USCIS Form DS-261: Your Guide to Online Choice of Address and Agent

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers various forms for different immigration processes. Among these, Form DS-261 stands out as a crucial step for individuals applying for an immigrant visa from outside the United States. Form DS-261, also known as the “Online Choice of Address and Agent,” is an electronic form that enables visa applicants to designate an agent to act on their behalf in communicating with the National Visa Center (NVC). The agent can be an attorney, a family member, or any individual appointed by the applicant and does not necessarily need to be a lawyer.

Submitting Form DS-261 is an initial procedure that usually follows the receipt of a case number from the NVC, and completing this form is necessary before paying the required visa processing fees. After appointing an agent using Form DS-261, the applicant or their designated agent will receive instructions for the subsequent


including completing the DS-260 form and the actual immigrant visa application. It’s important to note that submission of Form DS-261 is only part of the multi-step visa application process and should be completed carefully per the instructions provided by the NVC.

The process of completing the DS-261 form is fully online through the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website. Applicants should ensure all information provided is accurate to prevent delays in their visa processing. It’s also advisable for applicants to review the FAQs and seek assistance if they encounter difficulties during submission to ensure that their immigration efforts proceed smoothly.

Overview of DS-261

The DS-261 form is an essential step in the visa application for those seeking to immigrate to the United States. It is integral for establishing communication with the State Department.

Purpose of DS-261

The DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent, serves a specific function: it allows applicants to designate an individual or an agency to receive communications from the National Visa Center (NVC) and act on their behalf regarding the immigrant visa application process. This form only applies to applicants processing their visas outside the United States.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility to submit a DS-261 form is limited to principal applicants who have received a case number from the NVC after their I-130 petition has been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These applicants must complete the DS-261 before proceeding with the consular interview and subsequent application steps.

Accessing DS-261

To access Form DS-261, the applicant must use the online platform provided by the U.S. Department of State. This is an integral step in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa.

Online Filing Requirements

Form DS-261, the “Online Choice of Address and Agent,” must be completed digitally. Applicants must visit the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to complete the form. The requirements to complete the form online include:

  • A reliable internet connection
  • The case number received from the National Visa Center (NVC)
  • The invoice ID number provided by the NVC, if applicable

Account Creation

Before applicants can complete Form DS-261, they must establish an account in the CEAC portal. Account creation involves:

  • Visiting the CEAC website
  • Entering the provided NVC case number and invoice ID number
  • Creating a username and password
  • Answering security questions for account recovery purposes

This account will allow the applicant to not only file Form DS-261 but also pay the necessary fees and follow up on the status of their visa application.

Completing DS-261

When preparing the DS-261, an applicant should provide accurate details about their background, contact information, selected agent, and associated petition.

Personal Information

In this subsection, the applicant must submit their full legal name, birth date, and place of birth. If applicable, they must include any other names, such as maiden names or aliases.

Contact Details

The contact details section requires applicants to provide their current physical address, email, and phone number. This information is critical for the National Visa Center (NVC) and U.S. Embassies or Consulates to maintain communication with the applicant.

Agent Selection

The agent, often called a “choice of address and agent,” acts as a point of contact between the applicant and the NVC. Here, the applicant names the individual authorized to act on their behalf, a relative, friend, attorney, or other designee.

Petition Information

This part mandates the applicant to furnish information about the petition filed on their behalf, such as the USCIS case number. This ensures the DS-261 is accurately linked to the corresponding immigrant visa case.

Submitting DS-261

When submitting Form DS-261, the applicant must ensure accuracy and completeness. This form sets the stage for consular processing by selecting an address and agent for correspondence.

Review Process

The review process for DS-261 begins once the applicant submits the form electronically via the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). Applicants must thoroughly review their information for accuracy before submission. The Department of State advises that applicants save a copy of their submission for personal records.

Electronic Signature

Form DS-261 does not require a traditional signature. Instead, submitting the form online is considered an electronic signature. Applicants must affirm that all information provided is true and correct to the best of their knowledge.

Confirmation Page

After submitting the DS-261 form, the applicant will receive a confirmation page, which must be printed as proof of completion. This page does not typically require action but should be kept for the applicant’s records.

After Submission

Once Form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent, has been submitted, the applicant moves into the waiting phase of the visa processing cycle. The form’s proper submission is critical for ensuring the subsequent steps, including scheduling an interview, and applicants need to be aware of the processing times, potential delays, and communication channels with USCIS.

Processing Times

  • USCIS Processing: Processing times for Form DS-261 can vary depending on several factors, including the volume of applications received and the case’s specific needs.
  • State Department Handling: After USCIS processing, the National Visa Center (NVC) steps in and may take several weeks to process the form.

Possible Delays

  • Incomplete Applications: An incomplete form or incorrect information can lead to delays in processing.
  • NVC Backlogs: High demand periods can create backlogs at the NVC, potentially delaying the overall visa process.

Communication with USCIS

  • Email Notifications: Once Form DS-261 is processed, the USCIS or the NVC will typically send notifications via email regarding the status and any next steps.
  • Status Inquiries: Applicants can check their case status online or contact the USCIS or NVC directly if they have concerns about their application’s progress.

Additional Information

The “Additional Information” section of the USCIS Form DS-261 ensures applicants understand their privacy rights and the technical assistance available.

Privacy Policy

USCIS is committed to protecting the privacy and personal information of applicants. When applicants submit Form DS-261, their information is used solely for processing their visa application. USCIS adheres to strict guidelines when handling this data, ensuring confidentiality and safeguarding against unauthorized access.

Technical Support

Applicants experiencing technical issues with Form DS-261 can seek assistance from the National Visa Center (NVC) or the support helpline provided by the U.S. Department of State. The department provides resources to ensure the online form is accessible and navigable, with step-by-step guidance available if technical difficulties arise.

Amendments and Corrections

When an applicant has submitted Form DS-261, “Online Choice of Address and Agent,” but realizes a mistake has been made, amendments and corrections may be necessary. This form facilitates communication preferences during the green card application process. Corrections to the form after submission involve contacting the appropriate authorities.

Here is a step-by-step guide for making corrections:

  1. Contact the National Visa Center (NVC):
    • The applicant must reach out to the NVC by email or phone.
    • Identify the exact nature of the error.
  2. Wait for NVC’s response:
    • The NVC guides whether the amendment can be processed online or requires additional steps.
  3. Resubmission:
    • If the NVC allows, applicants may need to resubmit the DS-261 form.

Note: If the applicant mistakenly chose themselves as the agent instead of a third party, they will have to notify the NVC to amend the choice of agent.

It is important to rectify inaccuracies quickly to avoid potential delays in the visa application process. Always double-check the information you enter to minimize the chance of errors.

Fees and Payment

When applying for an immigrant visa, applicants must complete and submit the DS-261 form, the Online Choice of Address and Agent. The DS-261 form is a prerequisite for processing an immigrant visa application, and it is managed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State. It is crucial to note that there is no filing fee for the DS-261 form.

However, applicants should know that other forms related to the immigrant visa process require fees. For instance:

  • The DS-260 form, officially the Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, has an associated fee.
  • The USCIS Immigrant Fee is required for those applying for a Green Card once they are in the United States.

Payment procedures are outlined on the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) website. Applicants must follow the directions provided on the CEAC website to complete payments accurately.

It is emphasized that not adhering to the correct fee schedule may result in the rejection of an application. Thus, verifying the correct amounts and carefully following the payment instructions are essential for a smooth application process.

The USCIS and CEAC websites serve as reliable resources for detailed fee amounts and payment instructions. These platforms provide up-to-date information on all required fees and step-by-step guidance on the payment process.