Friday, April 30, 2010

DS-160 Visa Application Nightmares

More and more US consulates require non-immigrant visa applicants to use the new DS-160 online application form. The DS-160 visa form was designed to replace the printable visa forms DS-156, DS-157, DS-158 and DS-3032. It was supposed to make life easier for visa applicants and visa issuing officers. As an experienced form filing professional, my job is to help US visa applicants submit an accurate and complete copy of the DS-160 however; I can honestly say that the whole DS-160 experience is far from hassle free.

Let me share with you the nightmares of the new DS-160 visa application form:

Uploading your digital photo has to be one of the most frustrating aspects of the DS-160 experience. Where in the past, applicants attached a simple passport photo; they must now get a digital picture. You can’t scan in your existing passport photo because it is too small, so you have to go to a professional photographer and ask him to take one that matches the US digital photo specifications. The minimum acceptable dimensions are 600 pixels (width) × 600 pixels (height). The maximum acceptable dimensions are 1200 pixels (width) × 1200 pixels (height). The file size must be less than or equal to 240 kilobytes. So much for going to the nearest photo booth and getting a passport photo taken cheaply and instantly!

Entering data onto the DS-160 form requires the patience of a saint. You must frequently save your work and if you know that you will not complete your visa application in one sitting you must save it as a separate file on your PC; each time you save a page you get a new version of the file, which can mean you end up with 10 different versions and if you didn’t rename them yourself they will consist of file names like CEACAA000BE6QN.

If you take too long entering data the form times out and you lose all previously unsaved information – great if you are a few pages in and you run upstairs to root out your passport, but as I said frequently saving your work can be just as frustrating when faced with a list of hieroglyphic file names.

Another thing about saving your work is you can’t save a page or move onto the next page unless you complete every question on your existing page. This leaves the visa application form wide open to errors whilst you enter false data with the intention of correcting it once you have retrieved the real information. It’s all too easy to overlook that false phone number of your US host, or your Social Security number.

Finally I experienced real problems when I tried to delete some data from the DS-160. Typing errors occur even to the best of us! I mistyped a client’s phone number by one digit and spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to delete it; in the end I called our IT guy! I was lucky – how many lone visa applicants have an IT guy at home.

I am paid to fill out the DS-160 form so I take the online form glitches in my stride; the average visa applicant is planning a whole new future around the filing of the DS-160. To anyone planning to fill out the DS-160 in the near future, I wish you luck.

Olga Romanova

IVT Services USA

Monday, April 12, 2010


There are various types of visas to the USA for temporary visitors. The purpose of your travel will determine what type of visa to the USA is required under U.S. immigration law.

The Department of Homeland Security issues approximately 15 million visas to the USA last year to tourists, students, businessmen and skilled workers. Around 3 million of them were refused because applicants did not meet the specified requirements for the type of visa for the USA they applied for. The choice is vast and applicants need to ensure the following points:

  • that they are applying within the correct visa category
  • that they have completed the application form acceptably and accurately
  • that they have submitted all of the correct supporting documents to the right authorities
  • that they have paid the correct fee and undergone biometric tests

Check this table to find more information about the type of visa to the USA you will need for travel, and the steps required to apply for the visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Athletes, amateur & professional

Au pairs

Australian professional specialty

Border Crossing Card: Mexico

Business visitors

Diplomats and foreign government officials

Domestic employees or nanny -must be accompanying a foreign national employer

Employees of a designated international organization, and NATO

Exchange visitors

Foreign military personnel stationed in the U.S.

Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in Sciences, Arts, Education, Business or Athletics

Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professionals: Chile, Singapore

International cultural exchange visitors

Intra-company transferees

Medical treatment, visitors for

Media, journalists

NAFTA professional workers: Mexico, Canada

Nurses coming to health professional shortage areas

Performing athletes, artists, entertainers


Professor, scholar, teacher (exchange visitor)

Religious workers

Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge

Students: academic, vocational

Temporary agricultural workers

Temporary workers performing other services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature.

Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitors

Training in a program not primarily for employment

Treaty traders/treaty investors

Transiting the United States

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Greece Becomes the 36th Member of the Visa Waiver Program

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the designation of Greece as the 36th member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which will facilitate travel for Greek citizens visiting the United States.

DHS is committed to guarding against terrorism while at the same time enhancing legal travel and trade with countries which are committed to strong security and screening procedures.

Greece’s VWP designation is the summit of more than two years of collaboration between the two countries. It means that the USA acknowledges that Greece meets with major information-sharing and security requirements, including timely reporting of stolen and lost passports, effective counterterrorism measures, border control and law enforcement.

As a result Greek citizens will be allowed to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. They will be required to obtain a visa waiver (ESTA visa) prior to their travel.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Social Security Benefit UK

Claiming social security benefit in the UK is a complex process. The UK benefit forms are long and complicated and require expert knowledge of government jargon. The good news however is that immigrants can also claim a host of UK Social Security Benefit.
Some UK benefits are available to new immigrants as soon as they arrive in the country. Benefits such as child benefit are available to most immigrants with kids under 19 as well as child tax credit. Those immigrants on low incomes will also be eligible for housing benefit and working tax credits. Immigrants who have worked for some time in the UK and paid National Insurance contributions can also qualify for unemployment benefit and job seekers allowance if they lose their job. Dependants who are disabled but who come to live with you in the UK are usually entitled to claim a disability allowance and likewise if one of your family members is caring for that person they may take advantage of the Carer’s allowance.
Social Security Benefit UK works in the following way; the less you earn but the more children and dependants you have the more money you will receive. Single mothers of all nationalities fair extremely well in UK Social Security Benefit; priority is given to any single parent who has little or no income. Financial help comes in the form of free housing, hardship loans, income support, child benefit, tax credits, free school meals and free dental and medical care. There are further benefits if you are a single mother expecting a child.
If you are an immigrant planning to make a life in the UK then you must check out what you are entitled to claim. IVT downloadable UK Benefit Application Packs contain all of the information every immigrant and UK national needs to file a Social Security Benefit application. The relevant benefit forms are included in the application pack, which is written in simple, easy to understand English.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

UK visa requirements for visitors from Dominica and St. Lucia

The UK border agency has announced that it may introduce visas to the UK for visitors from Dominica and St Lucia, after analyzing the results of a Visa Waiver Test on seven countries in the eastern Caribbean.

The Visa Waiver Test is carried out to determine the risk that a specific countries' citizens potentially pose to the UK in terms of illegal immigration, crime and security, to help decide where visas to the UK may be required.
It also helps the government determine whether the visa regimes are in the right places.

The Test was announced in 2007 when travel from any country beyond the European Economic Area and Switzerland was measured against a range of criteria including illegal immigration, crime and security concerns. The assessment found that there was a need for introducing visas to the UK for a number of currently visa free countries, based on the current level of risk posed to the UK by sufficient numbers of their nationals. A UK visa regime is a simple but very effective immigration, crime and security control measure.

In this case results of the test showed a strong case for introducing visas to the UK for citizens of Dominica and St Lucia. The UK government will now work with these two countries and try to resolve the its concerns during a six-month period.

The final decision on visitor visa regimes will be taken until the end of the six-month period after all relevant factors are considered.