I have always hoped to visit the United States of America (USA). As a matter of fact, I contemplated going there to give birth to my second child but when I discussed same with my husband, he reminded me of our bank account balance and how it was impossible to make it a reality at that time and I totally understood. Since we couldn’t afford to birth our first daughter in the United States in late 2014, we then had a family vacation in the United Kingdom in early 2015 and we moved to Canada in August 2016.
Fast forward to when we relocated to Canada, The United States of America became one of the countries I knew I would visit God willing considering it’s proximity to Canada.
So we recently applied for US visas at the United States Consulate General in Halifax.
The Consulate in Halifax serves the four atlantic Canadian provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the two small French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.
The U.S. Consulate General in Halifax works to promote economic, cultural, educational, and political cooperation between the United States and Atlantic Canada, provides Consular services for American Citizens, and issues certain classes of non-immigrant visas.
There are 8 US consulate offices in Canada as of now. There are in Halifax, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Quebec city.
So I thought to share our experience for other Canadian permanent residents who may be looking to apply for a US visit visa in Atlantic Canada (it’s pretty much a similar process for other locations in Canada).
- Complete DS-160 application form for each member of the family at the below link, choosing Canada- Halifax as location for application: https://ceac.state.gov/GenNIV/Default.aspx
- Register and schedule a date of interview at the below link: https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-ca/niv
- Visa application fee is US $160 for each person as at now (note that the fee is in United States dollars, so you should do the conversion to know the value in Canadian dollars):
- General required documents – For all visa types
The following documents are required for all visa types:
a. Current Passport valid for travel to the United States. The passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements.)
b. Passport containing the most recently issued U.S. Visa (if applicable).
c. Non-immigrant visa application, Form DS-160 confirmation page (after #1 is completed)
d. Confirmation and instructions page printed from this website (after #2 is completed)
e. One 5 x 5 cm (or 2″ x 2″) color photo taken within the last 6 months. Further details regarding Department of State photo guidelines can be found at: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/photos.html.https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/photos.html.https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/photos.html.
f. Accompanying family members, unless entering the United States for another purpose, should present a marriage certificate (spouse) and/or birth certificate (for unmarried children under 21), as applicable.
g. Copy of proof of your legal status in Canada – Permanent Residence Cards
So we did the above and choose a date for our interview. This is my first time of going for an interview for a visa application so it felt weird. For the Halifax location, the earliest interview date was one month away, while some locations had few days away. So we had to wait for one month before we went for our interview. Ensure you arrive early for your interview. So as to cross the Ts and dot the Is, I recommended that we dress corporate, so my husband and son wore corporate shirts, my daughters and I wore dresses and I had a jacket on my dress. My husband found it hilarious that I was going all the way. I had read from an article online on how it was important to dress well, so I didn’t want us to take any chance. Meanwhile, there was a thick glass barricade between us and the interviewer, so I am guessing she probably didn’t even see our beautiful dresses and shirts very well. 😊
The consulate is a highly secured place so many things are prohibited e.g. mobile phones, big sized wallets, bags, e.t.c. So the best bet is to go with just the documents you need for your interview, even our car key was taken by the security personnel and handed to us after our interview. An email would be sent to you before the interview date telling you all the prohibited items.
We were screened before we gained entrance to the main waiting/sitting area, you know how you get screened at the airport when you are about to board a plane.
After we were screened, we were asked to sit till our number was called by the interviewer. Prior to our interview, a lady called us to pre-check our documents. She asked for our Canadian permanent residence (PR) cards, my letter of employment and my husband’s letter of school enrolment as he is studying full time and works part time. Meanwhile, I had planned to take my letter of employment that I received in April 2017, till I received an email 2 days before our interview that I needed to bring a current confirmation of employment, so I had to email the Human Resources department at work, fortunately the letter was emailed to me a day to our interview, which I submitted in addition to my 2017 letter of employment.
