H1B Visa stamping in Canada – step by step guide

H1B Visa renewal

Did you know in FY2014, as many as 70% of total 315,857 H1B Visas (including initial as well as continuing employment) were approved for people with Indian origin. Out of these, 138K renewed their H1B status in United States.  That’s a lot of people who have to undergo the ordeal of applying and then visiting a US consulate outside of US to get the passport stamped. Here is a step-by-step guide for H1B visa stamping in Canada.

Canada has always been a popular destination for US visa renewals and approvals. The two cities, Vancouver and Toronto, are usually preferred among the applicants from west coast and east coast residents respectively. There are five other US consulates across Canada you could choose from: Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Halifax and Calgary.

Follow these steps to renew your visa in Canada:

  • Get Canada Visitor Visa – You need to get this before you can travel to Canada. The process is quite smooth now and you can get it done within 15-20 days if done it right. You will have to fill up the application form online, pay the fees and wait for your approval by email. Once approved, you are required to send your passport to nearest Canada consulate to the visa stamped. Read this post for step-by-step guide to applying Canadian visitor visa..
  • Fill DS-160 form – Start filling up DS-160 form here. If you are applying for a renewal, you would have filled one earlier too. You will be asked to provide all your personal, Work and Education information. You may refer to this link for help.
    • You should have a soft copy of  your latest photo not older than 6 months.
    • For travel information, you can provide a tentative itinerary with address of any hotel in the city of Consulate. (For Vancouver, you could give Hyatt, Century Plaza. For Toronto, you could use Residence Inn’s address)
    • When you file DS 160, you will have to chose a consulate .If you want to change the consulate later due to unavailability of dates, you have to edit your DS 160 and reflect the correct consulate. Post submission, DS 160 can still be edited within first 30 days. Refer link for more information.
    • Take the printout of DS-160 confirmation page. Entire DS-160 form is not required.
  • Schedule an appointment – Click on this link and provide your information along with DS-160 application number. There are long queues and wait times for appointments in Vancouver and Toronto, so plan accordingly. If you are looking for an early date, keep checking their website for any cancellations. In my experience, I have seen cancellations take place between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM in their respective timezones. Once appointment is confirmed, pay the MRV fees. You will get a confirmation mail with MRV receipt which you should carry along for the interview.
  • Documents – The documents list varies for each case and you should consult your employer’s legal/HR team to get an exhaustive list of documents. But, here are some of the common documents requested while renewing H1B:
    • Valid unexpired passport – Passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond the expiration date of your intended status.
    • DS-160 confirmation page.
    • Visa application fees receipt.
    •  Original Non-immigrant Visa Petition Approval Notice (Form I-797) (or similar).
    • Copy of your employer’s Non-immigrant Visa Petition filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on your behalf.
    • Original Educational Documents (a consular officer has the discretion to request original documents).
    • Copy of Your Two Most Recent Paystubs.
    • Original employment verification letter. The U.S. Consulates require that the letter should not be more than 30 days old at the time that it is presented at the visa application interview.
    • Copy of I-140 Immigration petition for Alien worker (required if one is renewing his H1B visa beyond 6 years).
  • Visa Interview – Again, the interview questions depend on your individual case, but some of the most commonly asked questions are:
    • Show me your EVL letter? (It is also sometimes referred to as LCA letter. This is the most important document as it has your designation and salary details).
    • Whats the purpose of your visit to consulate? (I know its quite obvious but they still want to hear it from you).
    • What’s your designation and describe your work/project?
    • What’s your salary?
    • What’s your educational qualification?
    • Have you done master’s in US. If yes, where and when?
    • Are you working at client’s place? Questions around your client company and project.
    • How long have you been working for this employer
  • Passport tracking and pickup – At the end of interview, visa officer will inform you if your visa was approved or not. If it was approved, follow this link to track your passport status. Or you could wait for an email on your registered email address asking you to pick up the passport (typically takes 2 or 3 business days). Until your visa is issued, your VISA status will be Administrative Processing on above link.  It’s just a temporary status as VISA is getting issued. Don’t PANIC at all as long as you have been told by officer that your VISA is approved.
  • Few useful tips
    • For Vancouver:
      • Hotel stay – Hotels in Vancouver downtown are quite expensive costing $150 on an average. You could choose to stay at Richmond which is about 30 mins by SkyTrain with affordable hotel rates. Richmond is also close to Airport.
      • Public transport system of Vancouver city is amazing with skytains scheduled every 3-5 mins. Its easy to commute here without renting out a car.
      • Consulate is located on Pender street  before Starbucks on the right hand side.
      • Don’t carry any laptop bag or other electronics including car keys. If you do, shops located on opposite side of consulate charge 5$ to keep your bag while you are in consulate.
      • If you want to try out amazing Indian food of Vancouver/Surrey, read this post.
    • For Toronto:
      • Hotel stay – Hotels in Toronto downtown are quite expensive too. There are quite a few options on AirBnB in the downtown area for a lot less.
      • Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) provides subway, streetcar, and bus service within the City of Toronto. The connectivity is quite good around most of the downtown area

If you have something to add here that might be helpful, feel free to write to me at desicompile@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

 

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