Each year tens of thousands of foreign student studying in Ontario visit the United States (U.S.) for vacations, to shop, or to visit friends and family. Frankie Day from the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto and Althea Brathwaite, supervisory visa specialist, talked to Durham College and UOIT international students about the process of getting a visa recently.
This is not the first time the presentation had been done at Durham College and UOIT, they have held similar events in past years. There were about 20 people who attended the U.S. visa presentation.
Day said a visa is good for 10 years but that doesn’t mean you can stay in the U.S. for that long, it depends on the purpose of the trip and tourist visitors could stay for as little as a few hours up to several months. Day explained that having a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. Once at the border with a visa, customs and border control get to say ‘yes you can come in’ and will determine the length of time for entry and stamp the passport, Day explained.
According to Day, the main reason of the presentation is to get citizens from a foreign country aware of what they need to do if they want to have a temporary or extended visit or live permanently in the United States. The students were given advice and information on getting a visa from Day.
Day explained that many visa applicants each year are seeking to study or participate in exchange programs in the U.S.
Generally, students applying for visas are going for short trips to the United States for vacation, to shop, or to visit friends and family Day added.
Divyam Makker, a fitness and health promotion student at Durham College, who attended the meeting and said it was very informative.
“I have my brother in the U.S. so I was planning on visiting him maybe in December for Christmas so that’s why I came to this today,” Makker said.
Day explained that an application form must be filled out online only, accurately and completely.
“No matter what kind of visa you are applying for you want to make sure you fill out the application completely,” Day said. According to Day, always plan ahead and apply early for a visa so that there are no complications.
After the application is filled out, a fee must be paid of $160 to $200, depending on the visa, and an interview must be scheduled. Day explained you must have a valid passport before you decide to fill out an application or go on vacation.
“A passport valid six months after travel date is a big one,” Day explained, “you want to make sure your passport has a proper validity before you even go for your interview.”
According to Day, supporting documentations, like a resume, should be brought to the interview, but it is better to be over prepared then under prepared.
“I might ask you for your resume or your transcript, if you are a student,” Day said “Sometimes people don’t even get asked for any documents.” Every interview is face to face.
According to Day there are many types of visas that are available, including petition-based visas.
“Somebody in the United States has to say ‘hey I want this person to come over and work for me’,” Day explained.
According to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs, travellers going to the United States for tourism or business for less than 90 days may be eligible to travel without a visa if they meet the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) requirements.
Day said there are visitor’s visas that most people get for vacations or to visit their family. There is a student visa which allows you to go to the United States to study and go to school. There is also an internship visa for any student that receives an internship opportunity in the United States.
“Every applicant situation is unique. That’s really important because one of you may go and get it in five days and one of you may go and get it in two weeks,” Day explained.