The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) provides free legal help to some refugees and displaced people.
- IRAP helps some people find services and prepare refugee and visa applications.
- IRAP is not part of any government, IOM, or UNHCR.
- IRAP cannot grant refugee status or visas or speed up cases.
- IRAP cannot provide financial help, find or pay for housing, or find jobs.
- All of IRAP’s help is free. No one affiliated with IRAP has the right to ask you for money or any other service.
IRAP decides to help people based on their need and eligibility for immigration status. IRAP does not decide to help people based on any other social or political or religious criteria.
This website provides general information about legal processes available to some refugees. It is not meant as legal advice for individual applications.
This information was revised in August 2023. Requirements may change. Always check for current requirements from the government or agency deciding your request.
This guide provides general information about the DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Electronic Application) for Iraqi and Afghan SIV applicants who are outside of the United States. This guide does not provide information for:
- Iraqi and Afghan SIV applicants who are inside the United States.
- Iraqi and Afghan applicants who are applying to the Section 1059 SIV program that requires a letter from a U.S. General or Flag Officer.
When do I complete the DS-260?
SIV applicants complete the DS-260 after they apply for and receive Chief of Mission (“COM”) approval. IMPORTANT: As of July 20, 2022, the U.S. government changed the SIV process. Before July 2022, all SIV applicants had to file I-360 petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are filing a new SIV application after July 20, 2022, then you do not need to submit an I-360 petition. If you filed your SIV application before July 20, 2022, then read IRAP’s guide on the removal of the I-360 petition requirement to see if you need to file an I-360 petition.
After COM approves your application (or, if required, USCIS approves your I-360 petition), it will forward your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC is a government agency that processes visa applications. Within several weeks, NVC should send you an email with an attached letter that tells you how to complete the online visa application.
The letter will instruct you to complete an online visa application (DS-260) for yourself and for eligible family members that you listed on the I-360 application. The letter will also explain what documents you need to email to the NVC to complete applications for you and any qualifying family members. When your DS-260(s) are completed and all documents are submitted, NVC will communicate with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that will schedule you for an interview.
During this stage, if you have questions about your visa application, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the DS-260?
The DS-260 is an electronic visa application form. It asks many personal questions, including about your past addresses, work history, education, and family members. The form is completed and submitted online and in English. If you are traveling with family, each family member will also need to complete a DS-260. The State Department’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the DS-260 are here. The State Department’s information on this part of the SIV application process here.
What information do I need to start?
The DS-260 is located on the Consular Electronic Application Center – Immigrant/Diversity Visa website. You will sign in on this website with your NVC case number and a pin code called the “Invoice ID Number.” Both of these numbers are in the letter NVC sent to you.
Do I need to fill it out all at once?
No. The DS-260 can be saved at any time, even if it is not complete. To save the application, click the “Save” button at the bottom of every page.
It may be helpful to gather some of the information you need to complete to DS-260 before filling it out. This guide will help you figure out what that information might be.
Filling out the DS-260
If you want to look at a DS-260 while you read the information below, you can also see a sample form here from the State Department.
Sign In, Summary Information, and Getting Started
Use the case number information from your NVC letter to sign in.
After signing in, you will see a page summary of your case information. If any of your information is incorrect, contact NVC. You can then start your “IV” (Immigrant Visa) application. Please note:
- The visa class for most Afghan and Iraqi SIV applicants is “SQ.”
- Contact the NVC if you no longer live in the country where your Interview Location is listed.
Once you start your DS-260, you will see a page with instructions for the application. This page will tell you to have your passport and other relevant documents available while you fill out the form. In addition to your passport, some documents that Afghan and Iraqi applicants should have available are:
- Your COM application materials to review your work history details. This includes your DS-157. Any other old work documents may be helpful to review your work history.
- Any diplomas or education information to review your education history.
- Any old passports or travel documents to help you confirm your travel history.
- Any old address information to help you document your address history since you were 16 years old.
- Any emails or documents with phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that you used in the last 5 years to help you review your personal history.
- A copy of a trusted address in the United States to help you provide a mailing address.
- Documents confirming the information of your parents and any spouse, former spouses, or children.
- Any prior visas you received to travel to the United States.
- Any military records documenting any past military service.
The instructions tell you to provide true and complete answers to all questions. They also tell you to provide answers in English, unless told to answer a question in your native language. You will also be reminded to print your confirmation page after completing the application, and to bring this page with you to your interview.
After checking a box that says you read and understood the information on this page, you can click “continue” to begin the DS-260 application.
- Complete your personal details.
- If more than one name is listed on your passport or travel document, include all of those names.
- If your actual date of birth is different from the one listed in your passport, then enter your actual date of birth. Explain this discrepancy at your interview.
