Tuesday, March 07, 2006

H1B Visa stamping in Toronto consulate Canada

Please note the following is based on my experience and I PROVIDE NO REPRESENTATIONS AND WARRANTIES, EXPLICIT OR IMPLIED. I do not assume any liability for your use of any of the below information.

a) First book an appointment in one of the consulates in Canada thru http://www.nvars.com/. After my initial research, I figured it is a safe bet to take an appointment with Toronto Consulate However depending on the proximity you can choose some other consulate too. In such case, ask check out the forums and see how strict the officers are in that particular consulate. The rest of the document holds good for getting a visa at Toronto Consulate. The process should be similar (if not same) for other consulates as well.

Tip: Typically the dates are not available for 2 months however keep checking the site early in the morning and you should get a date sooner. They seem to open up the free slots every nite based on cancellations or modifications. I would also suggest you to take an appointment after 10.00 if available so that you will have time to beat the horrible rush hour Toronto traffic, deposit the fee in the bank and all that, assuming you plan to be in Toronto exactly on the morning of your appointment date. The only drawback is you might have to wait a little longer for getting the interview because of the backlogs from morning.

b) Once you book the appointment, that particular consulate will send you a letter confirming your date and also listing all the documents you need to carry. The packet also has deposit slips for the non-refundable processing fee. Any recent changes are mentioned in the letter and so PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE LETTER THOROUGHLY. On the day I went for stamping, couple of persons came without reading the instructions fully and had to go back to deposit the fee in the bank etc. so Take time and make sure you read and understood the whole details

c) Contact your HR for the list of documents needed as per the letter you received. I went for H1 stamping. Document list might be different for other category. Here is the list of documents for H1B1 stamping:

1. Original complete Petition set of documents (Attorney or Employer must have sent a packet to you. You need that whole set)
2. Original Passport
3. Filled in Visa application forms – DS-156, DS-157 (if male between 16 and 45) Note: DS-156 must be filled online at https://evisaforms.state.gov/ds156.asp?lang=1 and should have the barcode in it.
4. Employment Certificate in Original (This is the most important document you need. The only document the officer checked was the letter stating the continual employment from my company. So was the case with most of my friends too. I have attached a sample herewith. I am not attaching the actual letter that I got as it lists my salary and other details.
5. All original education certificates (if you have transcripts take them too)
6. A copy of CV/Resume
7. Experience Certificates from previous employers
8. Other Certifications, e.g., Microsoft, Brain bench, etc
9. 2 color photographs (50mm X 50mm) with white background, non-Polaroid (Stop over at Walgreen and tell 'em you need a passport photo. They should give you in a minute or so. Incase you have any problems, there is a photo machine at Consulate premises but it accepts only Canadian dollars)
10. IT returns statement for last 2 years (Better take proof for all returns you have filed so far)11. last 3 months Pay slips
12. Bank Account verification letter stating that you have a financial relationship since so and so date and xxx is your current balance.
13. Copy of offer letter on company's US letterhead (designation & salary as on petition) (I didn't carry this, though!)
14.Visa application fees & Visa processing fees as applicable. (a 100$ non-refundable visa processing fee must be paid at a Scotia bank in that province and you should carry the deposit slip.This slip can be found in the packet sent by the US consulate in Canada when you book the appointment. You can see Scotia banks all over in Toronto. A branch is on University Ave (10 minutes walk from consulate) and it opens at 9.00.
15. Marriage Certificate, if applicable
16. Birth Certificate/s of Children, if applicable


d) Make sure you have all the documents ready. Depending on whether you want to drive down or fly, you can make your travel arrangement. I do have friends at Toronto but I opted to stay in a hotel as my friends stay far away from main city (& I got a really good deal from hotwire too). I flew to Toronto and took a hotel in Mississauga, ON (suburb of Toronto). So check with your friends and explore which will make your stay comfortable. The last thing you want to do is to get stuck commuting on the interview day. btw, the mass transit system is good in Toronto. You may not need a car as the city is well connected with bus and subway.

e) Once you are in Toronto, find a Scotia bank and deposit the fee. Most branches open at 9.00 and close at 5.00. But my friends told me that some are open at 8.00 AM. Or you can ask your friend to deposit the fee and have the slip ready for you.

f) On interview day, make sure you show up on time. DO NOT CARRY CELL PHONES or ANY OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICES. Security won't let you inside if you carry any electronic stuff and there is no way you can keep them near consulate. So either leave them in your car or in hotel. I see many people struggling with their cell phone. Infact this point is clearly mentioned in the letter sent by consulate and remember THEY MEAN IT. I even noticed Security office pointing that instruction in the letter to someone.
Tip: You may actually show upto 30 minutes late so Don't worry if you are held up somewhere for a while. I saw many people showing up as late as half hour as they either went back to put their cell phone somewhere or to deposit the fee in the bank. Again, Plan and try your best to be in time. I intend to write here only to let you know that you don't have to panic if you running a little late.

g) Give the letter confirming your appointment to the security and after the regular security screening he/she will let you in. You may have to wait for an hour or so in the line now.

h) The line moves on and a first officer verifies your petition and DS-156. He/She also cross-checks all the details you entered on DS-156. Once this is done, He/She will ask you to wait for the interview. A lady office verified my DS-156. She took the Passport, petition and DS-156/DS-157 with her and asked me to wait for interview.

i) After 10 minutes wait or so, you will be called for the interview. The interview for me went on like this:

Officer: Good morning. I understand that you are here for H1B renewal
Siva: Yes Sir
Officer: So where are you in states?
Siva: Wausau, Central Wisconsin
Officer: Put your index on this machine (left or right, I forgot). So what do you do in Wausau
Siva: I work as a blah blah (While talking I had the finger print taken)
Officer: put your other index finger. What is the nature of your job
Siva: I work for xxx company and we have some projects outsourced to us from yyy. I take care of doing the production support for that application
Office: Ok. Can I see the letter from your Employer.
He took a look at the letter and said: I am giving you the visa. Please go and pay the reciprocatory fee (he gave a green paper) and come back to me. (I think in between he took my picture too)
Siva: Thank you.

I went to the third floor, paid the fee and came back to the same person. He checked the receipt and asked me to come back the next day between 3.00 and 4.00 PM to collect the passport. I was out of consulate in exactly 1 hour 30 minutes.

PLEASE NOTE: This waiting time and simple questions are only if you are showing up for same category visa (more like Renewal). I see people waiting for hours and also being questioned for long time when the visa category changes. I didn't see any denials but I saw some people being asked to take interview with special officers.


j) So the next day, I went at 3.30 or so and got my passport and petition back. You don't even have to go inside to collect the passport. There is counter outside for dispersing passports (Check the name on the visa before leaving the Embassy).

k) There are many places to see in Toronto like CN towers, Exhibition place, CasaLoma etc. I even drove to Niagara (itz not that far). if you are a party guy like I am, You got lot of stuff to do in TORONTO and if you need any information about that you can email me offline :-). Interestingly, you even have a FM channel (frequency somewhere in 100+) that broadcasts Tamil,Telugu and Hindi programs.

I did lot of shopping, browsed for stuff like Top selling camcorders and Top Selling Digital Cameras .



l) A Business Casual attire is good enough. Well, I saw many people with sweat shirts and short pants! But I would think a plain shirt and a regular trousers (Even a not-too fancy Denim is fine) should suffice. Don't worry about Tie/Suit and all that.

m) Finally, Just to Emphasize, READ THE LETTER FROM THE CONSULATE CONFIRMING YOUR APPOINTMENT AND IT HAS ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED.

Any other questions, You have 900 number to speak to consulate.

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All the best.