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Difference between DS160 and DS260 forms

What is Form DS-160?

Form DS-160 is used as part of the application process for temporary, or nonimmigrant, U.S visas. Also known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, the DS-160 requires applicants to provide information about themselves and their families, if applicable, as well as other important information, such as passport numbers and a photograph of the applicant(s). 

Form DS-160 is filled out and submitted electronically by nonimmigrant visa applicants on the U.S. Department of State’s website, and the information provided is used in the applicant’s interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Thus, it is important that applicants fill out the DS-160 fully and truthfully. 

What is Form DS-260? 

Form DS-260 is used as part of the application process for permanent, or immigrant, U.S. visas for applicants pursuing a Green Card from outside the United States. Also known as the Online Visa Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, the DS-260 requires applicants to answer questions in English that pertain to the applicant’s interest in a Green Card. Form DS-260 is filed online at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website. 

Who Needs to File Forms DS-160 and DS-260? 

Who Must File Form DS-160

Any visitor coming to the United States on a temporary nonimmigrant must have a Form DS-160 submitted on their behalf, including children. Individuals can have a third party assist them in filling out Form DS-160, or do it on their behalf if they are unable, such as in the case of children or people with disabilities. The third party assisting with filling it out must be identified on the document’s “Sign and Submit” page, however. 

Who Must File Form DS-260

Anyone applying for a United States permanent immigrant visa (Green Card) must fill out and submit Form DS-260. This includes both employment-based (EB) and family-based (F) immigrant visa applicants. 

What Information is Required for Forms DS-160 and DS-260? 

Required Information for Form DS-160

Form DS-160 asks applicants to provide a lot of information, so it is important to prepare your information for the application.

Among the information it asks for, applicants will be required to provide: 

  • Personal information, such as name, date of birth, and marital status; 
  • Nationality, passport or national identification number(s), and U.S. social security number or taxpayer ID number, if applicable; 
  • Travel information, such as travel plans, purpose of the trip to the U.S., arrival and departure dates or estimations, and the U.S. address at which the applicant will stay;
  • Travel companions, if any, such as family, friends, or members of a tour group; 
  • Any previous U.S. travel, including dates of travel and details of the trip;
  • Whether the applicant has ever applied for a U.S. immigrant visa or been denied a U.S. visa of any kind; 
  • Applicant’s address, phone number, email address, and social media accounts; 
  • A point of contact in the United States, such as a person or place who knows the applicant and can verify their identity or will be visited by the applicant during their trip; 
  • Information about applicant’s relatives, including their parents and spouse;
  • Applicant’s work, education, and training background over the past 5 years; 
  • Applicant’s security and background information; and
  • A photo of the applicant; 

Required Information for Form DS-260

Form DS-260 asks applicants to provide a lot of information, so it is important to prepare your information for the application.

Among the information it asks for, applicants will be required to provide: 

  • The applicant’s case number, beneficiary ID number, and invoice number, as provided by the National Visa Center; 
  • Information about the applicant’s children, including step- or adopted children as well as biological children, even if they are not immigrating to the U.S. with the applicant; 
  • All addresses whether the applicant has physically lived since age 16, even if not ever registered as the applicant’s “permanent address”; 
  • A U.S. mailing address that will be valid for the applicant long after they enter the United States; 

How to Submit Form DS-160 and Form DS-260? 

Submitting Form DS-160

Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is filed online over the internet, where applicants must also pay an associated fee. Filing DS-160 involves uploading a photo of the applicant that conforms to the U.S. Department of State photograph requirements. Once Form DS-160 is submitted, the applicant must download and print the confirmation page showing Form DS-160 was completed and the filing fee paid. The confirmation page will need to be brought to the applicant’s visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Submitting Form DS-260

Form DS-260, Online Visa Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration is completed with the Department of State on their website. A photo of the applicant that meets the U.S. Department of State photograph requirements must also be uploaded, along with supporting documentation evidencing the applicant’s identity and qualifications, including passport documentation and personal history documentation. The confirmation page will need to be brought to the applicant’s visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Can I Return to My DS-160 or DS-260 Applications without Submitting? 

Saving and Returning to Form DS-160

When applicants begin a new Form DS-160, they are provided with a unique application identification number after they have selected and answered a security question. With the unique number, applicants are free to exit the application and return to it at another time, but they must have their unique number in order to return to the Form DS-160 they have already begun with their progress saved. 

Once an applicant begins a Form DS-160 application, their saved progress will be preserved on the Consular Electronic Application Center website for a maximum of 30 days. Applicants who wish to preserve their progress beyond 30 days from the day they started should save the partially completed application to their computer. 

Saving and Returning to Form DS-260

Applicants who wish to step away from Form DS-260 in the middle of completing it can save their progress by clicking “Save” at the bottom the furthest page they have progressed to in the application. 

An applicant can pick up where they left off on a previously saved DS-260 by selecting “Edit” next to where the application status is shown.

Can I Fill Out Forms DS-160 or DS-260 in a Language Other than English? 

No. Both Forms DS-160 and DS-260 must be filled out in English only, using only English characters. Forms not filled out using English may be rejected. 

How Long to Process Forms DS-160 and DS-260? 

Processing Time for Form DS-160

Generally, it takes somewhere between 3-5 weeks for Form DS-160 to process. The length of time it takes to receive an interview appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate varies, however, depending on the workload and staffing capabilities of the individual Embassy or Consulate. 

Processing Time for Form DS-260

Generally, it takes about 3 months to process Form DS-260, however, this can vary depending on the applicant and the information on the form. The length of time it takes to receive an interview appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate varies, however, depending on the workload and staffing capabilities of the individual Embassy or Consulate. 

How Much Does it Cost to File Forms DS-160 and DS-260? 

Cost to File Form DS-160

There is no cost associated with filing Form DS-160 itself. Applicants will have other costs associated with their nonimmigrant visa, however. These costs vary depending on the type of visa. 

Cost to File Form DS-260

There are two fees associated with filing Form DS-260: a $325 online processing fee and a $120 fee to process the affidavit of support. 

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

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