All immigrant visa applicants must complete and file DS-260 online.
What is DS-260 Form?
Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application) is the second step in the application process to obtain an immigrant visa.
Form DS-260 is an online visa application that must be completed and submitted through the National Visa Center’s website.
Form DS-260 can be found and completed online at: https://ceac.state.gov/IV/Login.aspx
What is the National Visa Center?
The National Visa Center (NVC) is a branch of the United States Department of State.
The NVC is charged with processing all permanent resident (green card) applications submitted by foreign-born individuals applying for immigration through their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
You can find more information about NVC processing in this guide.
What are the Consular Processing Steps?
A basic outline of the consular processing steps are:
Step 1. Family-based immigration – I-130 Sponsorship
Foreign-born nationals who wish to immigrate to the United States through a family member must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder).
To start the immigration process, your sponsor must complete and file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), along with all other necessary documentation.
USCIS will send your sponsor (“petitioner”) notice of receipt of Form I-130 in about two to three weeks.
This I-130 application will be approved if USCIS can verify your relationship with your sponsor and your sponsor’s citizenship status is legitimate (U.S. citizen or permanent resident).
Your sponsor will receive notice of USCIS decision in about 7 to 13 months.
Step 2. National Visa Center Processing
If your sponsor’s I-130 application is approved, the application and other submitted materials will be sent to the National Visa Center.
The National Visa Center (NVC) will tell your sponsor when it receives the approved I-130 application.
You and your sponsor must pay close attention to this notification because it will contain three important numbers:
- a unique NVC identification number
- your NVC case number, and
- an invoice number.
You will need to enter your NVC case number and invoice number to log into your online Form DS-260 application: https://ceac.state.gov/IV/Login.aspx
Before you can start completing your Form DS-260 and Affidavit of Support you will need to pay two government fees:
- $325 processing fee (Form DS-260);
- $120 processing fee (Form I-864, Affidavit of Support).
You will need a U.S. checking or savings account to submit the payments.
Any person can pay these fees (beneficiary or petitioner).
It can take several business days for the payments to get cleared.
After the payments are processed, you can start filling out DS-260, upload civil documents, Form I-864 along with the supporting documents.
DS-260 – How to Fill Out
Once your sponsor is notified that their I-130 application has been received by the National Visa Center, it is time for you to complete Form DS-260.
DS-260 is an online form that must be completed and submitted online through the National Visa Center’s website here: https://ceac.state.gov/IV/Login.aspx
You will be able to start filling out Form DS-260 only after you pay the $325 and $120 ($445 total) government fees through your online CEAC (Consular Electronic Application Center) account.
On the NVC website, you will be asked to enter your case number located on the notice received by your sponsor.
Only after entering this case number do you have access to the rest of Form DS-260.
Then, complete the rest of the form.
As with every U.S. government form, it is extremely important that you answer every question completely and honestly.
After finishing Form DS-260, print the DS-260 confirmation page (1-page confirmation that has a bar code) and keep it in a safe place – you will be required to bring it with you to your immigration interview.
After completing and printing Form DS-260, you can save a copy of DS-260 for your records (you do not need to print and bring it to your interview).
Submit Requested Civil Documents
Once Form DS-260 is completed and submitted, you will see the list of required civil documents in your online account.
Civil documents can include: birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate, divorce decree, police certificate(s), etc.
Any delay in submitting these requested documents will slow the processing of your application.
You can find more instructions on preparing your civil documents here.
When Processing Begins
After Form DS-260 and all supporting documents have been submitted online, your immigration application is ready to be processed.
The average National Visa Center (NVC) processing times can be found on the official NVC website.
This information can help you to better understand how long it might take for NVC to review your documents.
If any of the documents you submitted do not meet the NVC requirements, you will receive an email advising you to log into your online CEAC account.
You can see the NVC comments in your account.
You will need to carefully review the NVC comments and upload the requested document(s) online.
After NVC receives the new document, the processing of your application will resume.
When NVC completes the review your application and all documents meet the requirements, you will receive an email from NVC saying that your case is “documentarily qualified” and ready for being scheduled for interview at the U.S. Embassy.
How to Fill Out Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support)
Petitioner will need to complete Form I-864 and upload it to applicant’s online application.
