sponsorship petition can get approved or denied by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

The timeline for your approval will depend on your situation and the visa type you apply for.

Following the approval of your visa petition, USCIS will send your documents to the National Visa Center (NVC).

What Is The National Visa Center (NVC)?

The National Visa Center (NVC) is a division of the U.S. Department of State located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

All green card applications that are submitted by people outside of the U.S. and applying through their local U.S. embassy or consulate are handled by the NVC.

What Happens After NVC Receives My Documents?

The National Visa Center will send you a welcome letter by mail or email once they receive your approved paperwork from the USCIS, depending on your selected notification option.

Three significant numbers will be included in the letter:

  • Your NVC case number 
  • A beneficiary ID number 
  • An invoice number

You will need these numbers to complete your online immigration visa form and pay your application fees at the NVC’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). You can access Forms DS-261 and DS-260 on the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website.

Be aware that simply because your visa was delivered to the National Visa Center does not guarantee that your visa application will be handled immediately. The type of visa and the priority date listed in your State Department’s visa bulletin will determine this.

For spouses of U.S. citizens, the NVC begins processing it as soon as it is received from USCIS. 

For spouses of U.S. green card holders, the NVC will hold the case until the “priority date” is announced in the State Department’s visa bulletin (typically months later).

What Is DS-261 Form?

Instructions for submitting Form DS-261 can be found on the NVC’s welcome letter.

Form DS-261 (Online Choice Of Address and Agent)  is a relatively simple online form that informs the State Department (U.S. government) on how to communicate with you during your green card application process.

It can be filed for free. The NVC can process the DS-261 in up to three weeks.

You must process Form DS-261 before you begin filing Form DS-260.

How Do I File Form DS-261?

To obtain Form DS-261, you must first log in to your CEAC website portal using the case number the National Visa Center issued you.

You should identify yourself as the “Applicant” if you are completing Form DS-261 on your behalf. If someone else is doing it, they must choose the corresponding options, for example, “Petitioner.”

After that, a webpage will appear asking you to select an “agent.”  An agent is a person whom NVC will communicate with throughout the process. You can be your agent. Or your green card sponsor, a friend, an immigration attorney, or another reliable person can be the agent.

Make sure all of the contact details you supply are accurate. You can’t change this information once the form is submitted.

DS-261 Fees

You must pay a total of $445 in online filing fees once the NVC processes your DS-261 (up to three weeks later): the State Department’s application processing fee ($325) and the Affidavit of Support (financial support form) processing fee ($120). 

You may sometimes be exempt from paying the Affidavit of Support fees. You may confirm that on the State Department website.

The NVC will take up to a week to process your DS-261 payment. Keep in mind that unless you pay the fees, you won’t even be able to access your DS-260.

Submit Financial Support Form (Your Affidavit Of Support)

Family-based immigrant visa seekers are required to file Form I-1864, Affidavit of Support. Your I-30 petitioner’s sponsor will also fill out the I-864 affidavit on your behalf.

An affidavit of support is a type of contract between the petitioner (your sponsor) and the U.S. government. If you, the beneficiary, need to rely on the government financially for public benefits (welfare costs), your sponsor agrees to pay back the U.S. government. 

How To Fill The DS-260 Form?

The NVC will then let you know when to file your DS-260 form after processing your payment. Go to your DS-260 login by visiting the Consular Electronic Application Center on the Department of State’s website.

To access the form, you will need your:

  • Case identification number 
  • Beneficiary ID number 
  • Invoice Number from the NVC’s welcome letter

Then, you will proceed with the following steps:  

  • On the form, enter the names you have used, your birth date, and your place of birth.
  • Include all the addresses where you’ve physically lived since the age of 16. 
  • Verify that the mailing address you indicate will be valid for the entire period that it takes for the green card to arrive at your U.S. address, as this process might take many months. Before receiving your green card, you can modify your address online or call the USCIS Contact Center.
  • Provide all information about your family members. List every family relationship you have, including any biological, adopted, or stepchildren, regardless of their ages or whether they will be traveling to the U.S. with you.
  • Answer questions about your medical health history and your previous U.S. travel, and describe your work, school, and training history.
  • Make sure the information on each of your social media accounts is consistent. Your online behavior will be scrutinized by the U.S. government. Therefore, consistency and good online behavior are crucial.
  • The DS-260 form must be completed in its entirety in English. You must transliterate any addresses or names that aren’t written using the Roman alphabet.
  • Make sure you fill out your DS-260 online form completely and accurately the first time. After submitting the DS-260 online, it cannot be changed. However, if you find a mistake after submitting your DS-260, you can just mention it to the consular officer at your interview and request that it be corrected there and then.
  • Don’t leave any important questions unanswered. Be sure all your answers are correct.
  • Save your work regularly because if you are inactive for a long time, the system may “time out,” or if you log out without saving it, the system will lose your data.
  • You must print the confirmation page after submitting the DS-260 online so you can bring it to your visa interview at the U.S. consulate. The final page you see after submitting your DS-260 form is the DS 260 confirmation page.

