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State Department Introduces New Nonimmigrant Visa Form (DS-156) and Photo Requirements

The State Department (DOS) announced introduction of an updated nonimmigrant visa application on Form DS-156. The application includes several additional questions, room for a barcode sticker and synchronizes questions to match data fields in DOS software. The photo format has been changed and permits better use of facial recognition technologies. The changes include a requirement for a white or off-white background of a full face, covering fifty percent of the photo, preferably with ears exposed and measuring two inches. Specific instructions can be found at The form does ask: "Has anyone ever filed an immigrant petition on your behalf?"

On October 9, 2002 the Department of State raised from $65 to $100 the fee for processing an application for a nonimmigrant machine-readable visa (MRV). This will affect individuals in F-1, J-1, H-1B, and O-1 status. The agency said it raised the fee as an "emergency measure" to ensure that they will be able to meet the costs of processing visas as this process has become more labor-intensive due to increased security screening.