H-1B visa interview at Toronto, admin processing and successful visa stamping
My background: H1b holder since Mar’04. Went to India once in Dec-2006. After that, never been to India in last 6 years. Changed the employer once from a big Indian IT consulting to a very small desi consultancy. Have EB-3 I-140 approved in 2010.
After waiting for 6 years, decided to go to Toronto, Canada for H-1B visa interview and stamping. To get Canadian visitor visa, along with all other necessary documents including appt confirmation email, submitted the self-affidavit stating that my immigrant petition has been approved and I support my family in India and finance my bro’s grad education at UCLA. Reason being my Canada PR was rejected in 2010.
Drive to Toronto: Drove from CT to Toronto on Sat 5th. It took me 10 hrs, 8 hrs driving, 2 hrs rest + Canada Immigration.
H1b visa interview at US Consulate @ Toronto: My H-1B visa interview was on Monday, 7th Jan at 1 PM. I reached consulate by 11.40 PM.
After initial formalities of security check, checking of appt letter, original I-797, issuance of token, I had to go to fingerprinting.
My number was displayed around 1.15 PM and I went to the window.
VO: Good noon so and so.
Me: Good noon, my name is so and so.
VO: Oh sorry, I called the wrong number. Please take a seat and someone would call you soon.
I went back to my seat and then my turn came around 1.45 PM. The visa office (VO) was Chinese.
(VO was continually looking at his computer, typing as we are speaking...VO would ask questions so fast that you would not have time to think and answer, but you got to keep the pace with VO.)
Me: Hello, how are you?
VO: So, you work at so and so. What is this company?
Me: Yes sir, I work at .
VO: What do they do?
Me: IT Consulting and Software Development.
VO: What is your end client?
Me: so and so
VO: (spelling it out)
Me: Yes, sir.
VO: What is your role?
Me: so and so.
VO: What project do you work on?
Me: blah blah blah
VO: What do you do?
Me: blah blah blah
VO: What programs you build?
Me: blah blah blah
VO: This is for H-1B visa, right?
Me: Yes, sir.
(At this point, VO looked satisfied and I thought he was going to utter those golden words that your visa has been approved. But, that's my day dream.)
VO: Ok, looks like there is a problem in our system, it shows you are applying for some other visa type. Please take a seat until we correct it. I will call you.
Me: Sure, sir.
(What VO told me was not correct; I have a copy of DS-160, DS-160 confirmation, appt letter confirmation - all shows I applied for H-1B. Perhaps, VO was buying some time to check something.
Then, VO gave my file to one lady and that lady did something inside that office. Then that lady went outside and went to some other office, she came back, handed over my file to VO. Meanwhile VO interviewed couple of folks. Then he called me out.)
VO: Ok, what is this ? Where are they located? Are they in ?
Me: Yes, sir, my company, <? >, is based in .
VO: What's your highest degree?
Me: blah blah blah
VO: Where did you get it?
Me: blah blah blah
VO: Is this 4 years degree?
Me: Yes sir, this is 4 year degree.
VO: Hmm. At this point, I want to ask you to show me your paystub/s.
Me: Ok, sir.
(I handed 5/6 recent paystubs.)
VO: (Looking at paystubs one-by-one). Hmm, how long you have been in US? 3 years?
Me: Sir, I have been in US for almost 9 years.
VO: In that case, these paystubs are not enough.
(I was wondering if I had to carry 9 years paystubs. I was thinking in mind what else he would say. At this point, I saw a note on a paper that was sent with that lady, it said - PIMS verification. )
VO: I have to tell you that we need additional time to look at this application and find out what is going on.
(VO took out yellow colored printed letter (221-g form) and marked checkbox for necessary administrative processing).
Me: Would I know how much time this processing would take?
VO: No. Once we complete, we will send you an email and tell you what to do.
Me: (Collected the paper from VO), ok, thank you sir, have a nice day.
Email communication from US Consulate @ Toronto:
1st email on Thu 10th Jan morning
1. A copy of the employment contract or letter of agreement signed by you and the petitioner;
2. A copy of the contract between the U.S. employment agency (petitioner) and the job site (the location where you will actually work);
3. A letter (on letterhead) from the job site stating that there is a vacancy for you.
4. Copies of all pay slips and monthly bank statements for the last 6 months;
5. Your federal income tax returns and W-2 form for tax years 2011, and 2010.
Sent all the docs requested thru email Thu night. My HR dept. submitted H-1B petition, so didn't have lawyer. I called my GC lawyer and she recommended to submit docs thru mail / in person. Thru mail, it would have taken Mon evening and in person, next Tue as in person appearance for 221-G cases was allowed only on Tue and Thu between certain time in the morning and in the noon time. So finally, I decided to email all the docs.
