Earlier this year the U.S. Department of State (DOS) introduced a new Nonimmigrant Visa Application, the DS-160, that combines and replaces the multiple nonimmigrant visa application forms currently filed by foreign national applicants seeking U.S. visas at U.S. consulates. DOS chose to limit the implementation of the new DS-160 to two U.S. consulates in Mexico -- Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo -- on a pilot basis. Recently the use of the DS-160 was expanded to visa applications filed with the U.S. consulates in Montreal and Vancouver, Canada.

The current DS-156 nonimmigrant visa application is used at all but the above four U.S. consulates. The DS-156 is completed online but printed and submitted in hard-copy form to the U.S. consulate at the time of visa appointment. By contrast, the DS-160 is completed and submitted entirely online. The form may be filled out by a third party but ultimately the actual visa applicant must submit the form on line. After submitting the application, the applicant receives a confirmation page that the applicant must print and take to the visa appointment. The information submitted electronically is stored in the DOS database and is retrieved by the consular officer at the interview via the confirmation page. The U.S. consulate in Vancouver warns that the online application must be completed "fully and properly" or else the visa application may have to be rescheduled.

At the U.S. consulates in Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo, applicants are required to make a separate appointment for biometric data collection (photograph, signature specimen, and fingerprints) at the time they schedule their U.S. consular visa interview appointment. The data collection appointment occurs at least a day before the consular visa interview. The U.S. consulates in Montreal and Vancouver collect the biometric data at the time of the scheduled visa interview appointment; therefore, an additional appointment prior to the visa interview is not required.