DS-260 Form – Step-By-Step Guide

DS-260 Form - Step-By-Step Guide

Let us help you start your application today!

Last updated: April 15, 2024.

  • Form DS-260, known as “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application” is used by foreign nationals applying for an immigrant visa
  • Form DS-260 is used by applicants who are located outside the U.S. 
  • Process of applying for an immigrant visa from abroad is called “Consular Processing”
  • Form DS-260 must be completed after an underlying immigrant petition (Form I-130, I-140, etc.) has been approved
  • Form DS-260 is administered by the National Visa Center (NVC) and is filed online
  • You can start completing your Form DS-260 online application only after you receive an email from the NVC that contains your:
    • NVC Case Number
    • Invoice ID Number

What is Form DS-260?

Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application) is the 2nd step in the application process to become a permanent resident (green card holder) of the U.S.

The 1st step is obtaining an underlying immigrant petition approved (such as Form I-130, I-140, etc.)

Form DS-260 is an online visa application that must be completed and submitted through the National Visa Center’s website.

There is a $325 filing fee that must be paid online prior to completing Form DS-260.

A number of so-called “civil documents” (birth certificate, police certificate, passport, etc.) must be uploaded to the online application. Learn more: Form DS-260 Checklist of Civil Documents

What is the National Visa Center (NVC)?

The National Visa Center (NVC) is a branch of the U.S. Department of State.

The U.S. Department of State is responsible for issuing nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

NVC is in charge of processing all immigrant visa applications. 

NVC will review Form DS-260 application, all civil documents, Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) and tax documents submitted by the applicants.

Learn more: National Visa Center Processing

What are Form DS-260 Application Steps?

Filing Form DS-260 is the 2nd step of a so-called “Consular Processing”. 

Consular processing refers to the application method used by applicants located outside the U.S. and applying for an immigrant visa at US embassies or consulates in their home countries.

Consular processing consists of 3 steps:

Step 1. Filing an immigration petition (for example, Form I-130 for family-based immigrants or Form I-140 for employment-based immigrants)

Step 2. Filing Form DS-260 and Affidavit of Support

Step 3. Interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate

When will I receive a welcome letter from the NVC?

When USCIS approves your underlying immigration petition, and once your priority date becomes current, your will be forwarded to the National Visa Center.

NVC typically sends an email (“welcome letter”) to the petitioner (sponsor) and the beneficiary (applicant) within 1-2 weeks after receiving an approved petition from USCIS.

This email will contain 2 important numbers:

  • NVC Case Number
  • Invoice ID Number

After obtaining these numbers, you will need to take the following steps:

  1. Visit https://ceac.state.gov/IV
  2. Enter your NVC Case Number and Invoice ID number
  3. Pay the filing fees ($325 for Form DS-260 and $120 for Affidavit of Support)
  4. Fill out Form DS-260 and upload civil documents
  5. Upload signed Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) and your sponsor’s tax documents

As with every U.S. immigration form, it is extremely important that you answer every question completely and truthfully.

After finishing Form DS-260, print the confirmation page and keep it in a safe place.

You will be required to bring this confirmation page to your interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

DS-260 Fees

Form DS-260 filing fees include:

  • DS-260: $325
  • Affidavit of Support: $120
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee: $235 (this fee must be paid after an immigrant visa is issued)

You will need to have a U.S. checking or savings bank account to submit these payments.

What happens after NVC marks Form DS-260 as “documentarily qualified”?

Once NVC sends you an email saying that your case is “documentarily qualified” it means that your documents have been pre-screened and your case has been forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country.

It can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months (in some cases longer) for an interview to be scheduled. 

When an interview is scheduled, you will receive an email with the date and location of the interview appointment.

Medical Examination

Each applicant must undergo a medical examination by an authorized doctor in their home country.

Once an interview is scheduled, you will receive instructions via email containing instructions on completing the medical examination and checklist of original documents required for the interview.