2nd email on Fri 11th Jan afternoon
Please provide, in addition, Form I-797 Notice of Approval of your current petition
, since the petition , you have submitted initially, will become valid on .
Also, please, provide a proof that you have approved an immigrant visa petition.
Sent all the docs requested immediately. When I received this email, I understood the concern of VO and why he could not grant me the visa. While filling up DS-160, I referenced future petition instead of current petition.
3rd email on Fri 11th Jan after half an hour
Please clarify if any of your bank statements show salary payments from your petitioner.
Sent bank statements with salary deposit row highlighted immediately.
4th email on Fri 11th Jan around 4 PM
Please provide a proof (other than already submitted earning statements) that the deposits come from the petitioner.
Sent the check images (available online in Bank of America) of salary deposit immediately.
Check status of visa application: You will need DS-160 confirmation no.
Status check: On Fri 25th Jan, the status updated date has been updated from 7th Jan to 25th Jan, but status “Administrative Processing” was unchanged.
On Mon 28th Jan, towards the end of the day, the status has been updated to “Issued” with date 28th Jan.
On Monday night, I changed the DHL Loomis branch from Markham to Brampton as Brampton was closer to where I was staying with my relatives.
Email from DHL Loomis: On Tue 29th night, I received email from DHL Loomis that they picked up my passport from Consular Section. I checked DHL Loomis online status checker, it was not straight forward. Anyway, I went back to my profile with US Visa application at Canada website and checked and it said “Ready for Pickup”. So on Wed 30th morning, I called DHL Loomis and confirmed that indeed, my passport is ready for pickup at Brampton branch.
I drove to Brampton branch, told the lady the courier no and showed her my US Driving License and there you go, I had the passport with Visa stamped until 2016. Thank God and my sweet family.
Back to CT and I-94 @ POE @ Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls: I drove from Toronto to CT on Sun 5th. It took me 10 hrs, 8 hrs driving, 2 hrs rest + US Immigration. US immigration - I went thru Niagara Falls (Rainbow Bridge) with assumption that I could view the fall, but it was snowing that day and also there was thick fog near the fall. Drove to the check post. He asked me to go inside the building. I was asked to wait. Within 10 mins, one IO (immigration officer) called me. Asked me few basic questions – where do I live in US? Why I went to Canada? Is this first entry on this visa? How long in US? Who is my employer? Show the petition? He was Chinese descent and asking questions with at least a min gap. Taking his own time, looking at the computer, typing something, writing something etc. Finally, he asked for my photo and fingerprinting. Well, here again, fingerprinting took 2/3 attempts. Charged $6. Gave I-94, valid until Feb-2016 (I guess, IO could give us stay 3 years + 10 days from the day you enter in US).
Planning India trip: Now I am planning my India trip after 6 years.
Best of luck to you all!
List of docs:
Here is the list of docs that I took to the consulate and docs (bold) are the docs which are asked for by consulate.
Documents needed to enter consulate
Appointment confirmation email
DS-160 confirmation with bar-code
Original I-797 approval notice
Documents needed at the time of interview
H-1b petition cover letter (if any)
I-129 (petition) and related 2 forms
Addendum to I-129 by Employer (if any)
Employer letter to USCIS
Client letter on letterhead
Vendor letter on letterhead (if there is a middle vendor between employer and client)
Copy of Contract between employer and client
Copy of passport pages (non-blank)
I-140 approval copy (if any)
All previous approval notices (I-797)
All previous I-94
Degree certificates and mark sheets
Other professional certificates / membership (if any)
Previous experience letter (if any)
Paystubs (last 12 months)
W-2 (all years since you entered US)
Proof that employer-employee relationship exists
Current employment letter
Proof that you are enrolled in employer sponsored health plan etc.
Weekly status report / timesheet that you sent to employer
Bank statements for the bank acct where employer deposits the salary (for 12 months)
Tax return (I took for all years I have been in US)
Proof that employer pays you salary (in my case, they accepted the check images for 6 months)
Any other document that was a part of H-1b petition package to USCIS
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