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Visa FAQs
 

Please first check official U.S. government websites U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security as well as the U.S. Visa Service. For an official determination of your situation, please prepare your documents and make an official application, for which you will be charged statutory fees, well in advance of your desired travel. The applicant bears full and sole responsibility for his/her application and any desired benefit.

I have a specific question and I cannot get through on the phone to anyone. How can I get my answer?

Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to respond to individual phone inquiries. Our switchboard operator has no visa or consular information. We recommend that you first review the information on this website and the Department of State’s website at State Department website. Our visa information services offer general visa information.

Please be aware that there are several private companies that have websites advertising visa services. Many of these companies charge a fee for information that can be found for free on U.S. Government websites.

If you were found ineligible for a visa please see your colored ineligibility sheet. If you wish “reconconsideration” you must submit a new application in the normal manner by appointment-only booked online. U.S. law forbids us from assisting individual visa applicants or reviewing applications in the absence of a formal application.

Department of State staff at the U.S. Consulate have no control over, or information regarding, matters that fall within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or other U.S. government agencies. Canadian citizens must seek visitor and student status, waivers or other entry services solely from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

We cannot accept unsolicited telephone calls to any staff member from attorneys, applicants or other interested parties. Attorneys and others may call from the greater Toronto area 437-887-1448 or from the U.S. 703-439-2319, or email to TRTNIV@state.gov.  We will individually reply in about 2-4 business days to only those email inquiries that we deem to be valid and need a specific reply from us. Otherwise inquirers may reapply in the normal manner or look at our websites.

I left the U.S. to immigrate to Canada while I had applied for asylum or refugee status in the U.S. What should I do to clear my record?

You may have an outstanding removal warrant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) based on your failure to prove your departure from the United States. DHS regulates entry into, and stay inside, the United States. Department of State (DOS) staff at the U.S. consulate cannot help you as U.S. law limits our role to adjudicating visa applications.

Please report to a DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a port of entry and state that you are only reporting your previous departure from the United States. A list of ports of entry is available online. Be very careful to state clearly that you are not seeking entry into the United States at this time. Plan on a wait of at least several hours, so eat a recent meal, need no medical attention and bring no one with you who is not seeking a similar benefit, such as children and elderly people. Persons in the Toronto area should visit the Rainbow Bridge, Buffalo NY.

Be prepared to present documents verifying your departure from, and continuing residence outside of, the United States, and entry into Canada or another country such as your passport, Canada permanent resident or health card, leases, bank or school records and any other documents.

What if I have a criminal or arrest record?

Persons with a criminal or arrest record anywhere in the world, no matter how minor or how long ago the offense, may be refused entry into, or transit through, the United States. Under U.S. law, a pardon issued by Canadian or other foreign authorities is not recognized for purposes of entry into the United States.

Even though you may have entered the United States without hindrance in the past, you could be refused entry if your record shows a criminal conviction or a previous denial of entry. Attempting to gain entry without a waiver could result in several weeks of detention at a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) enforcement facility and a permanent bar from entering the United States.

Information on criminal convictions is shared by law enforcement authorities in both Canada and the United States, and is also often in the public domain.

Canadians with a criminal or arrest record may apply for a waiver of ineligibility by filing an I-192, "Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-Immigrant" with a DHS CBP officer at a port of entry. A list of ports of entry is available online. There is a filing fee and it may take several months to process your application. Form I-192 and instructions are available online (PDF 66.03KB). We and our CBP colleagues at the port of entry where you filed an I-192 have no access to either the waiver process or information on the status of any I-192. Canadians seeking waivers who have received no reply after two months may email inquiry.waiver.aro@dhs.gov for the status of their I-192.

Non-Canadians with a criminal or arrest record, residing in Canada, must first apply for a visa from the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. Consulate. A U.S. consular officer will determine their need for a waiver of ineligibility and send their request for one to DHS for action. All visa applicants are seen by appointment only, available online. Waivers that are recommended for approval typically take 60 days for a response. Applicant should be reminded that not all waiver requests are approved. General information on visa processing in Canada can be found on the U.S. Embassy website. If you are not a permanent resident of Canada and you need a waiver we urge you to apply for a visa in your home country where U.S. consular officers have a better understanding of local laws and situations. 

Travelers needing a waiver must bring their arrest record, court transcript, extract of the relevant law and a full translation of these documents into English, to the port of entry for entry if a Canadian, or U.S. Consulate at a visa appointment if non-Canadian. It takes DHS two months or more to process waivers, there is no prescreening, so travelers should plan ahead and apply early.

