DS-160 Form: What It Is and How to Fill One Out

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on August 24, 2022

Forms that give you a headache to fill out are the tedious ones that require your devout attention and much of your patience. The DS-160 is this kind of form and makes you want to throw your computer out the window in the process. However, if you are prepared for the struggle you are about to face and go in knowing what to expect, you might be able to keep a functioning intact computer. That is what we are here to do to in this DS-160 guide. We want to make sure you know exactly what is in store for you, as well as what you will need to successfully file this form.

The biggest frustration that people face when filing forms like these is the amount of archaic information you will have to dig through to put in this form. This is unavoidable and the information demanded is the information you must present, no matter how far back in the dinosaur age you need to go to retrieve it. Another major problem that people face is session timeouts and being forced to re-fill parts of the application that had already been done. Whether you are filling out information for your own H1B visa stamping, or you are filling out for your parents’ tourist visa stamping, you will probably get kicked out of the system and forced to re-enter information because of system errors and malfunctions.

Fear not, however, for we are here to prep you on all things you need to know when filing the DS-160 form, as well as the tips and tricks you will thank us for later to help you grace through the process. We will start with the documents and information you will need when filling this form out, including the information people overlook once they reach the end of the online form. We then will move on to our DS-160 life hacks so that you can save your time and stress while filling out the application!

Information and Documents You Need to Fill out the DS-160 Form

The estimated time to complete your DS-160 form is 75 minutes according to the website where you will fill this form out. That number is given without calculating the timeout sessions that plague those trying to get this done in what they thought would take only a couple of hours. The reason filling this form out is so frustrating can also be attributed to the exhaustive list of information they require to have it fully completed. The information seems innocent and normal in the beginning, but then you start getting into information you need from the time you were a teenager — we are not kidding. To start off nicely, the basic information you need for this form includes:

  1. Your Passport information, along with any US visas issued before
  2. Approval notice forms: I-797 form


Side-note on inputting your passport book number and visa number: If you are an Indian citizen, you do not need a passport book number. If you do not find this number in your passport, check not applicable when indicated. As for visa numbers, you can find this number on the right-hand bottom of your visa stamping in the red text.

That was the easy part. Now we will get into the information people overlook when filing this form out. It can take people days or more to acquire all the information, and put it in will be just as much of a hassle.

Documents and Information Need for Your DS-160 

To complete your DS-160 form, you will need to provide certain documentation and information. Below is a list of everything you will need:

Address and U.S. Travel History

  • Address of location you will stay at in the United States, including the zip code.
  • Your travel itinerary information to the US, including flight ticket information, if you have it
  • If you’ve been to the U.S. before, the dates of entry  and how long each trip was

U.S. Drivers License Info and Point of Contact

  • The information on your license
  • The contact information of a person in the U.S., including full name, phone number, email address, and mailing address

Parents’ Information

  • Mother’s full name and date of birth, as shown on her passport
  • Father’s full name and date of birth, as shown on his passport

Your Current Work-related Information in the U.S.

  • The company name and address
  • The monthly salary for your job (Use numbers in your Labor Condition Application)
  • Description of your job duties (check these on the resume you have sent to the USCIS)

Your previous work-related information

  • List of every company you have worked for, in the past 5 years.
  • The contact information of those companies including addresses and phone numbers
  • Employment start and end dates at those companies
  • Previous titles held at those companies
  • Previous supervisor’s’ name at those companies
  • Previous job responsibility descriptions

Education Information Including, Names of Institutes, Addresses, and Dates Attended

  • High School (10th grade)
  • Junior college name (11th and 12th grade)
  • University where you acquired a Bachelor’s degree
  • University where you acquired any other degree

This is not a curse put over the H1B visa applicants — you will find that for other work visa applications, similar information is required. Take your time and be proactive about getting this information together so that you are prepared for the DS-160 filing. Next, we will talk about the tips for using the system, and get through the process so we can save you the time and stress!

What to Do if Your DS-160 Session Timed Out

Fortunately, a session timeout doesn’t mean all your hard hours are lost. If your DS-160 session timed out due to inactivity, but your browser is still open, a recover application window will display.

This window has very important information so don’t just click buttons trying to sort out the issue! Copy the application ID displayed on the screen and then click on the “Recover Application” button.

A DS-160 “Session Timed Out” window will display where you will be able to type in or paste your application ID. Fill in your application ID and click on “Retrieve Application”. Certain security questions will then display on the screen, such as:

  • First 5 letters of applicants surname
  • Year of Birth
  • Random questions like the given name of your grandmother

Once you’ve filled in this information, click on “Retrieve Application”. This will (hopefully) take you to the application page and your saved information will be displayed on it.

5 Tips for Filling out Your DS-160 Form

1. Remember Your Application Number

Your application number is your golden key to all things DS-160. Without it, you won’t be able to retrieve a lost application from a session timeout or return to your application at a later stage.

So, the first and most important tip is to remember (i.e write on sticky notes, on the fridge, save on your phone and memorize) your application number. While you’re at it, it might be a good idea to do the same for the security questions you fill in. You might not remember your favorite TV program’s name from when you were 6, two days from now. This is just an example, but you get what we mean.

2. Be Patient with Timeouts

It is almost a guarantee that you will be kicked out of the system with a timeout. It has become evident that the system which runs the online applications isn’t too accurate with calculating how long you’ve been inactive. So, it might kick you off even if you just paused for a bit to go through some documents or you ran to the bathroom.

It is, therefore, a good idea to put out at least half a day to fill in this application. This ought to give you some breathing room if you get kicked off a few times.

3. Have Your Information and Documents Readily Available

There are a lot of documents and information you’ll need to fill in your DS-160 form. It is almost essential that you have all of these ready and at hand before you start your application. Otherwise, the day you blocked out for this will turn into a scurrying out for old information.

This will almost certainly lead to more session timeouts than you would want. Another tip to make this even easier is to type out your information you’ll need on a notepad on your computer. This makes it simple to just copy and paste the information into the application form.

4. Make Sure You Have a Reliable Internet Connection

Your DS-160 form is online, which means every time you lose internet connectivity your application will most probably bomb-out. With a session timeout, your information is saved and you can retrieve it again.

If you lose your internet connectivity, there is no guarantee that any information is saved. So, make sure you have a proper internet connection that will last for an extended amount of time before you get started.

5. Make Sure Your Digital Photograph Meets the Criteria

To finish your DS-160, you will need to submit a digital photo. It is important for this photo to meet all the requirements otherwise your application can’t be processed.

Your photo has to have a plain background, for example. Here is the full list of requirements for your digital photo. You can even upload your photo with this handy tool on the website to make sure it’s cropped properly.

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The fact that filling out the DS-160 form is frustrating shouldn’t keep you from your end goal – getting your non-immigrant visa! The DS-160 form is just the first step to a great new adventure. So, don’t let this be a stumbling block. Combat the frustrations with the tips we provided above.

Take a careful look at the documents and information you will need to apply and make sure you rummage through all your old files to get these ahead of time. If you prepare your documents and information well, memorize your application ID and have a stable internet connection you’ll be set to tackle the bull by the horns!

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