This past Wednesday, representatives of the U.S. Consulate General hosted a presentation at Trent entitled “Demystifying the U.S. Visa Process”, led by U.S. Foreign Services officer Amelia VanderLaan. The turnout seemed to be better than the organizers had expected, with the need to pull in additional chairs from the hall. The Morton Reading Room in Champlain College was packed tight with over twenty curious students from all over the world; Kenya, Jamaica, across Europe, and the Middle East. This was fitting, as the visa application program which was the topic of the presentation is geared towards international students visiting from outside of North America.

The presenters, after losing themselves in the maze that is the Trent Campus, arrived, and post-introduction, dove into the information session with full force. It is worth noting that the information provided in this report is only a fraction of what was said in the jam-packed, hour-long presentation. Anyone seriously considering a trip abroad for work or play should go online to the U.S. Consulate General’s official website listed at the bottom of this page.

That being said, presenters urged those who were interested in pursuing the U.S. visa application process to make sure the website they research is legitimate. Prospective applicants were told to beware fraudulent sites claiming to be the consulate, due to some instances reported in the past of people being duped into paying non-existent fees.

Although there are a lot of steps and forms to be filled out before gaining access and heading into the U.S., the process seems pretty straightforward and the officers facilitating it seem very accommodating, knowledgeable, and helpful.

There are many different reasons why travelling to the U.S. may interest you, however if it is for the purpose of education or work, the application process breaks down as follows:

Determine the purpose of your trip. Make sure you have gained admission, or have been hired already by the school or company you are travelling for. During your interview at the

Consulate in Toronto, you will be asked to provide proof of admission or proof of employment before any further steps can be taken.

Complete the online application form at http://canada.usvisa-info.com
Prepare for an in-person interview and gather all required documents. Each applicant must have a face-to-face interview with a Consulate Officer in Toronto in order to proceed with the application process.

Required documents include completed application forms, reciprocity fees, passport photos valid for 6 months after the travel date, and in some cases, a resume and/or transcript. Students applying for academic-based travel that are enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs are required to provide a resume in most cases.

Now, down to the real question. How much is this going to cost? Well, for a student travel visa to the U.S., regardless of desired duration of your stay, (form DS-160), the fee rings in at $160 CAD. Please be advised that this is non-refundable charge no matter the outcome of your application.

A few points that the presenters urgently stressed were that if you are pursuing a visa to the U.S. and need to go to the Consulate General in downtown Toronto for your face-to-face interview—leave your phone, and all electronics, at home. You will be asked to leave and come back without these items. This reminder saves people from having to remember where your hiding spot was in the bushes in front of the Royal York. Students are also asked to keep in mind that officers are very busy and appointments fill up several weeks in advance, meaning some cases may take up to a few months to actually process and approve the application. Because of this, it would be wise to book an appointment early and ensure the application has been formally approved before making any final travel plans.

The good news for many students who follow through and successfully obtain a U.S. visa is that through a program entitled IWP (Interview Waiver Program), which allows applicants whose visas have expired within the last 48 months, to be eligible for a renewal while enjoying a quicker application process.

However, this program is apparently not available to applicants whose country of origin are Syria, Sudan, or Iran. When pressed about why this is the case, the Foreign Services officer simply stated that this is simply procedure in accordance to U.S. law. Happy travels.

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Jordan Porter is a third year political studies student at Trent, and minoring in philosophy. This is Jordan’s third year writing for Arthur, and is now a senior writer while also serving on Arthur’s Board of Directors.