DS-260 and DS-261 Online Forms, Explained


When you apply for a family based green card from outside the U.S, you need to file the DS-260 online form. Its official name is the “Immigrant Visa Application” and it’s handled through the National Visa Center (NVC), and your local U.S Embassy or Consulate. The DS-261 is an online form that tells the State Department how to contact you during your green card application process.

DS-260 and DS-261 Form

Once USCIS approves your family sponsorship form (the I-130), it will forward it to the NVC. The NVC will then send you a welcome notice by mail or email.

This notice will include your case number, a Beneficiary ID number, and an invoice number. The Beneficiary ID number is a unique number that the NVC assigns to the person seeking a green card. You’ll need all of these numbers to submit forms of DS-260 and DS-261.

Next, you need to file form DS-261 (technically called the “Online Choice of Address and Agent”). There’s no fee to file it. It can take up to three weeks for the NVC to process the DS-261.

Once the NVC has processed your DS-261, you’ll need to pay two required fees. You’ll know the NVC has processed your DS-261 when the fee invoice appears on the NVC’s Consular Electronic Application Center. It can take up to a week for the NVC to process your DS-261 payment.

After that, you can then go online to file form DS-260. This is the primary green card application for relatives living abroad.

DS-260 Filing Tips

  • First, you’ll need your case number, beneficiary ID number, and the invoice number from the original welcome notice that the NVC sent to you.
  • You must fill out the entire DS-260 online form in English.
  • You need to include information about all of your children, step-children, adopted children, and biological children, and whether or not they’ll be immigrating to the U.S with you.
  • List all addresses where you’ve lived since you were 16.
  • It can take months for the green card to arrive at your address in the U.S, so make sure that the mailing address you provide will be valid during that time.
  • You can’t correct form DS-260 after you’ve submitted it online, make sure all of your information is correct the first time. If you discover a mistake after submitting your DS-260, you can let the Consular Office know at your interview and ask if they can correct it.
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  • After you’ve submitted the form, print the confirmation page so you can bring it to your visa interview at the U.S Consulate.

The NVC will then send out a notice via email or mail confirming they’ve received your DS-260, usually the same day you submitted it.

You will need to upload email or mail your supporting documents to the NVC. The NVC then sends it to the consulate for processing. Once the consulate approved your visa, you’ll receive an immigrant visa stamp in your passport.

You are to pay for the form DS-260 as soon as you receive the visa stamp. That way you can receive your physical green card soon after you arrive in the U.S.

You will use the immigrant visa stamp to enter the U.S, and you’ll receive your physical green card at your U.S address, usually within three to four weeks of entry.

Submitting form DS-260 and DS-261 are key steps in the green card process for anyone applying from outside the U.S. By carefully following the instructions, you will increase your chances of green card success.

Question: Do you have to wait for NVC to contact you to fill the ds 260 or you just go online and fill it up?

Answer: You will need the NVC to contact you via mail or email for next steps.

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