Demystifying the u s visa process oaie conference may 12 2011
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Demystifying the U.S. Visa Process OAIE Conference May 12, 2011. U.S. Department of State U.S. Consulate General Toronto Presented by Scott G. Feeken. Presentation Topics. Overview – Description of who we are and what we do General visa statistics Visitor for business/pleasure (B1/B2)

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Demystifying the U.S. Visa Process OAIE Conference May 12, 2011

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Demystifying the U.S. Visa ProcessOAIE ConferenceMay 12, 2011

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Consulate General Toronto

Presented by Scott G. Feeken

Presentation Topics

  • Overview – Description of who we are and what we do

  • General visa statistics

  • Visitor for business/pleasure (B1/B2)

  • Students (F-1)

  • Exchange Visitor Program (J-1)

  • Employment (H-1B/NAFTA)

  • Application/Administrative Process

  • Additional resources/Questions?

Who we are and what we do

  • U.S. Department of State

    • consular officers conduct personal interviews

    • grants visas

  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    • Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

    • Pearson International or any U.S. border

    • Admits into U.S. (the FINAL word)

    • Limits the duration of stay in U.S

General Visa Statistics

  • There are 7 U.S. Missions located across Canada

  • Toronto processes the highest non-immigrant visa workload in Mission Canada

  • Toronto processes approximately 60,000 visas per year, from roughly 170 different nationalities, including visitor, student and vocational visas

Alphabet Soup

  • Visitor for Business or Pleasure (B-1/B-2)

    Petition Based Visas:

  • Student Visitors (F-1)

  • Exchange Visitors (J-1)

  • Foreign Workers (H-1B, TN)

    Note: Above classifications and documentation requirements are relevant for Canadian citizens, but they do not require visas.

Visitor for Business or Pleasure

  • B-1/B2 visa is for temporary visitors for business or pleasure (e.g. to attend job interviews, meetings, academic conferences/workshops, medical treatment, tourism, visiting family members.)

  • INA 214(b) applies – applicants must overcome the assumption of immigrant intent

  • Mandatory documentation = valid passport, passport quality photo, appointment letter, DS-160 bar code page

  • May bring documentation to interview that supports reason for travel and ties to your place of residence


  • F-1 visa is for student visitors attending an academic institution of learning in the U.S.

  • School issues a signed I-20 to the student

  • Student must register in the SEVIS database and present proof of SEVIS fee payment

    • SEVIS = Student and Exchange Visitor Information System


  • INA 214(b) applies

Exchange Visitor Program

  • J-1 visa is for exchange programs, including internships and the summer/work/travel programs

  • Program sponsor institution or third party issues DS-2019 and DS-7002 (Trainee/Internship Placement Plan)

  • Participant must be registered in the SEVIS database and present proof of payment

  • Must overcome INA 214(b)

J-1 visas and the “two-year rule”

  • INA 212(e) “two-year rule”….

    • “home-country physical presence”

      • reside in country of nationality or permanent residence for two years before eligible to apply for H-1B, L-1, LPR status

      • also applies to J-2 dependents

    • applies if:

      • funded by U.S. or home government

      • field on skills list for home country

      • particular programs with mandatory 212(e)

Employment – H-1B Visa

  • Temporary employment for up to 6 years in a specialty occupation requiring theoretical or practical application of highly specialized knowledge (extensions are possible)

  • Requires completion of at least a bachelor’s degree in the specialty or equivalent experience

  • Annual numerical caps

  • 214(b) does not apply

Employment – H-1B Visa (continued)

  • Employer’s responsibility to complete the petitioning process:

    • Files I-129 Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    • Files Form ETA-9035, Labor Condition Application with U.S. Department of Labor

    • Receives I-797 approval form

  • Employee’s responsibility to apply for the visa

Employment – TN Status

  • NAFTA “visas” for citizens of Canada or Mexico

  • Must be for work in a designated professional occupation (see NAFTA handout); specific degree/licensing requirements apply

  • Need job offer letter and proof of qualifications

  • Canadian citizens must apply directly at the Port of Entry without first obtaining a visa

  • Mexican citizens need to apply for TN visa

  • Admitted for a maximum of 3 years initially

Procedures for Canadian Citizens

  • No visas – proceed to POE with passport and:

  • Academic Study (F-1)

    • I-20, evidence of financial support

    • Proof of SEVIS registration and fee payment

  • Internships (J-1)

    • J-1  DS-2019/DS-7002, SEVIS registration & fee receipt

  • Employment (H-1B or TN)

    • H-1B  I-797

    • TN  job offer letter and proof of qualifications

Application Process

  • Gain admission or get hired

  • School or employer files/issues paperwork

  • Complete on-line application form (DS-160) at,

  • Pay your application fee and make appointment for visa interview at

  • Prepare for interview/gather required items

    • DS-160 Confirmation page with photo

    • Possible reciprocity fees

    • Valid passport 6 months after travel date

    • Supporting documentation (as discussed)

  • Attend your visa interview at the Consulate

Administrative Process

  • Department of state committed to facilitate legitimate travel but must ensure that applicants are both qualified for the visa and do not pose a security risk to the United States

  • Refers to various additional checks that must be done before visa can be issued

  • Timing varies based on individual circumstance

  • Applicant kept informed during process and notified when review is completed

Plan Ahead

  • Appointments filled several weeks in advance

  • Most visas can be processed within one week, but some require months of processing

  • Typical reasons for processing delays are mandatory administrative reviews and waivers of ineligibilities

  • Every applicant’s situation is unique

  • An approval notice or interview appointment does not guarantee the issuance of a visa

Additional Resources







  • see handout


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