Stamping @ Toronto - Experience + some tips in general for applicants


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I’ve benefited immensely from these forums – thanks to those good folk who come here and share their experiences, and veterans like Joe, Ponte, Jairichi who share their views when people have questions. It’s now time for me to share my consulate interview at Toronto.


I’m going to be a bit detailed, given the number of questions around stamping and the anxiety around this process, with specific focus on Toronto. And in the end, a few protips having done this multiple times, for multiple visas, in multiple countries.


My situation: H1-B stamping after change of employer. This is my “second part of H1B” with 3 years remaining. For some of those that have seen my posts before, I had a 2-day gap in my H1 status due to a last-minute mess up from my new employer.


Planning stage: Always plan in advance! For those going to Canada keep in mind you will need close to a month to get your Canadian visa from the point of the first application. Submit your DS-160’s in advance. Protip - As you do your DS-160’s keep saving your file on the hard drive, you will find it immensely useful not just for re-doing it for changes, but also for your future applications. I had my DS-160 from 2 ½ years ago that I uploaded again, saving a lot of time on past work, education etc. and it ensures consistent information in every application.


The journey to Canada


We drove from Chicago to Canada through Port Huron. The border crossing was uneventful. Keep your passports ready – I only handed the passport and nothing else.


Officer: Why are you visiting Canada?


Me: To visit the US consulate, we have some work


O: You’re visiting the US consulate but you’re coming from US?


Me: Yes, we need our visas stamped and the only way to do it is by visiting a consulate abroad


O: I see, how long will you be staying?


Me: Hoping to return by the end of the week


O: So what we will you do until then?


Me: I don’t know – maybe visit Niagara in Winter and see how it looks!


O: Be careful, it’s very slippery and there’s a lot of ice


Me: Will do


O: Alright, welcome to Canada!


The stay in Toronto

Given the critical nature of the appointment and the need not to mess it up, we stayed close to the consulate at the Hilton (barely a 5 minute walk). I would advise the same to most - book a hotel close by for the day - you can always shift farther / cheaper for the remaining part of the stay. 


The day of the appointment

Arrived at the consulate around 15 minutes before appointment. It was brutally cold (thanks, lousy polar vortex!).


Step1 - Document verification by the guard outside. He checked the appointment letter and passports, that’s it. Then you clear security (please, please leave all your electronics in the hotel. In spite the warnings multiple people were asked to leave their phones elsewhere and had to leave the line.


Step 2 – Another lady checks the DS-160 appointment letter, petition approval (I-797 etc.) and passports.


Step 3 - Another guy takes a quick look at the core * documents and asks you to enter the main hall and stand in a line.


Step 4 – hand-over the core documents and the lady behind the window presumably verifies the DS-160 form, details, whether your PIMS is OK etc. Once done, you are asked to give your fingerprints in another window. She keeps your core documents at this point.


Step 5 – Get your fingerprints done, take the token for the interview and wait. We waited less than 15 minutes when our turn came to face a friendly VO behind the counter. This is the interaction:


Me: Good morning ma’m, how are you today?


VO: Very good, thank you, how are you?


Me: We’re doing good as well (stood there with my wife and daughter)


VO: So where will you be working?


Me: Location YYY (the employer is a big name so she knew it I presume)


VO: So how long have you been with XXX


Me: 3 months


VO: In the US or were you in Canada?


Me: Oh, in the US.


VO: Ah, OK. What’s your highest qualification?




VO: To my wife – you don’t plan to work, right ma’m?


Wife: No


VO: Your highest qualification?


Wife: Computer Science Engg.


VO: I suppose you’re in a hurry to return?


Me: Yes, very much!


VO: Would you like to pick up your passport from here? We can give it to you tomorrow


Me: That would be fantastic, ma’m. Much appreciated.


VO: OK, your visa is approved. Here is the slip (red colored slips) so you can pick it up tomorrow. Hopefully our computers will process it and you can collect. Not 100% guaranteed and you may need to wait an extra day.


Me: No problem. Thank you very much


VO: Have a great day, good luck


Me: Thank you! You have a great day as well.


No documents were asked. I collected our passports the next day. I also noticed at least 3 other Indian applicants at the windows before my time and they were all approved.


Drive back to US border


We drove through Port Huron again. Keep in mind that the “toll booth” border booths don’t have the capability to issue I-94’s on new Visas, so you are made to go into secondary inspection. Don’t freak out, it’s just that the office has the facility to do the exact same thing they do in airports.


They took our fingerprints, picture and printed an I-94 (yes, they issued us paper I-94s for some reason and didn’t keep the old I-94 even though I asked). Barely any question was asked. But it’s not fun going into border patrol’s office at midnight with 15 uniformed armed border agents staring at you.


Now, some tips


1.     Be confident, talk clearly, only answer what is asked. Keep in mind they need to process large number of people every day, and that brief interaction needs to be to-the-point and comfortable. It is unlikely a consulate is more or less “meaner” than the other. 



2.     Organize your paperwork! I’ve seen people stumble with their papers right from the beginning at the entrance. Keep 3 folders

a.     Core folder –a Ziploc with Only your passport, appointment letter, DS-160 confirmation and I-797 / other approval petition.


b.     Support folder – Your employer issued H1/L1 packet with the LCA and other documentation, your paystubs, employer letter, W-2/tax returns, bank statements etc.


c.     Backup folder – copies of some of the more important documents from support/core


In most cases all you need is the core folder and you will never need to open the remaining. Your movement through the process chain will be quick and comfortable if you organize yourself this way.


3. Dress professionally. I don't mean tie and full suit, but neat formals and perhaps a jacket makes a big difference in terms of first impressions.


Now some general “gyaan” / advice from a veteran (not sure that’s a good thing)


I’ve been (un)fortunate enough to apply for various US visas from various locations. In the past I've held B1, H1, L1 and multiple of each variant. I’ve applied to, and received visas in Chennai, London, Paris and Toronto. So not only have I experienced different categories, but also received them in 3 continents.


My experience through all this is simple – be organized, clear and concise, and don’t lie. Unless there’s some surprise (or items that unfortunately lead to administrative processing - for e.g. name checks, defense related degrees...), in most cases the interviews are quick, and visas are typically approved. I experienced and noticed practically no difference among the consulates as far as my case is concerned. In all the cases the process was standard, the questions was short and simple, and I did not notice "many people being rejected."


If you have been unlucky with your choice of employer – don’t despair. Unless you break the law deliberately, life gives you second chances and you can always try again. Just don’t get caught in a lie, that’s all.


Don’t over-analyze a consulate based on forum posts. Don’t read too much into someone’s situation and apply it across the board. The VOs want as much to be done with the interview with a pleasant note just as you want it done with the approval.


(for those interested - here's my visa stamping experience in London that I posted in this forum 2 1/2 years ago!)


I’m happy to answer any questions you have, if not – I wish you the best!

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