Submit Supporting or Civil Documents

After you submit your DS-260, the NVC will notify you (again, via mail or email) that your DS-260 has been received, typically the same day after you submit it. The NVC will then require that you submit civil documents. 

You will receive instructions from the NVC on what papers to provide and how to obtain them.

It’s crucial to submit these documents in the manner specified by the NVC. Some U.S. consulates demand hard copies, others accept email attachments or online submissions of digital versions.

Documents From The Applicant Relative:

  • Proof of your nationality (copy of the birth certificate and passport photo page)
  • Copy of your marriage certificate (for marriage-based green cards)
  • Copy of marriage termination documents (divorce or death certificate), if you had any prior marriages
  • Copy of your military record if you have served.
  • Copy of police certificates detailing any past infractions or lack thereof. These certificates, also called “police clearance letters,” must be obtained from:
  1. Any place in your country of origin where you lived for at least six months after age 16
  2. Any place outside of your country of origin where you lived for at least one year after age 16
  3. Any jurisdiction where you have ever been arrested or accused of a crime, no matter how long you resided there or your age at the time. 

Documents From The Sponsoring Relative:

  • Proof of your ability to provide for your family member in the U.S.-Affidavit of Support (Form I-864).
  • Copy of marriage termination documents (divorce or death certificate) if you had any prior marriages.
  • Proof of domicile demonstrating you have close ties to the U.S. Proof of address or a state-issued ID is typically accepted for a sponsoring spouse or relative living in the U.S.
  • For a sponsoring spouse or family member applying from outside the U.S., you must fulfill one of the following criteria:
    1. You have temporary residency abroad and maintain a primary domicile in the U.S. 
    2. You were aboard at the request of U.S. government employers
    3. You intend to come back to the U.S. and establish yourself before or when the applicant enters the country.

You can upload, email, or send all of the supporting documents to the NVC, depending on which consulate is handling the application. All the paperwork and forms required to process your green card application must be gathered by the NVC and sent to the consulate.

The consulate is in charge of organizing and holding your immigration visa interview and rendering a final decision regarding your immigration visa application.

Additional Tips:

  • You might need to submit more paperwork depending on which U.S. Consulate or Embassy reviews your application. It’s a good idea to thoroughly review the NVC notice you receive for any particular requirements.
  • You should submit all supporting documents together in one package.
  • Your official documents should only be submitted in copies, not in their original form.
  • Bring the originals to your green card interview at the U.S. consulate. After your interview, the Embassy or Consulate will return any original documents to you, although they may keep their copies.

What Happens After I File Form DS-260?

Interview

It typically takes months to schedule your immigrant visa interview once you’ve sent your supporting documentation. Your local U.S. embassy or the NVC will send you an appointment letter with your interview time and date information.

Before your interview, there are a few additional things you must complete. 

More detailed instructions will be provided in the interview appointment letter. U.S. embassies in various nations have slightly differing standards. So pay special attention to the letter you are writing. Typically, you have to:

  • Complete a medical exam with a USCIS-approved doctor.
  • Register for courier service
  • Gather all required documents, including additional documents requested in your appointment letter.

Interview Documents Checklists

  • Original passport (must be current and not expire within 6 months after the interview;
  • Two passport-size colored photographs;
  • Your appointment letter;
  • Form DS-260 confirmation page;
  • Your completed Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination;
  • The supporting documents that you have uploaded to the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) and other documents requested by the NVC or US Embassy or Consulate.

You will get a U.S. visa if the Embassy approves your application, and you may then get ready to travel to the U.S.! Your passport will be stamped with an immigrant visa once your visa gets approved.

DS-260 Fees

You will have to pay the final fee or the USCIS Immigrant Fee ($220) online at their website. Your green card production and mailing expenses are covered by this.

The quickest way to get your physical green card after arriving in the U.S. is to pay this fee online as soon as you get your visa stamp.

You’ll need the immigrant visa stamp to enter the country, and 3–4 weeks after arriving, you should get your physical green card at your U.S. address. You will receive a Social Security Number as a permanent resident, enabling you to work and pay taxes in the U.S.

In conclusion, for anyone applying from outside the United States, the DS-260 and DS-262 are essential immigration forms to submit to be eligible for a family-based or marriage-based green card.

The DS-260 online visa application is the last step before the consular process is complete. Even though this step is important on its own, many of the steps and supporting duties along the way to a green card are equally crucial. The online DS-260 preparation process is generally not too difficult. 

You can increase the likelihood that your application will be approved and that the procedure will run well by carefully reading the instructions and adhering to them. Or reach out to a law firm or an immigration attorney that you trust will help with your immigration process.

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