New Electronic Form DS-260

by Elizabeth Brettschneider

The State Department has recently made a change for immigrants applying for a green card through a consular post abroad. Prior to September 1, 2013, The National Visa Center (which processes and organizes all paperwork for the State Department before sending the case to the US consulate abroad) required applicants who were permanently immigrating to the United States through a consular post to submit the paper DS-230 biographic form along with all the other required documentation. A paper immigrant visa application such as this has been required since the Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted back in 1952. It’s been pretty much the same process since Harry Truman was president, the average new car cost $1,700, and the Big Bang Theory was a new scientific idea, not a television show.

So welcome to the digital age and the shiny new DS-260 form!

As stated, this new biographic form (like the old version) is used for applicants permanently immigrating to the United States through a consular post abroad (as compared to applicants adjusting status to permanent residency when physically present in the United States). Before the immigrant visa is issued at the US Consulate, the applicant must first submit all required documentation (which now includes the electronic DS-260) to the National Visa Center (NVC). For any new case that arrives at the NVC after September 1, 2013, the applicant will be instructed to complete the new DS-260 instead of the old DS-230. For cases already processing by September 1st, a DS-260 may not be required under certain circumstances.  For example, if the case has already been documentarily qualified and sent for scheduling at a consulate. If, however, the NVC needs to request additional evidence from a currently pending case because certain required documents are missing from the application, they may at the same time request that a DS-260 be completed. There are a few other limited exceptions for those who may be asked to use the old version of the form, but for the most part the DS-260 is something that most future applicants will see. 

We are hopeful that the new electronic version of the form will allow the government to speed up processing times as they will now avoid having to input the information separately like they used to do after receiving the paper version of the old form. This may help with any data-entry/human errors as well; however, as with any new process, there are potential frustrations and pitfalls. One is the online version’s inevitable “time-out” mechanism which can cause the foreign national to be logged out of the online system if it is left too long without action. Frequently saving the document is recommended to prevent previously entered information from being lost. Also to note is the new form contains some fields that were not previously on the DS-230; thus, applicants will need to be careful to complete the new version in full.

Probably the biggest concern over the new form is for foreign nationals who do not have easy access to a computer and reliable internet to complete the electronic version of the form. These applicants are sure to feel the frustrations of the process to a greater extent. They are also missing out on some amazing cat videos.