A practical guide to surviving your 221G while stuck in Canada
If you are reading this, then you are coming to Canada (or are already here) for US visa stamping and are wondering what is 221G, are already stuck because of it. I am putting some information out here that can help you with some of the FAQs or guidance on what to expect or what to do. Your situation may be different so apply as appropriate to your individual circumstances.
What is 221G?
There are lot of other good posts so please search on the internet, then come back here.
Will I get 221G?
Have you ever been stuck before? If yes, then likely. If not, then maybe. If you are in TAL areas, your chances are high. If you are in EC/EVC etc model, then chances are high as well. If you have a name that you believe can cause security concerns, then likely as well. Just because your friend got stuck or did not get stuck, does not mean you will have the same fate. Also, policies change, so there may be new additions and concerns for which you can get stuck.
I was stuck before, will I get 221G again?
If you were stuck before for some reason like a missing doc etc, then you may not face more issues, because those were temporary concerns, and you should be good this time. There are folks who posted they did not get 221g again.
If you have TAL issues of EVC model, your situation would likely be same this time too, and you may get stuck again. For TAL I have seen many cases who will just get it every time they renew, irrespective of visa category changes. I have posted more info in this forum (see at the bottom of this post)
I got 221g, how long will I be here.
Try to identify if you are in 221G due to TAL or something else. See posts on this forum (see at the bottom of this post).
Look for more recent posts, put your info and estimate using the posts on this forum (see links at the bottom of this post).
Stay is expensive, which hotel or any other alternatives?
Use AirBnB or similar ways. If possible, find other folks stuck in the same area as you and share accommodation.
Unless you need to, stay in areas slightly farther from the downtown etc. Pros are that stay is cheaper. Cons are that most residential areas have limited food options. If you must travel regularly for any reason, account for your transportation costs too.
If you have friends elsewhere, check if you can still change your pickup location (at the time of writing this post, the online system allowed you to change it even though your interview was already done. I know of people who successfully changed it). You may be able to avoid coming back to the city where your interview happened. If moving far away, there may be a day’s delay in passport transit.
Private rooms are more expensive, but if you are 2-3 people together, you may get a place just for yourself.
What to do for Internet?
Make sure you have good Wi-Fi at your accommodation. check with the host. High speed means different things to different people, but there is not a lot you can do once you are there. Definitely ask the host if in doubt.
There are lot of Starbucks locations, they have free Wi-Fi. Tim Hortons is the same way. Some malls have free Wi-Fi too (like CP in Vancouver).
Use your 3G/4G if you have unlimited data or want to pay for roaming. T-Mobile folks usually have good plans with data roaming and the connections are good, heard good connection as well in Vancouver at least. With AT&T, people said that the Data was an issue as it was not free or limited. Connectivity was good.
What about entertainment? I am bored and no one is here with 221G.
If you cannot find other folks, then quite likely they have not responded yet. The forums take 24-hrs at times to update. Post and preferably message people directly on this forum. Reply ASAP if you do get messages, it is a two way street.
There are movie theatres, though it can be about CAD14 per ticket.
Find local attractions.
Rent a car, go to Banff if nearby or if you can drive long. Go to whistler if near Vancouver.
Netflix works, Hulu does not. Amazon has issues. YouTube works, but some videos will not play outside US.
Get your movie collection with you.
What about phone calls? And recommendations for connecting with others in my situation.
Setup a WhatsApp group, email group, FB group or whatever works for you.
Use Skype, WhatsApp to call. Texting works well usually. Check with your US carrier if they have a North America calling plan. Usually USD10-15/month and you can take for just a month.
Should I rent a car of use public transport?
Car rental is useful if you want to explore areas while on your forced vacation.
Factor in parking costs. If parking is free, good for you. Check with your insurance policy. Most will cover you in Canada.
Public transport is good in many cities. Make sure you know the timings, be safe. Make sure you are transiting through safe zones (ask your host or other locals).
I did not bring much cash?
Local places may take USD, but give you exchange rate as they desire.
You can use ATMs to withdraw money, they will charge convenience fees and conversion rate. You may want to take a larger amount at one time.