If you left the United States to avoid military service during the Vietnam War and have not since regularized your status, there might be an outstanding warrant for your arrest or you might be ineligible for U.S. entry. If in doubt, check with DHS CBP at the nearest U.S. port of entry.

It is always a sound idea to seek the advice of an immigration attorney skilled in U.S. law if you are seeking a waiver of ineligibility. You can search for a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association practicing in Canada or the U.S.

I'm a resident of Canada. What if visitor (B) or student (F, M, J) visa appointments are unavailable online and I have a genuine emergency?

You may seek an expedited appointment under the following conditions:

All applicants must first schedule an appointment and pay their required visa fees online or by calling 437-887-1448 if currently in the Greater Toronto area.

Applicants request an expedited appointment by email addressed to: TRTNIV@state.gov. The email’s subject line must state: Expedited visa appt request, name of applicant, applicant’s passport #.

Please email ONE request for each visa applicant that contains the following informationPlease email ONE request for each visa applicant that contains the following information:

  • full name, date and place of birth, nationality;
  • passport #;
  • current visa status in Canada and the U.S. (if any);
  • email and postal mail address, home/work/cell phone and fax number;
  • descriptive reason for seeking an expedited appointment, noting all relevant details.

Expedited appointments are generally unavailable to applicants who:

  • have no long term resident (e.g. immigrant, worker or student) status in Canada;
  • are now unlawfully present in the U.S.;
  • are now in the U.S. as visitors;
  • are responding to an appointment at a Canadian immigration office in the U.S. for review of their immigration status in Canada;
  • apparently wish to avoid a return home;
  • already have an appointment elsewhere and are apparently seeking from multiple locations another visa adjudication venue;
  • may require lengthy special processing or clearances that obviate an expedited appointment’s goal of an early return to the U.S.;
  • send multiple requests.

No assurance is made that any applicant may receive an expedited appointment. Urgent personal needs, which have no link to any national interest of the United States, or a desire to avoid an expensive trip home, are not emergencies for the purpose of an expedited appointment. Priority is given to those cases with urgent humanitarian needs, i.e. attending funerals of close family members or medical emergencies.

U.S. law places the burden of qualifying for any visa solely on the applicant. Appearance for an expedited appointment does not guarantee visa eligibility.

We hope to reply by fax or email to these requests by COB within two business days. Applicants must bring all documents that are required of usually scheduled applicants plus our approval of their expedited appointment. Please be aware that an appointment does not guarantee visa eligibility. In addition, we make no assurances that an approved visa will be issued in time to suit the applicant's travel plans.

I am a Canadian citizen, so I don't need a visa to visit or study in the U.S. but I still have questions on my entry to the U.S. Where do I get information?

Canadians must comply with the same U.S. laws regarding entry into the United States. as must other foreigners. Canadians who are intending investors, traders, fiancés or immigrants must first qualify for visas at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Canadians seeking entry as visitors, students and most other categories do so without a visa, directly at a port of entry with Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. Even if no visa is required prior to seeking entry from DHS, the entry classifications, requirements and documents are the same for Canadians as if a visa would be required. Consular officers of the Department of State (DOS), assigned to U.S. Embassies and Consulates, adjudicate visa applications for non Canadians only and have no access to DHS information or procedures. Canadians needing further information on entry issues, such as waivers, fingerprinting or requirements, should visit the Customs and Border Protection website. For information on the various visa classifications please visit the State Department website.

How do I become an immigrant in the U.S.? What is a "green card?"

Foreigners may gain permanent resident status through sponsorship (petition) by a U.S. citizen parent, spouse, child, sibling or employer, or through sponsorship by a permanent resident parent or spouse, or by making a significant financial investment, or by having extraordinary ability, or by winning a diversity visa in the annual lottery. Any non U.S. citizen, regardless of age, gender or tie to the U.S., including Canadians, who are intending immigrants must enter the U.S. with a Department of State-issued immigrant visa in hand, based on a Department of Homeland Security-approved petition, and should not try to enter the U.S. as a visitor with the idea of becoming an immigrant later. For details please visit the State Department website. U.S. law provides no immigrant visas specifically for retirees or for applicants who seek self qualification based on a point system as does Canada. It may take up to one year for the parent, spouse or child of a U.S. citizen to qualify for an immigrant visa, longer for other categories, so long term planning is essential.

A “green card” refers to the Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551), which used to be green but is now pink in color, and is issued by the Department of Homeland Security to all immigrants as evidence of their lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.

Please note the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto does not process immigrant visas. U.S. immigrant visa processing for Canada is done at the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal.

I received unfair treatment from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer when I last entered the U.S. How do I make a complaint or suggestion?

