Fires and Visas: More in Common than You Think (Or the Importance of the DS-160 Visa Application)

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It is fire season here in California, and inevitably talk turns to what could have been done to prevent the latest big fire, that the fire could have been prevented if only…. The lessons learned are so applicable to visas that I even have a painting of firemen and a firetruck in my office.  Clients come to me with a “five-alarm fire,” and often my first thought is what could have been done to prevent the fire.  Sometimes, the problem is as simple as correctly and properly filling in the DS-160 visa application form or even having a copy of the visa application form.

In many of these consultations, inevitably the topic turns to what was indicated in the visa application form.  I ask for a copy of the DS-160 visa application form and the client does not have one. The client attempts to reconstruct the application or tries to remember what was indicated.  Or the client has a visa interview in the near future and does have a copy of the DS-160, but did not prepare it the way it should have been prepared or relied on a “consultant” to prepare the application. Let us count the ways the DS-160 is important:

  1. Often the consul will compare the present visa application and travel history with the previous application.  An acute example is for an immigrant visa applicant who plans to immigrate through a US citizen or permanent resident close relative in the US. If the applicant had previously received a US visa, invariably the consul will check the previous visitor visa application to see if the close relative in the US was indicated in the DS-160 or whether the applicant had previously answered positively the question in the DS-160 about the filing of an immigrant petition. If not, the consul may make a misrepresentation finding, leading to a lifetime ban from the United States. This can be particularly devastating if it impacts the parent of a US citizen because there is no immigrant waiver available. And because immigrant intent has been shown, a visitor visa or nonimmigrant waiver is unlikely to be approved in the foreseeable future.
  2. Inconsistencies can also be the death knell of L-1 or other employment-based nonimmigrant or immigrant applications, such as EB-5. To qualify for an L-1 visa, it is necessary to work in a foreign company for at least one of three years prior to being transferred to a related company in the US. But what if you indicated in a previous DS-160 visa application form that you worked in Company X in 2019-2021, but in the L-1 petition it is indicated that you worked in Company Y in 2019-2021. Or as an EB-5 investor in the I-526 petition for immigration you indicate that you earned your money for the EB-5 investment from salary working for Company A in 2018 and 2019, but the DS-160 you submitted in 2019 shows that you were working for Company B.
  3. The DS-160 visa application can also be used to put your best foot forward. If your visa was revoked or refused, the DS-160 provides an opportunity to address the issue head-on. If there are 214(b) issues, they can be raised in the DS-160. If you need a waiver, the DS-160 allows you to request the waiver and state why you believe you qualify for the waiver. There is no separate nonimmigrant waiver application form, and so the DS-160 becomes the platform for making that application.
  4. The DS-160 is available to not only the consul at the interview window, but to consular management, as well as USCIS, CBP and other US government agencies. So if there is misinformation in the DS-160 and the visa is issued, CBP can still access the DS-160 and refuse entry to the United States upon arrival at a US airport.

These are just some of the reasons the DS-160 is critical. It is an official government form, and any information in the form is considered a representation. Any inaccurate information is considered a misrepresentation.

The good news is that copies of the previous DS-160 applications can be obtained from the Department of State.  But the surest way to prevent a “five-alarm fire” is to consult with a qualified lawyer in advance – before the visa “fire” becomes too hot to handle.