My husband, our three children and I went for the interview, note that our third child is a Canadian citizen, so we didn’t apply for US visa for her as Canadian citizens are allowed to enter the US without a visa if on tourism, yet the lady asked for her Canadian international passport. She also asked for our passport photographs and PR cards, so these were the documents she asked for: current letter of employment, letter of school enrolment, PR cards, our Nigerian international passport and passport photographs.
The lady was quite jovial and pleasant, she talked to us nicely and even cracked some funny jokes with our baby. I think she then casually asked how old our baby is, when I told her 7 months, she then asked if I am on maternity leave and I affirmed.
So we sat and waited for our interview, there were about 2-3 people ahead of us.
Our interviewer was stern looking and acted stern all through our 10 minutes or so interview period. I guess it comes with the job role. She asked for the documents the other lady asked for: current letter of employment, letter of school enrolment, PR cards, our Nigerian international passports and our baby’s Canadian passport (even though we did not apply for US visa for her).
Her next question was:
‘How are you all related’ I must confess that the question almost threw me off, even though it was a simple question. I just didn’t see it coming, so I explained how we are related as I was closer to her. She then asked for our names and what we do. She also asked my two older children their names and then turned towards our baby and asked same, we all smiled because we could tell there was no way a 7 month old baby would answer, the interviewer also smiled slightly but the smile disappeared almost immediately ( I guess she still wanted to maintain the stern look), so I told her our baby’s name.
She asked us how long we have been in Canada. She asked if we have family and friends living in the US, she then asked where we want to visit in the US and how long we plan to stay. After we answered her questions, she took me and my husband’s fingerprints, she then said our visa application was approved and she handed us a green paper which had some information on how to get our stamped international passports.
Meanwhile, we took other documents along, which includes our current bank account statements, marriage certificate, our children’s birth certificate, my husband has his company registered in Canada, so we also took the company registration document, our utility bills and some other related documents, none were asked. I was stunned that they didn’t ask for our bank account statement though. However, I would implore you to take as many documents as possible that can aid your visa application as I understand that they treat each situation accordingly and differently. You never know what the interviewer would ask you.
The interviewer told us it may take 1 week to get our international passports back with the stamped US visa. When we filled the application forms, we had chosen the particular Canada post office we would like to pick up our passports from. There is also a service for Canada Post to bring it to your address at an extra cost.
By the next day after the interview, which was on a Friday, we received an email saying Canada post has picked up our passports and that we could pick them up on Monday. By Monday morning, an email was sent saying our passports were ready for pick up at the Canada post office. So it took 2 working days (4 days in total i.e. Thursday – Monday) from the day of interview to the day we picked up our passports, which is quite commendable. My issue is the time it took to get an interview date, which was 1 month. So if you intend to apply for US visa from Halifax, ensure you factor this timing in, however it may be better when you apply, perhaps we were not lucky enough ands had to wait for one month. Let me add that we did not even get an available interview date on the day we submitted our application. It was by the next morning that we re-checked and found the 1 month interval date.
They indicated on our visas that it’s for multiple entries, it has a validity of 10 years and there was an annotation that we are Canadian permanent resident with our respective pictures on it. I understand that Canadian permanent residents usually get a 10 years validity US visa.
I initially intended to share our experience after we travel to the US but then I decided to share it now in case any permanent resident is looking to visit the US during the summer months and needs time to apply ahead of summer. My intention is to share as much as I can when I am led to and not hold on till later because really no one is promised tomorrow. So I hope this is valuable to some people.
Did you read our article on the countries you can travel to visa free as a Canadian permanent resident? If not, you can read it up here. Incase the US doesn’t interest you to visit for now.
I also wrote about the benefits of having a Canadian passport here as regards travel opportunities.
Please note that this is our personal experience, we are not US visa consultants, hence we implore you to also visit the US consulate’s website for up to date information on their visit visa procedures and requirements.
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to our third year anniversary in Canada so we can apply for citizenship, so we can travel to more countries visa free, which includes USA.
Note: if you are a Canadian citizen, you do not need a visa to enter the US unless you plan to work, study, invest or immigrate. Canadian citizens should carry a valid Canadian passport when entering the US or transiting through the US to another country.
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