Please direct your concerns to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees CBP. U.S. Department of State staff at U.S. Consulates and in Washington DC have no jurisdiction over DHS matters. You may file a complaint online at DHS' Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP).

I was found ineligible for a visa and received an explanation on a pink sheet. What does this mean and how can my application be reconsidered?

The pink sheet means that you are ineligible for a visa, until your circumstances have changed, under section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (INA). You have not clearly demonstrated either your qualifications for the specific visa that you sought or the reasons why must depart the United States and return to a life abroad. The burden of qualifying for any visa rests solely with the applicant. This is a final decision.

If your circumstances have changed since your ineligibility you may seek reconsideration by reapplying in the normal manner, by appointment only made online. You must then complete all steps and forms, and pay any fees, that were necessary for your initial application. Please be sure to bring any information that was unavailable during your visa appointment or reflects your new circumstances. A different consular officer will review your reapplication. U.S. visa regulations provide for no other informal appeal process.

I have a valid U.S. visa in my expired passport. How can I use it or do I need an appointment to transfer it to my new passport?

You may travel to the U.S. with both your new and expired passport, that contains your valid U.S. visa, if:

  • both passports are in your possession when you travel;
  • your name and nationality in your old and new passports, and your visa, are an exact match;
  • your visa is unmutilated and unmarked;

U.S. law has no provision to “transfer” visas. If your old passport is no longer in your possession or your U.S. visa was mutilated, marked, hole punched or removed from your old passport, then you must apply for a new visa in the normal manner by appointment, paying any visa fees and qualifying anew. Do not physically remove your visa from your old passport and attempt to travel with it. Removing a visa from a passport renders it invalid.

I have a valid visa in my passport but it contains an error, e.g. the listed gender is incorrect. How can I get an error fixed in a visa that is otherwise still okay?

We are very sorry for this error and hope that it hasn't caused you any trouble. Please be sure to check your visa as soon as you get it, and have any errors corrected as soon as possible. We are pleased to correct a previously issued, still valid visa, issued in Toronto in the past year. We will try to do it within two business days, but cannot guarantee so as we may need to consult Washington. Examples of errors that we can correct are incorrect visa type, gender or place of birth, passport number, or a misspelled name.

A new application form or MRV fee is not required. Simply bring the passport and come in person any Tuesday or Thursday, between the hours of 1pm-2pm, except for Canadian and U.S. holidays. The case must be data entered and the applicant will be re-fingerprinted. Barring any derogatory information concerning the applicant, we will reissue the visa valid to the original expiration date.

Any other changes, such as a name change due to a marriage, are not errors and require a completely new application in the usual manner by appointment available online, with new fee and application forms. The data that we put on a visa follows the identity data contained in the applicant's passport. If there is an error in your passport's identity data, you must have it corrected first by your country of nationality's consular officials, before coming to us with a new application.

If I'm found ineligible can I return to the U.S. with my still valid Arrival and Departure Record (I-94) or another visa?

No. If you are ineligible for a visa you are ineligible to seek entry to the United States. We will retain your I-94 and make an appropriate entry in our database that is shared with DHS at all ports of entry. If you have no long term status or residence in Canada you should plan to return to your home country, without passing through the United States, if you are ineligible for a visa. It is always best for such applicants to apply for a visa in their country of permanent residence or nationality.

I obtained an appointment with the help of an attorney or visa consultant, who assured me that my case would have no problem. Now I cannot get a visa and I am stuck in Canada. How could this happen?

U.S. law states clearly that no one, not even a consular officer, can give any prior assurance of visa eligibility to anyone. We cannot prescreen any visa application. There are no preferred attorneys with a special connection to ensure visa eligibility. U.S. law makes the applicant personally and solely responsible for qualifying for a visa. If you are found ineligible for a visa you are responsible, not us, for any inconvenience or cost. You will be unable to enter the United States. Please consider your ability and willingness to accept complete responsibility for any inconvenience or cost before you apply here for a visa. We always urge visa applicants without long term ties to Canada to apply in their home country.

Who can accompany me to the visa appointment?

An applicant who has special needs (minor children, elderly or disabled) or cannot communicate in English may bring one helper or translator. Due to space limitations and security requirements we cannot permit entry to applicants' relatives, friends, travel agents, advisors or attorneys. Minor children of applicants with a scheduled appointment are permitted to enter with their parents.

Do my children also need to personally attend the visa interview?

Individuals aged 13 and younger are not required to appear for the visa interview as long as a parent or guardian appears on their behalf. The consular officer may, however, request the personal appearance of any applicant at his/her discretion. Please note that interview-exempt applicants must nonetheless be physically present in Canada at the time of the visa adjudication in order to qualify for the visa.