Schedule your medical examination quickly, as you need to bring an original sealed medical exam form to your interview.

Approval and Visa Issuance

Within a few weeks of your interview, the USCIS will notify you of the results of your visa application.

If approved, you will pick up your passport with a stamped immigrant visa.

Immigrant visas are typically valid for 6 months.

You must arrive in the US before your visa expires.

On the day you enter the U.S., you become a permanent resident.

CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) will stamp your visa as evidence of your permanent residency.

This stamp will serve as a temporary green card and be valid for 1 year.

USCIS will mail an original green card to the mailing address you provided within 90 days after your arrival (as long as you have paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee).

DS-260 Processing Time

It currently takes a few weeks for NVC to process your Form DS-260 application.

You can check the most recent average NVC processing time online.

DS-260 Checklist

Upload scanned copies of the following documents with your Form DS-260:

  • Copy of your current passport;
  • Birth certificate (with English translation if necessary);
  • Police clearance certificate for all countries where you have resided for over 6 months after turning 16 years of age;
  • Document of current marital status (certificate of marriage, divorce, death certificate, etc.);
  • Military records (if ever served in the military)
  • Certified court or prison record (only if you were ever convicted of a crime)
  • Form I-864 Affidavit of Support (including any financial documents such as petitioner’s most recent federal tax return, W-2 form, 1099 form, proof of US citizenship or permanent residency);
  • Any other documents requested by the NVC

Get the full checklist of Form DS-260 documents in our guide.

DS-260 Filing Tips

When completing your Form DS-260, follow these helpful tips:

Answer All Questions

The 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.

If there is a file marked “Optional” you can leave that field blank.

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 Form 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

We recommend you to save Forms DS-260 as you complete each section.

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 start filling it out again.

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 will hurt your chances of getting a visa.

Make sure that the personal information entered on Form DS-260 matches your official documents (birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate, etc.)

Save Your Completed Application

After submitting your Form DS-260, save the Form DS-260 confirmation and Form DS-260 for your records.

Form DS-260 confirmation (1 page pdf file) must be printed for your interview.

Do not bring Form DS-260 itself to your interview, just review it prior to the interview.

It is a good idea to review your answers before your interview, so the information entered on Form DS-260 will match the information detailed in your interview answers.

What Should I Expect at My Consulate Interview?

The last step in the immigration process is the interview scheduled at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

During your consulate interview, you will have to answer different 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 later to pick up your passport with a stamped visa.

Interview Documents Checklist

Each U.S. Embassy/Consulate has its own checklist of the original documents to be presented at the interview:

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – ABJ

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates- ABD

Accra, Ghana – ACC

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – ADD

Algiers, Algeria – ALG

Almaty, Kazakhstan – ATA

Amman, Jordan – AMM

Amsterdam, Netherlands – AMS

Ankara, Turkey – ANK

Antananarivo, Madagascar – ANT

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – AKD

Asuncion, Paraguay – ASN

Athens, Greece – ATH

Auckland, New Zealand – ACK

Baghdad, Iraq – BGH

Bangkok, Thailand – BNK

Beirut, Lebanon – BRT

Belgrade, Serbia – BLG

Belmopan, Belize – BLZ

Bern, Switzerland – BEN

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – BKK

Bogota, Colombia – BGT

Bratislava, Slovakia – BTS

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)

Bridgetown, Barbados – BGN

Brussels, Belgium – BRS

Bucharest, Romania – BCH

Budapest, Hungary – BDP

Buenos Aires, Argentina – BNS

Bujumbura, Burundi – BUJ (Immigrant visa applicants residing in Burundi must attend an in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Cairo, Egypt – CRO

