Entering the United States
Every year the United States welcomes around 45.5 million visitors. For most of these travelers, entry to the US is a simple process. If you are Canadian you only need to show your Canadian passport. If you are a citizen of a VWP (Visa Waiver Program) country then you will need to apply online for an ESTA (Electronic System Travel Authorization), and this is only if you are arriving by plane or ship - by land no ESTA is needed. For those citizens of non VWP (Visa Waiver Program) countries the process is a little more complicated and it means applying for a US Visa. Of course, entry to the United States is a privilege and not a right, so even with a Canadian passport, an ESTA, or a US Visa, you may still be denied entry to the US if you do not meet the requirements for admissibility.
US Visa Application Process - Form DS-160
Applying for a US Visa can be rather daunting. Nobody likes to go for an interview and be asked lots of questions, but this is part of the application process and CANNOT be avoided regardless of age. This even applies to people who are just renewing an existing visa - there are NO exceptions.
Before worrying about booking an appointment with the consulate for your interview you must fill out an online DS-160 form and submit it electronically to create your confirmation number. The DS-160 form can be found here: https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/ This form is imperative and once it is completed, signed, and submitted online, a confirmation number will be produced which is your individual DS-160 number and comes in the form of a barcode. It will appear on your confirmation page that you must print out once you have completed your online application.
Every single person applying for a visa must have their own individual DS-160 form completed, their confirmation number created, and confirmation page printed out. This applies to all members of a family regardless of age.At this stage all you have done is create a confirmation number for each applicant. This DOES NOT mean you have got an interview appointment at the US Consulate. If you did nothing else from this moment onwards, your DS-160 confirmation number would eventually expire after 30 days. In fact you can create as many DS-160 confirmation numbers as you like because until you create your account on the US government appointment booking system and link your DS-160 number with that, nothing will happen.
Booking a US Visa Interview Appointment at the US Consulate
In order to progress you now need to create your account on https://usvisa-info.com/en-CA/selfservice/ss_country_welcome. This process is very straightforward and you will notice that as you progress through the pages you will eventually come to the payment screen.It’s important to remember that ALL applicants regardless of age MUST pay a government application fee. This fee is based on the type of visa you are applying for. There are many different types of visa but only 2 different fees. Below is a list of the most common visas and what their fees are.
US Visa Application Fees
The B type visas and student visas are all $160 for the government fee, but any petition based visa, like the H1B for example, are always $190.
So, depending on what type of visa and how many people you are applying for you must, at this point, make that payment. This payment is non-refundable, so be very careful when you submit your payment because if you click more than once it will take another payment. The US Government will not refund anything even if you simply made a mistake and clicked multiple times.
Your payment will generate a receipt that is called the MRV (Machine Readable Visa) receipt. You must print this off to go with your DS-160 confirmation page. There is always one page for this receipt so if you are paying for one person then it will have only one receipt number. If you are paying for a family then it will have a list of receipt numbers on it. Once you have made this payment, then navigate through the pages until you get to the calendar and are able to see what dates are available for you to book your US Visa interview appointment. Once done you can print off your appointment information and you are all set for the final stage.
US Visa Interview
It’s fair to say that nobody likes the thought of an interview. Being questioned about your intentions and whether you have strong enough ties to the country you are residing in is nobody’s idea of fun. Unfortunately it is a part of the process and needs to be done. At the end of the day if you have filled in your application correctly, meet the requirements, and have as much supporting documentation as you can get, then you stand a good chance of getting approved for a US visa.
Most US Visa interviews are done at a booth inside the US consulate. They are usually between 5-20 minutes long. If you are going to be denied for a US visa you will know very quickly. These officers don’t mess around and they don’t mince their words. You will be asked why you are going to the US and where you will stay, and your answers need to be the same as the answers in the online form that you completed. Having strong ties to the country that you reside in is very important. You need to be able to prove that you can afford to go to the US, but most importantly that you have pressing reasons to get back to your country of residence! If the officer suspects that you don’t have strong enough ties to your country of residence, they may believe that you intend to work in the US illegally and/or not leave the US within the necessary timeframe.
Visa officers are not particularly keen to see flight tickets for your holiday or any other tickets that will give the impression that you are somehow putting pressure on them to issue a visa due to the costs that you have incurred in purchasing your tickets prior to being approved! It isn’t advisable for you to book any travel to the United States until you have been approved for a US visa.
Approved or Denied for your US Visa
You will be told during the interview whether you are approved or denied, and then your interview is over and you must leave the US consulate. If approved you will leave your passport, which will be stamped with your visa and sent to your nearest Loomis courier branch for you to collect within about 10 days. You cannot request a single-entry or multiple-entry visa – this will be decided by the officer who issues you the visa.
If you are denied then you will be given a document explaining the reasons for the denial and telling you to reapply when your situation changes to meet the requirements.
Sometimes you are asked to show additional documents so they can send your visa request for further processing. Although this isn’t an upfront denial, it can take anything from 2 weeks to 6 months for a decision to be made and the process cannot be expedited. You really are in the hands of the US Consulate and they will contact you by email when they are ready to see you again with your passport.
If you are approved then you will receive anything from a single entry visa valid for 3 months to a multiple entry visa valid for 10 years. At this point it’s time to start packing and book your trip. You have been through the US visa application process and lived to tell the tale. Now all you need is a holiday to recover!
Do you have any US visa horror stories? How was your experience at the US consulate? Tell us or ask your questions in the comments below.