See below the instructions on preparing the Form I-864:
- Upload the most recent version of Form I-864 on USCIS website. You can find step-by-step instructions for completing Form I-864 here.
- Fill out the form on computer.
- Petitioner signs and dates the form on page 8.
- Signed Form I-864 is uploaded to “Affidavit of Support” portion of NVC online account.
- Upload the petitioner’s requested supporting documents, such as petitioner’s federal IRS tax transcript (can be obtained online) for the most recent year, all W-2 and/or 1099 form(s) for the most recent year. See more information on the Form I-864 checklist here.
- Some petitioners will need to upload the proof of their U.S. domicile (only if requested). Examples of proof of US domicile include: voting record in the United States (local, State, or Federal elections), records of paying U.S. state or local taxes, having property in the United States, maintaining bank or investment accounts in the United States, having a permanent mailing address in the United States, other proof such as evidence that the sponsor is a student studying abroad or that a foreign government has authorized a temporary stay, transferring funds to the United States, making investments in the United States, seeking employment in the United States, securing a residence in the United States).
NVC might request you providing additional documents. Carefully review the NVC instructions and upload the requested document.
Scheduling Immigration Interview
After DS-260 and Form I-864 along with all supporting documents were uploaded and NVC marks them as “documentarily qualified”, NVC will schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
This can take anywhere between one month to several months to be scheduled. Some U.S. Embassies might be backlogged, in this case it can take longer to get an interview date.
You will receive an email with the date and location of your interview. You can learn more about immigrant visa interviews here.
Under U.S. immigration law, every foreign national who applies for immigration must undergo a medical examination.
In your NVC interview letter, you will be instructed to undergo an immigration exam.
Schedule this exam quickly, because the exam and all associated laboratory tests must be completed before your immigration interview date.
You must bring your completed medical form to your interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
You can learn more about preparing the medical exam outside the U.S. in this guide.
Your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate will schedule an immigration interview.
You will be notified of its date, what you must bring to the interview, and any other relevant information.
Learn more: Immigrant Visa Interview – What to Expect
Within a few weeks of your interview, the US Embassy/Consulate will notify you of the results of your visa application.
If approved, US Embassy/Consulate will place a visa stamp in your passport.
An immigrant visa is typically issued for 6 months.
You must enter the U.S. before the expiration date of your immigrant visa.
On the day you are admitted to the U.S. on an immigrant visa, you become a permanent resident.
Prior to entering the U.S., you will be required to pay USCIS Immigrant Fee of $220 for the production and mailing of your actual permanent resident card (green card).
You will not receive your green card by mail in the U.S. until you pay this fee.
The original green card will be delivered to the U.S. address you indicated on your DS-260 form.
DS-260 Processing Time
How long it takes for your Form DS-260 to be processed depends on several factors, including:
- Whether you submit all the required documents; and
- NVC current processing times
Depending on these circumstances, your DS-260 can be reviewed anywhere between 2 weeks to 1-2 months.
Some of the supporting documents to be filed with Form DS-260:
- Copy of your current passport (biographic page);
- Birth certificate (with English translation if necessary);
- Police clearance certificate if over the age of 16 and lived in the country of application for more than six months;
- Document of current marital status (certificate of marriage, divorce, death, etc.);
- Military records (if you ever served in the military);
- Certified court or prison records, if you were ever arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime;
- Form I-864 Affidavit of Support
- Petitioner’s IRS tax transcript for the most recent year
- Petitioner’s all W-2 and/or 1099 form(s) for the most recent year
- Proof of US domicile (if petitioner resides outside the U.S.)
- Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member – only if using a household member’s income or assets (including any financial documents supporting Form I-864A;
- Joint sponsor‘s Form I-864 and supporting documents (only if a joint sponsor is required);
- Any other documents requested by the NVC.
DS-260 Filing Tips
Answer All Questions
The CEAC system will not let you move on to the next page until every required question is answered on the current page.
Most of the questions on Form DS-260 are mandatory.
Some fields will not apply to you; in those instances, you can check the box next to the field marked, “Does Not Apply”.
All other fields are mandatory and must be answered.
If you fail to answer any required mandatory question, CEAC will not allow you to proceed to the next page.