If you have credit card, preferably use that. Check transaction fees. Some cards like Capital One etc have no transaction fees, and give good conversion rates too. Even if you have 2-3% transaction fees, you might be better off than withdrawing small amounts of cash.
When paying with card, select the option for CAD and not USD on the machines that ask for such option. Reason is that the vendor decides the exchange rate, and usually slaps a 4% fees on top of it.
Some places only take cash, so avoid them or carry cash. These include small restaurants.
If you are comfortable, then check with anyone who got stuck but is now going home. If you have cash, you can pay them via bank transfer in US and take CAD cash. Not the best recommendation, but if It works for you, then what can I say.
What about food?
Depends on your preference. There are many Indian/Asian/Mediterranean/Italian options. Starbucks is on pretty much every corner. There is even Subway, Burger kind, McD, but you may get sick of it very fast.
Find an accommodation that gives you kitchen access. Go to local store like IGAs and they have some ready to eat food items, like Indian pre-packaged food, noodles, good bread, cheese, milk, cereals, and fruits. You might be able to make some simple meals and breakfast.
If you want to have tea at home, go for the Rose Orange Pekoe tea bags or Earl gray packs.
If in doubt about a cheap food place, ask yourself – do I want to fall sick on top of being stuck here.
I did not carry too many clothes?
Make sure you have laundry access at your accommodation. Preferably something inside the unit. Shared ones are not free, getting change may be a pain, and moreover, people keep using it all the time over weekend.
Buy some cheap T-Shirts, usually 4 for CAD20 etc. If money isn’t a concern, go spend time in Malls and there are some really nice brands. Helps pass time and who isn’t happy with some good shopping.
Weather related? (Check weather before you travel, or when you are stuck)
If you are reading this before your travel, then plan according to weather. Depending on your location, plan to carry a umbrella. It is cheaper to carry a small one than buy here.
If you feel cold, remember you are coming up North. Get a good parka/jacket if you feel cold even in Fall or Spring. It will get colder at night.
Can I travel to my home country while my visa is being processed and come back to pick it up?
Typically you can, provided you have a multi-entry Canadian visa or other docs that allow you to get back here.
If you have your passport, no issues. If not, you can request it back from the consulate. This may add 2-3 more days because now you have to ship it back, and they will need to email you, and then put it back in their system.
You can check with the consulate on how long you have to send it back. The answer that I have heard from few people is that they want it ASAP, but did not give a definitive response. IMO, if it is a few weeks here and there you should be fine, but best is to check with the consulate. If you are comfortable spending money, then as soon as you get the email and hop on the next flight to come to Canada, and ship it to the consulate, you should be alright. Plan on staying for up to a week to get it back though (depends on weekends/holidays etc).
If you are thinking of going back to US on a different visa, then I cannot really comment on that part. Check with your attorney. Ideally you can go back to US without a valid visa if your trip was less than 30 days to Canada or Mexico. However, that is only if you did not apply for a visa while in Canada or Mexico. I am not an attorney so please check with an immigration attorney.
They key is to identify your case of 221g and estimate how long it will take. Then go soon to come back soon as well.
If you are flying via Europe or UK, you should be fine as well, because you have a valid Canadian visa. So no transit visa will be required (please check in case regulations have changed).
You will not be able to fly via USA, because they require a transit visa and you will need to apply for that as well (do you really want to fill out another DS160, pay the fees, and possibly get a 221g for that as well?)
We are all strangers on this group, any safety concerns?
I was at Vancouver, so cannot comment on other locations. Other folks, please chime in. You may just want to avoid certain areas in the east of downtown. Local transport has usually been fairly good. Cabs aren’t too expensive either. The city is largely walkable.
You are a grown up, use common sense.
Not everyone you will meet is bad and not everyone is your friend. Use good judgment. I personally met some really nice people, very helpful, and made friends.
I recommend reaching out to people, form a group. Yes you will meet upbeat optimistic people, pessimistic ones, and a whole mix. Everyone has unique issues, personal problems. I feel that you can make a difference in the group or be benefitted or both. If nothing else, cheer someone up. Biggest thing is that you will not feel alone. If nothing else, you don’t feel bad eating alone, walking by yourself on the streets and in the mall, can order a pitcher (can’t do with one person), or just go to nearby places and they can take your pics.