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. Starting October 22, 2008, all foreign nationals applying for nonimmigrant visas at the U.S. consulates in Montreal and Vancouver must use the new form DS-160. For visa interview appointments that occur before October 22, 2008, applicants must complete the DS-156 Electronic Visa Application Form currently in use.

The current nonimmigrant visa application process begins with form DS-156 which, while completed online, is printed and submitted in hard-copy form to a U.S. consulate. By contrast, the DS-160 is completed and submitted online. The form may be filled out by a third party but ultimately the actual applicant must submit the form on line. Upon submission, the applicant receives a confirmation page that the applicant must take to the visa interview appointment. The information that is submitted electronically is stored in the DOS database and is retrieved by the consular officer at the interview via the confirmation page. The Vancouver Consulate 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 before the consular visa interview. Montreal and Vancouver do not mention the need for this additional step in the process. However, applicants in those two locations whose interview appointments fall after October 22, 2008 and therefore will require the use of form DS-160, should inquire at the time of scheduling the visa appointment whether an additional appointment for submission of biometric data is required.