Instead, you will receive a message instructing you to correct an answer.
Answer All Questions in English
You must complete Forms DS-260 in English.
CEAC does not recognize foreign characters or symbols.
If you attempt to answer a question with a character or symbol that CEAC does not recognize, you will be asked to re-enter your answer.
Be sure to translate all answers into English.
Save Your Application Often
Save different sections of Form DS-260 as you complete each page.
The CEAC system will “time out” due to inactivity after a set period.
If the system times out, you will lose all your answers since the last time you saved your application.
Form DS-260 is extensive and difficult to complete in one sitting.
If you need to stop and take a break, simply save your work and return later.
However, if you fail to complete Form DS-260 within 30 days, CEAC will remove your uncompleted form(s) from the system and you will be required to answer all questions again.
Any time you save your work or are timed-out, you can retrieve your saved application by returning to the Consular Electronic Application Center website.
Access the Immigrant Visa – Summary Information screen and select View/Edit from the IV and Alien Registration section.
You will then be provided with a list of the applications saved in your case, along with their respective statuses: “Not Stated”, “Incomplete” or “Submitted”.
To display and proceed with an incomplete application, select the “Edit” button to the right of the application’s status.
Review Your Answers Carefully
Before you can electronically sign and submit Form DS-260, the CEAC requires you to check all your answers.
This is a good time to look at your immigration application to confirm all the answers are correct.
Remember, if you submit incomplete or wrong answers this might negatively affect your eligibility for an immigrant visa.
Print Your Completed Application
After completing Forms DS-260 be sure to save the pdf file for your records.
You will need to bring the DS-26o printed confirmation page (a one-page document containing a barcode) to your interview.
It is a good idea to review your completed Form DS-260 before your interview, so the information entered on Form DS-260 will match the information detailed in your interview answers.
Submit Your Application
Submit your application by clicking the “Sign and Submit Application” button on the “Sign and Submit” page.
However, once submitted, you will not be able to access your application again without filing an online inquiry with the National Visa Center, or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are currently located.
What You Should Expect in Your Consulate Interview?
The last step in the immigration process is the interview.
During your consulate interview, you will have to answer a number of questions.
Some are general, others very specific.
These questions are designed to decide if you qualify for a visa.
If you’re applying based on marriage, the consular officer may ask personal questions designed to determine if your marriage is genuine or an attempt to evade U.S. immigration law.
Your consulate interview can take as little as twenty minutes.
For security reasons, you might not be approved on the day of your interview.
Instead, you may be asked to return to the Embassy or Consulate to pick up your immigration visa one or two weeks later.
There will be a time limit on when you are allowed to immigrate to the United States (usually six months).
You must enter the U.S. before the expiration date of your immigrant visa.
You will become a permanent resident on the date you enter the US.
Your visa will be stamped and this stamp can serve as a proof of your permanent resident status for 1 year.
You need to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee of $220 prior to entering the U.S.
After you enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa, the green card will be delivered by mail to the U.S. address you provided on Form DS-260.
Interview Documents Checklist
Some of the documents you might be required to bring to your consulate interview:
- Copy if the interview notice;
- Two U.S. passport-style colored photographs;
- Original passport (must be current and not expire within six months after the interview);
- Original birth certificate, plus certified English translation
- Your completed medical form;
- DS-260 confirmation page;
- Petitioner’s updated Form I-864 and proof of income;
- Birth certificates of your children (even if they are not accompanying you);
- Proof of petitioner’s US citizenship or permanent resident status (copies of the following documents: U.S. birth certificate, unexpired US passport, U.S. naturalization certificate, U.S. citizenship certificate, or Consular Report of Birth Abroad, green card – front and back);
- Original marriage certificate;
- Your original divorce decree(s)
- Any other document(s) requested by the NVC or U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
You can find detailed checklists of required documents for the interview for each U.S. Embassy/Consulate:
Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo – BRZ (Immigrant visa applicants residing in Republic of the Congo must attend an in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Bujumbura, Burundi – BUJ (Immigrant visa applicants residing in Burundi must attend an in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya)
Kampala, Uganda – KMP (Immigrant visa applicants residing in Uganda must attend an in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya)