By Mary L. Zhang, September 19, 2015
Canadians are always proud about the amazing view of Niagara falls from their side. But visiting the United States of America (US) seems to be always in their wish list, especially for new comers and permanent residents. Citizens of Canada do not need visas, but the permanent and temporary residents do. Here I am taking you through the essential procedures before applying for a US visa or planning a trip.
PERMANENT & TEMPORARY RESIDENTS
If you are living in Canada as a permanent resident or a temporary resident and are from a non VWP country, you must first obtain a nonimmigrant visa. Nonimmigrant visas are visitor visas for persons who want to enter the U.S. temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2). You may apply for such a visa from a U.S. consulate in Canada.
There are several steps to apply for a visa. First, you need to complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160). Then you must schedule an appointment for your visa interview at a U.S. consulate that is responsible for the region where you live. With the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, U.S. consulates are located across Canada in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and Winnipeg (note: the consulate in Winnipeg only takes applications referred by other consulates). If you are under 14 or over 80, you are not required to attend an interview.
You must carry your passport, DS-160 submission confirmation, visa fee payment receipt and photo (if not uploaded in your online application) to the interview. You should also take the documents evidencing your status in Canada, your ties to Canada or your home country, the purpose of your trip, the ability to pay all costs of the trip and your intent to depart the U.S. after your trip.
During the interview, a consulate officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa or require further administrative processing. If your visa is approved, you can either pick up your passport at a designated DHL depot or arrange to have your passport delivered to you by DHL courier.
CITIZENS OF CANADA
Citizens of Canada do not need visas to visit U.S. for leisure or business purposes. However, it does not mean that it is a green light all the way to enter the U.S. You still need to satisfy the U.S. border officials of your purpose of visit and pass the security check before you are allowed to enter.
To make your entry as smooth as possible, it is helpful to have all the necessary documents besides your passport with you such as travel itinerary, hotel reservation, invitation letter, and the contact information of the company of individual you are going to visit. If you travel with children without the other parent, you should have either the proof of child custody or consent of travel from the other parent ready. Depending on the nature and the frequency of your visit, it is also a good idea to carry documents demonstrating your ties to Canada such as proof of property in Canada, employment and tax documents.
VISA WAIVER PROGRAM
Citizens of countries that are participating the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may visit the United States without visas either. The length of visits can go up to 90 days. Travelers must meet all requirements including no prior visa ineligibilities, having machine-readable passports, and obtaining authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a airplane or sea carrier. There are currently 38 countries participating the Visa Waiver Program.
Always make a habit to check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection web site for the latest updates on U.S. entry requirements for Canadians and others. Also remember to carry necessary travel documents, including the Passport and the PR card with you to return to Canada.
Immigration Consultant Mary Zhang has years of experience dealing with issues around entering the United States. Contact Mary at our office in Markham, Ontario.