Caracas, Venezuela – CRS

Casablanca, Morocco – CSB

Chisinau, Moldova – CHS

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – CDJ

Colombo, Sri Lanka – CLM

Cotonou, Benin – COT

Dakar, Senegal – DKR

Damascus, Syria – DMS

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – DRS

Dhaka, Bangladesh – DHK

Djibouti, Republic of Djibouti – DJI

Doha, Qatar – DOH

Dublin, Ireland – DBL

Dushanbe, Tajikistan – DHB

Frankfurt, Germany – FRN

Freetown, Sierra Leone – FTN

Georgetown, Guyana – GEO

Guangzhou, China – GUZ

Guatemala City, Guatemala – GTM

Guayaquil, Ecuador – GYQ

Hamilton, Bermuda – HML

Havana, Cuba – HAV

Helsinki, Finland – HLS

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – HCM

Hong Kong – HNK

Harare, Zimbabwe  – HRE

Islamabad, Pakistan  – ISL

Jakarta, Indonesia – JAK

Jerusalem – JRS

Johannesburg,  South Africa – JHN

Kabul,  Afghanistan – KBL

Kampala, Uganda – KMP (Immigrant visa applicants residing in Uganda must attend an in-person visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya)

Kathmandu, Nepal – KDU

Khartoum, Sudan – KHT

Kigali, Rwanda – KGL

Kingston, Jamaica – KNG

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo – KIN

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – KLL

Kuwait City, Kuwait – KWT

Lagos, Nigeria – LGS

La Paz, Bolivia – LPZ

Libreville, Gabon – LIB

Lilongwe, Malawi – LIL

Lima, Peru – LMA

Lisbon, Portugal – LSB

Ljubljana, Slovenia – LJU

Lome, Togo  – LOM

London, U.K. – LND

Luanda, Angola – LUA

Lusaka, Zambia – LUS

Madrid, Spain – MDD

Managua, Nicaragua – MNG

Manama,  Bahrain – MNA

Manila, Philippines – MNL

Monrovia, Liberia  – MRV

Montevideo, Uruguay – MTV

Montreal, Canada – MTL

Moscow, Russia – MOS

Mumbai, India – BMB

Muscat, Oman – MST

Naha, Japan – NHA

Nairobi, Kenya – NRB

Naples, Italy – NPL

Nassau, The Bahamas – NSS

New Delhi, India – NWD

Niamey, Niger – NMY

Nicosia, Cyprus – NCS

Oslo, Norway – OSL

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – OUG

Panama City, Panama – PNM

Paris, France – PRS

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – PHP

Prague, Czech Republic – PRG

Praia, Cabo Verde – PIA

Pristina, Kosovo – PRI

Port-au-Prince, Haiti – PTP

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea – PTM

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago – PTS

Rangoon, Burma – RNG

Reykjavik, Iceland – RKJ

Riga, Latvia – RGA

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – RDJ

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – RID

San Jose, Costa Rica – SNJ

San Salvador, El Salvador – SNS

Santiago, Chile – SNT

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – SDO

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina – SAR

Seoul, Korea – SEO

Singapore – SGP

Skopje, North Macedonia – SKO

Sofia, Bulgaria – SOF

Stockholm, Sweden – STK

Suva, Fiji – SUV

Sydney, Australia – SYD

Taipei, Taiwan – TAI

Tallinn, Estonia – TAL

Tashkent, Uzbekistan – THT

Tashkent, Uzbekistan (DV, Diversity Visa) – THT

Tbilisi, Georgia – TBL

Tegucigalpa, Honduras – TGG

Tel Aviv, Israel – TLV

Tirana, Albania – TIA

Tokyo, Japan – TKY

Tunis, Tunisia – TNS

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – ULN

Vancouver, Canada – VAC

Vienna, Austria – VNN

Vientiane, Laos – VNT

Vilnius, Lithuania – VIL

Warsaw, Poland – WRW

Yaounde, Cameroon – YDE

Yerevan, Armenia – YRV

Zagreb, Croatia – ZGB

Learn More:

Form DS-260 Checklist of Civil Documents

Medical Examination for Immigrant Visa Applicants

Immigrant Visa Interview – What to Expect

National Visa Center Processing