- If your actual country of birth is different from the one listed in your passport, then enter your actual country of birth. Explain this discrepancy at your interview.
Present and Previous Address Information
- Fill out the information required.
- If you do not have an exact street address, then describe a general area of the city.
- If your current address changes before you receive a visa, you should contact the NVC and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at which you are applying.
Mailing and Permanent Address Information
- Fill out the information required.
- This section asks for a U.S. address. It should be a U.S. address where you plan to live once you are in the U.S. If you don’t have one, you should enter the U.S. address of someone you know and trust in the U.S.
- If this address changes before you receive a visa, you should contact the NVC and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at which you are applying.
- Fill out the form by entering details about your biological or adoptive parents, your spouse, and your children, if applicable. Include all your family members, even if they will not be traveling with you.
- If your family’s actual dates of birth are different than the ones listed in their passport, then enter their actual dates of birth. Explain this discrepancy at your interview.
Even if your family members are not applying for visas, it is very important that you be honest and accurate about whether you are married, have children, and what their dates of birth are.
Previous U.S. Travel Information
- Fill out the information required.
- If USCIS interviewed you for refugee resettlement and you were denied with a Notice of Ineligibility, note that here. Explain the denial.
- Fill out the information required.
- If you do not have an exact street address for a former employer, then describe a general area of the city. If you do not have any requested information (such as a phone number), then provide as much information as you do have. If you do not have the requested information, write “unknown.”
- Afghan and Iraqi SIV applicants are self-petitioning, so you would select “Self.” Your spouse and children would also select “Self” on their DS-260s.
Security and Background
- Answer the security and background questions.
In general, this section asks questions that may affect whether you would be considered inadmissible. This means not being allowed to receive a visa, green card, or U.S. entry without a waiver, or special permission.
It is important to note that answering a question “yes” in this section does not necessarily mean that you are inadmissible. You may be asked additional questions at an interview or asked to present more information before a consular officer makes a decision. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions in this section, you should strongly consider contacting a lawyer.
For the question “Do you have documentation to establish that you have received vaccinations in accordance with U.S. law?”:
- Vaccinations are usually administered during medical exams that are required for Afghan and Iraqi SIV applicants. Medical exams often do not take place until after their interview with the Embassy.
- Therefore, if you do not have this documentation, indicate “No.”
- You should explain on the form that you intend to go to the required medical exams and receive any required vaccinations when requested to do so. You should also explain that you expect documentation to be sent to the Embassy at that time.
Social Security Number Information
- Answer the questions regarding social security cards.
If you would like to receive a social security card as quickly as possible after arriving in the U.S., select the option that you need a new card. Consent for the Department of State to share your information with relevant government agencies to issue your card.
Sign and Submit
You must sign your application electronically. You must attest that the information in your application is true and correct to the best of your knowledge. If someone helped you prepare your application, you must indicate that.
The confirmation page gives you the option to print your confirmation. You should print the confirmation if possible. You will need to bring it to your visa interview. You also have the option to print your DS-260, email the confirmation page to an email address, or go back to the review or summary pages.
What do I do after submission?
You must submit all required civil documentation by email to the National Visa Center (NVC) at email@example.com. If you have submitted all required documentation, the NVC should confirm that your application is complete. The NVC will contact you when the local Embassy is ready to schedule you for an interview.
What civil documents are required?
You must submit scanned copies of the following documents. Do not submit original copies of any documentation. However, you must bring original copies, and photocopies, to your interview:
- Birth Certificates (for yourself and each family member immigrating with you, if applicable)
- For Iraqi applicants: if you do not have, or cannot obtain, a birth certificate, you can submit the Iraqi national identity card (bataqa shaksiya) instead.
- For Afghan applicants: You can submit your taskera instead of a birth certificate.
- Civil Documents (if applicable, to show the relationship between you and your spouse/minor children):
- Marriage/divorce certificates.
- Death certificates.
- Adoption decrees.
- Passport Biodata Page
- If you are an Iraqi applicant, you must have, or obtain, an A series Iraqi passport. Only these passports are accepted for travel to the U.S. The State Department may waive this requirement in rare circumstances.
- Passports should be valid for at least six months past the expected interview date. This means there is a possibility you will have to renew your passport after submitting your DS-260. It is important to be aware of your passport’s expiration date.
- Family Book (for Iraqi applicants)
- Also referred to as “Qayd 57,” “Copy of Entry 1957,” or “Copy of General Registration Entry for the Year 1957.”
- U.S. Identification
- A copy of your company badge issued either by the U.S. military or by the U.S.-funded employer. If you no longer have it, tell that to NVC in your email with the rest of your documents.
