With the boom of nonimmigrant visa applications in U.S. embassies and consulates all over the world, the U.S. Department of State is adopting and transitioning office-by-office to the new online form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application. The online form is intended to efficiently collect application information from nonimmigrant visa applicants and to facilitate the visa application process.

The list of the selected U.S. embassies and consulates currently using the new form DS-160 can be found on the State Department’s Web site. While this advisory is intended to introduce the new procedures for nonimmigrant visa applications for the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai, please note that the U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang is on the list, and the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou is preparing to launch the online form DS-160 tentatively in March 2010.

It is important to check the U.S. embassy or consulate Web site where you will apply for your nonimmigrant visa to verify the application process currently in place. The embassies and consulates that have not converted to the DS-160 will continue to require all the original application forms, e.g., DS-156/157, etc., for nonimmigrant visa applications.

New online application to be launched by U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai

As confirmed by Vice Consul Bridget Davis, the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai launched the new online application procedure on Feb.1, 2010, initially only for testing purposes. Beginning March 1, 2010, all nonimmigrant visa applicants at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai are required to apply for a U.S. visa using form DS-160. The DS-160 will replace hardcopy forms DS-156, DS-157, DS-158 and DS-3032 for U.S. visa applications.

Except for the “Full Name in Native Alphabet” box, to be filled out in Chinese character, all questions must be answered in English. Typically, it takes about 75 minutes to fill out the entire form DS-160. When the form is completed, a one-page confirmation form is generated automatically. Visa applicants must bring the confirmation form to their visa interview appointment. It is no longer necessary to bring the entire printed form DS-160 to the interview.

The new form DS-160 is integrated and dynamic. Therefore, an applicant must answer questions accurately, thoroughly, specifically and honestly. When completing the online form, it is necessary to save information frequently (it is highly recommended to save data upon completion of each questionnaire page) to your PC’s local hard drive as a .dat file. The system will automatically time out every 15 minutes. All data that has not been saved will be lost, and you will have to fill out the form from the beginning.

The appointment procedure for a visa interview remains unchanged. Applicants should make appointments for interviews at least 45 days in advance of travel. Even after a visa interview is completed, if special processing/checking or additional information, such as a background check, is required, issuance of the visa may be delayed. For answers to frequently asked questions about form DS-160, please see the U.S. Department of State’s Web site.

New procedures for AmCham Shanghai

If you are applying for a U.S. visa through AmCham Shanghai’s Corporate Visa Program (CVP), be sure to note the following new procedures:

  • Applicants are no longer required to submit a resume, travel plan and invitation letter, except those with a background in science and technology and/or with advanced degrees.
  • Applicants must bring the following items to AmCham Shanghai: (a) a confirmation page and extra passport photo, and (b) a completed Frequent Traveler Questionnaire.
  • All interview applicants should take their own supporting documents, e.g., old passports and proof of ties in China, to the consular section.

Practical tips to successfully apply for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa

  • Always be accurate, thorough, specific and honest.
  • Bring an extra passport photo to the visa interview in case the uploaded photo is not clear or there are technical problems.
  • Specify your travel plan. List parents and spouse, even if deceased or divorced.
  • List your last five visits to the United States.
  • List all countries visited in the last five years.
  • List your entire educational background including but not limited to middle school, high school, university, the highest degree you’ve obtained, etc.
  • List all refusals of U.S. visas. Do not try to conceal material facts from the U.S. Consulate. If any visa application has been rejected in the past, you must fill in the box to explain the details. Format your explanation in the following sequence: type of visa you applied for, the year your application was rejected, and the location where your application was rejected.
  • Answer the interviewer’s questions truthfully and accurately.
  • Have a legitimate travel purpose and be able to show strong economic or social ties to China.