State Dep’t Issues Final Rule To Offer Electronic Nonimmigrant Visa Applications
The Department of State has issued a final rule, effective April 29, 2008, to offer a completely electronic application procedure for nonimmigrant visas as an alternative to submission of the Form DS-156.
The Department has developed and introduced an electronic application process for nonimmigrant visas to eventually replace the current application process, which depends on a paper form (the DS-156, and other forms when required, such as the DS-157 and DS-158). The first step in paper reduction efforts was to offer an electronic visa application form (EVAF) as a voluntary alternative way of obtaining and preparing the DS-156. While a nonimmigrant visa applicant could obtain and prepare the DS-156 electronically, he or she was required to sign the DS-156 manually.
On October 1, 2006, the EVAF was made mandatory worldwide wherever possible. Now, although the Department will continue to accept the EVAF where necessary, it plans to eventually eliminate the DS-156 entirely and replace it with the DS-160, an electronic form designed to be completed and signed electronically. The procedure is the same for the nonimmigrant visa applicant except that he or she will not be required to print and sign a form to take to the visa interview. All information entered into the DS-160 will be available to the consular officer at the time of the interview. The applicant is required to “sign” the DS-160 electronically.