Since 2009, the Department of State has been phasing in a new, online visa application form at embassies worldwide. The new DS-160 combines all previously used forms (DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158) for all nonimmigrant visa applications except Ks and Es. DOS's goal is to use the DS-160 exclusively worldwide by April 30, 2010.

The DS-160 is not as forgiving as the prior forms, and errors or omissions can have serious consequences. If certain fields are answered incorrectly, or marked "not applicable," "nil," or "don't know," the application may be rejected at the visa interview. The applicant must then submit a new application, pay new application fees, and reschedule the visa appointment.

More serious still, the applicant's name may be entered into government databases as a formal visa refusal or denial. If the traveler does not then disclose the visa denial on a future ESTA application to use the Visa Waiver Program, the ESTA registration may be rejected and/or the traveler may be deferred to secondary inspection at a US airport or refused admission to the United States.

Based on recent communiques from the U.S. embassies in Paris and London, the most common problems on the DS-160 are as follows:

  • Incorrect visa classification. Choose the correct classification from the "Purpose of Travel to U.S." pull-down menu in the "Travel Information" section. If your purpose of travel is not covered in the list, click on "Other" for a further drop-down list of choices. Applicants who are seeking employment-authorized visas such as H-1Bs, L-1s, H-3s should not select "Business/conference visitor" (B-1) or "Business/Personal Travel" (B1, B2), or their applications will be rejected.
  • Incomplete or incorrect names. Enter all names fully and correctly, generally exactly as they appear on the passport. Married women whose French passports show their names as “X ép. Y” should enter maiden names as last names, and show married names as “Other Names Used.” All middle names should be entered.
  • Incomplete education history. High school education is considered mandatory and should be included on the DS-160 application form.
  • Incomplete travel history. All overseas travel must be included. The sole exception is for crewmembers.