Emigrating to the United States of America is one of the biggest dreams of many aspiring youngsters around the globe. If you are entering the United States as an immigrant, it is imperative that you come across two forms – the DS 260 and the DS 261. Unlike some other forms, DS 260 and DS 261 are filled online – thus making it very convenient to fill from a different country.
Emigrating to the United States can be the most difficult thing in the world, if you are not guided properly as it has numerous visas and forms to be filled up.Thus the reason and medium of filling these forms can be very difficult to comprehend in one go. The same applies to the DS 260 and the DS 261. While it may sound similar, these two forms are completely different and in this article, we will take a look at these forms and compare their similarities and differences.
What are DS 260 and DS 261 Forms?
One of the easiest but slightly expensive ways to get a green card is through marriage. Any person who is opting for marriage-based green cards while being outside of the United States (this process is called consular processing) will have to fill in form DS 260. It is similar to Form I 864, except that this is filled online. Your local United States consulate or Embassy and the NVC (National Visa Centre) will handle this form. Form DS 260 is also referred to as the “immigrant visa application”. Since it is filed while being outside of the US, we could say that if your application gets approved, you will be given Permanent Residence in the US even before entering the nation.
DS 261, on the other hand, has the purpose of establishing a communication line between the applicant and the NVC (National Visa Centre). DS 261 form provides the state department with the details of how to communicate with you during the application process. This makes DS 261 very important, as any mistake to this could lead to your rejection.
What Are The Differences Between DS 260 and DS 261?
The major difference between DS 260 and DS 261 lies in their concerned timeline and the complexity. As mentioned earlier DS 261 only deals with your current communication details only. Its only job is to tell the state department how to communicate with you during the application process.
However, DS 260 requires your background information. It may ask for information that may seem relevant to the concerned authorities. It will ask about all the places where you lived in ever since you were 16.
DS 260 and DS 261 Application Process
The first step toward obtaining a marriage visa for your foreign spouse is filing an I-130 petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (or USCIS). Your application must be supported by all the necessary documentation. The USCIS may take up to 15 months to decide on your application. If approved, the USCIS will forward your documentation towards the National Visa Centre.
The NVC sends out a fee invoice which must be paid in order to commence the NVC processing. If the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen, then the NVC will begin to process your application immediately after it was received from the USCIS. However, if the sponsoring spouse is a green card holder, then it would take around 8 to 10 months before they start processing the application.
Once your application is cleared to go to the next step, you will have to file the Form DS 261 in order to tell the state department how to communicate with you during the application process. DS 261 is also referred to as the Online Choice of Address and Agent. You don’t have to pay any fees to fill in this form. However, it may take up to 3 weeks for the NVC to process it.
Once form DS 261 has been eventually processed, you will be required to pay two fees – adding up to a total of $445. You will have to pay the application fee for the State Department ($325) and the financial support form fee. It can take up to a week until your payment is processed by the NVC. Work together with an immigration attorney may help you to ensure that everything is processed smoothly.
Once the payment has been processed, you will have to go online again and this time, file the Form DS 260, or your immigrant application visa. Unlike filling DS 261, filling in DS 260 is a bit more complicated process and have a couple of steps.
How To Fill DS 260 and DS 261 Forms?
For the ease of reading, we are breaking the process in a step wise way. Follow each step carefully as it is going to decider.
Step 1: Access the Form
There may be a couple of days delay between when you pay the fee and when you will be given access to the form. Once you are given the access, go to the CEAC page and log in using your credentials and immediately, you can find the links that help you to access the Form DS 260.
Step 2: Provide the required information
As mentioned earlier, DS 260 requires your background information. It will ask for information that may seem relevant to the concerned authorities and will enquire about all the places where you lived in ever since you were 16. So you may have to fill up many pages in DS 260. You will receive questions about your background, what names you had, what addresses you had in the past, your educational history, as well as information regarding your family members.
While filling the form, you should be very attentive. You should not leave any blanks in spaces where important information is asked. You should get help if you are not good at the English language. Saving the filling process regularly at intervals could help you a lot and you should proofread the form before submitting it.
Once the DS 260 has been submitted online, you will need to print the confirmation page so that you can take it with you to your interview at the Consulate of the United States.
Supporting Documents For DS 260
The USCIS will require two sets of documents when the applicant applies for a green card online – one from the applicant and the other set from the sponsoring spouse.
The documents that are needed from the applicant spouse:
- Nationality proof.
- A copy of the marriage certificate.
- Termination documents of a previous marriage, if applicable.
- A copy of your military record, if applicable.
- A copy of your police certificate.
The documents that are needed from the sponsoring spouse:
- Proof that they have the ability to support their spouse in the United States.
- Termination documents of a previous marriage, if applicable.
Submitting these documents is important for the smooth processing of the application.
DS 260 Interview and Final Fee
After submitting all the required documents, you will have to wait for the final interview. It may take around one or two months after the document submission until you are scheduled.
You will be given an immigrant visa stamp on your passport when your visa is approved. You will be required to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee, which is $220. This fee can be paid online.
If you follow the steps correctly the entire process should be simple. The importance of the forms DS 260 and DS 261 should not be forgotten. If you want a marriage-based visa, then the Form DS 260 and Form DS 261 are certainly a couple of Forms you may want to get acquainted with.
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