Tips for Filling Out Form DS-160

Updated on January 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • Filling out Form DS-160 for a U.S. visa requires understanding the requirements, gathering necessary information, and providing accurate responses.
  • Tips include completing the form in English, saving progress frequently, and reviewing answers before submission.
  • If your session times out, follow the recovery process.
  • Ensure you have the required information and documents, including passport details, travel history, and work-related information.

Filling out Form DS-160, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, can be a crucial step for those seeking to travel to the United States for various reasons, such as tourism, business, or study. In this post, we’ll provide some tips to help ensure a smooth and accurate application process.

11 Tips to Help Complete Form DS-160

Use the following tips when completing your DS-160 form:

1. Understand the Requirements

Before starting, make sure you are clear about the purpose of your trip and the type of visa you need. DS-160 is used for nonimmigrant visas like tourist (B-2), business (B-1), and student (F, M) visas.

2. Gather Necessary Information and Documents

Prepare all the required documentation beforehand. This includes your passport, travel itinerary, dates of your last five visits to the U.S. (if applicable), a photo in the specified format, and details of your contacts in the U.S.

3. Complete the Form in English

All responses on DS-160 must be in English, using English-language characters only, except when you are asked to provide your full name in your native alphabet.

4. Provide Accurate Information

Answer all questions on the DS-160 form truthfully. Misrepresenting any facts could result in visa ineligibility.

5. Take Note of the Application ID

When you start your DS-160, you will be provided an Application ID. Note this down as it’s required to retrieve your form if you need to close your session and return to it later.

6. Save Your Progress Frequently

The DS-160 form does not auto-save, so make sure to save your progress frequently to avoid losing data.

7. Review Your Answers

Before submitting, thoroughly review your answers. Check for any spelling errors or inaccuracies, as you cannot change your answers once the form is submitted.

9. Print the Confirmation Page

After submitting the form, print the confirmation page with the barcode. You will need to bring this to your visa interview.

9. Check Country-Specific Instructions

Some U.S. Embassies or Consulates have additional instructions for visa applicants.

10. Seek Help if Needed

If you have questions or difficulties, you can contact the embassy or consulate where you will apply, or consult their website for guidance.

11. Avoid Third-Party Services

Be cautious of third-party websites offering DS-160 assistance. It’s best to fill out the form yourself or with the help of someone you trust.

By following these tips, you can navigate the process of filling out Form DS-160 more confidently and efficiently. Remember, accuracy and honesty are key in your visa application process.

What to Do if Your DS-160 Session Timed Out

A common issue many people encounter is session time-outs. 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 applicant’s 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.

Information and Documents You Need

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

IMPORTANT:

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 filling this form out. It can take people days or more to acquire all the information, and putting 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 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
  • 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)
  • 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 getting through the process so we can save you time and stress!

Read More

Final Thoughts

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!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are 7 frequently asked questions (FAQs) about filling out Form DS-160:

What is Form DS-160 and why do I need to fill it out?

Form DS-160 is the online nonimmigrant visa application you must complete to apply for a temporary U.S. visa at a U.S embassy or consulate. All applicants for temporary visas need to fill out this form.

How do I access and fill out Form DS-160?

You can access the DS-160 form at ceac.state.gov/genniv. It’s an online form you fill out and submit electronically. You’ll need internet access and an email address.

What information do I need to provide on the DS-160?

You’ll need to provide biographical information, contact information, travel information, family information, previous travel to the U.S., and more. Be prepared to list all places you’ve lived, worked, and studied for the last 10 years.

How long will it take to complete Form DS-160?

It usually takes 1-2 hours to fill out Form DS-160 thoroughly as the form is extensive. Set aside adequate uninterrupted time to complete it.

Can I save my DS-160 and finish it later?

Yes, you can save a DS-160 application in progress and return to it later for up to 60 days. You’ll be emailed a temporary PIN to reopen your incomplete application.

I made a mistake on my DS-160. Can I edit the form after submission?

You cannot edit the DS-160 after you certify and submit it. You have to start over and fill out a new corrected form and repay the visa fees.

How long after submitting the DS-160 can I schedule my visa interview?

You can usually schedule your visa interview anywhere from a few days to several weeks after submitting Form DS-160 depending on the embassy or consulate. Each has different procedures.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.