- Police Certificate
- Visa applicants must provide police certificates from the government of any country where they lived for more than 6 months when they were older than 16 years old. This requirement applies unless the State Department has determined that the country’s police certificates are not available or another exception applies.
- The State Department has a list available here for each country. This list explains whether police certificates and other documents are available.
- If it is unsafe or you are otherwise unable to obtain a police certificate, see the section below “What if I cannot obtain a required document?”
- As of January 2020, the State Department considers Iraqi police certificates available. If you are an Iraqi applicant and you have lived in Iraq for at least six months since reaching age 16, you must submit a police certificate from Iraq.
- As of January 2020, the State Department considers Afghanistan’s police certificates unavailable. Afghan SIV applicants do not need to submit police certificates for their time living in Afghanistan.
- If you have been arrested in a country you must obtain a police certificate for that country if records are available. This is true no matter how long you stayed in that country.
- Two Photographs (you do not need to send scanned copies of these to NVC, but have them ready to bring to your interview)
- Must be identical and recent.
- Must be printed on photo quality paper.
- Size must be 2x2 inches (51 x 51 mm).
All documents that are not originally in English must be submitted with an English translation. The translation must include a signed statement by the translator saying the translation is accurate, and that the translator is competent to translate.
What if I cannot obtain a required document?
If you cannot obtain a required document, you would need to present evidence to the NVC that:
- The document is generally unavailable, or
- The document is unavailable to you because of your particular circumstances.
The NVC should send that evidence to the relevant Embassy. The Embassy will decide whether to grant you an interview without it.
If there is an alternative document or evidence that you could submit instead of the unavailable document, you can send that to the NVC. You will also have to explain to the consular officer at your interview why the required document was unavailable. It will ultimately be up to the officer to waive the requirement.
How long do I have to submit the DS-260 and required documents?
The State Department may begin the process of closing or “terminating” your case if no application is made after a year. If you are not able to file an application within a year, or if you cannot obtain a requested document and the State Department does not allow you to proceed without that document, then you should communicate with NVC to request that your application remain open.
Your interview will not be scheduled until this is completed and the NVC reviews your materials. It is recommended that you submit everything as quickly as possible. You can check the NVC’s current case review timelines here.
After you receive the NVC letter with instructions to complete the DS-260, you can immediately begin the application process.
If you need to correct the information in your DS-260 after submission, or if you need to send any additional documents to the NVC, you should do so as quickly as possible to avoid delays in scheduling your interview.
What if I need to leave the country where I was living?
If you need to move to a different country after you submit your DS-260, you must contact the NVC and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are applying to inform them of your change of address. NVC should then transfer your application to the Embassy or Consulate closest to where you will be living.
What if I have a new spouse or child?
If you have a new spouse or child, you should email the NVC (NVCSIV@state.gov) and the Embassy. Attach scanned copies of your spouse’s or child’s passport biodata page attached. The Embassy will contact you with further instructions. In most cases, you will have to complete a new DS-260 for your new spouse or child. You must gather all necessary documents for your new spouse or child. This will include:
- An ID.
- A passport.
- A birth or marriage certificate.
If you have a new spouse after your interview, they will have to attend their own visa interview. The Embassy will determine if an in-person interview is required for your child to receive a visa.
If your child is born after you have received your visas, and the child will travel with you to the U.S. during the period when the visa is valid, the child may be able to travel without a visa. Your child would need a passport and you would need evidence of your parent-child relationship. Contact an attorney or the Embassy for more information.
Can I apply for resettlement benefits?
Yes. If you are an Afghan or Iraqi SIV applicant who wants to apply for Resettlement Benefits, you should fill out the required forms:
- The Refugee Benefits Election Form (RBEF), for yourself.
- The DS-0234 (Special Immigrant Visa Biodata Form), for yourself.
- If applicable, a DS-0234 for your spouse and every child who is applying for a visa with you.
Send the scanned and signed copies to the NVC and the IOM at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You must submit the required forms within 10 calendar days after your visa is issued. However, you do not need to wait for your interview or your visa to submit these forms. You can submit the forms at any time after completing your DS-260. You can indicate a geographic preference for resettlement on the second page of the DS-0234.
How can I prepare for my visa interview?
IRAP’s guide about Afghan SIV interviews is available here. IRAP’s guide about Iraqi SIV interviews is here.
Asking for help
You or your relative may want to ask an immigration attorney for help with this process. Here are a few resources:
- Information about asking for help from IRAP is here.
- If you are in Jordan, you can ask for IRAP Jordan’s help using this form. If the form is closed, you can check back at a later date.
- A list of free immigration legal service providers in the United States is available here. These attorneys are not affiliated with IRAP.
- A list of private immigration attorneys in the United States is available here. Please note that private immigration attorneys may charge a fee for their services. These attorneys are not affiliated with IRAP.