American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Liaison Committee had a meeting with the DOS Visa Officer on October 3, 2019. Below is a published summary of the topics discussed and clarified by the DOS during the meeting.
Although it is technically possible for a Form DS-160 prepared for filing at one post to be used for an interview that takes place at a different post, DOS strongly discourages applicant from doing so. It is usually more efficient to complete a new DS-160 and pay a new application filing fee.
Usually, once DS-160 is submitted, it is locked and cannot be changed or modified by the applicant. Although a consular officer can unlock the form to allow an applicant to make certain changes, DOS suggests to just file a new application may be more efficient at larger posts.
If there is material error in a DS-160, such as name, passport number, gender, and nationality, etc., filing a new application and pay a new application filing fee is required to make the change. A mistake in an address is not a material error and does not require completion of a new DS-160. In this situation, a consular officer may make a note of the correct information in the application file document.
State also recommended that applicants use Internet Explorer and Chrome browsers and mentioned that Safari is not compatible with the application.
Visa applicants should e-sign their own applications. An attorney can sign on behalf of the applicant, but consular officer will want to know why the attorney signed the application rather than the applicant. Travel agency CANNOT sign for applicants.
If an applicant completes and submits a DS-160 and then obtains a new passport, it is not necessary for the applicant to submit a new DS-160. The passport number in the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) cannot be changed but consular staff can enter remarks concerning the new passport information on the DS-160 and consular officers should be able to process the case in our adjudication systems using the new passport. The applicant should bring both the new and old passports to the interview.
DOS stated that social media handles are used to identify visa applicants in the same manner as a physical address or telephone number, and that consular officers do not use social media information to screen visa applicants for political content of social media posts unless there is content that suggests a threat to national security or public safety. DOS does not deny that social media data may be used for other purposes, particularly where there are fraud indicators in a visa application.
DOS stated that Form DS-5535 was not designed for use worldwide rather than for any specific country or region. Consular officers have wide discretionary authority about when to require completion of the form.
Waiting Time for Visa Application Appointments
AILA reported that some consulates take significantly longer to obtain non-immigrant and immigrant visa appointments than the wait times posted on DOS website. DOS responded that some consulates enter their wait time information monthly into the system by themselves and the wait time for visa appointment at consulates variable depending on availability of staff, number of visas demanded and type of visa for which an appointment is sought.
USCIS Overseas Office Closures
USCIS will continue to provide services for military naturalizations. Consular Affairs will assume all services currently provided where there is no USCIS presence including but not limited to: I-130 processing for active duty military and in exceptional circumstances, I-600 and I-360 applications, DNA and paper fingerprint collections, I-730 refugee and asylee follow-to-join interviews and boarding foils, and I-131A boarding foil requests.
Consular will accept a Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status, only in rare circumstances where the applicant has an immediate need to prove abandonment of status such as for A and G visa applicants.
If you have any specific question regarding consulate visa applications, please contact our office.