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Visa Stamping from Canada/Mexico

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L1-A Blanket Renewal Approved @ Ottawa
My company opted for renewal in Canada instead of an extension through USCIS. My current L1-A visa expires in October. I appeared with my spouse for the interview yesterday at the Ottawa embassy.

Before you enter the embassy, an officer will see your DS-160 confirmation, and scan you with a handheld metal detector. You enter the building, the officer at the reception will ask to see your DS-160, Passport, photograph and ask you a few basic questions (what visa you are applying for, when did you enter Canada, what is your status in Canada, etc.). Provided everything is in order, the officer will paste a sticker with barcode on the passport and ask you to go through security and proceed to counter #1 (cashier). Next is airport style security, NO metal objects or electronics allowed - so be aware of that.

You reach the cashier in counter #1, again a few basic questions about type of visa you are applying for, etc. She advised that you can ONLY present TWO copies of the petition documents, not three as in the past. She will write down some details like validity dates etc. on the 2 copies of I-129S. You need to pay the anti-fraud fee here with cash, check or credit card. Two copies of the receipt will be attached to you petition documents. You will be asked to stand in line for another counter for "Visa check-in"

Next comes the document check. The officer was very courteous and nice as she checked to see if all documents are in order. The officer will check for dates, signatures, etc. scan the photographs, help you arrange what documents need to presented to the officer who will interview you, and provide you a brochure detailing your rights as a foreign worker in US. You will be asked to go the next counter for fingerprints. Here they will ask for your passport and DS-160 and scan your fingerprints.

Next comes the long line for the Visa interview, there are only 2 counters so it takes a long time. We saw a few approvals and a few rejections. Next came our turn. Questions asked:

- Are you applying for L1-A or B?
- Which company do you work for?
- What do they do?
- How long have you been working with this company?
- How long have you been working in US? Did they treat you well?
- Did you receive this brochure detailing your rights?
- What is your designation and role?
- How many people report to you? Are they entry level employees or experienced?
- Are any of them managers or are all individual contributors?
- Who is your manager? What is his designation? Is that a senior level?

Then the officer said she is approving the Visa and that we can pickup the passports in 3-4 business days. My spouse was not asked any questions. The officer stamped/signed and returned one copy of the petition document back to us advising that we need to show it at border control when entering US and that we MUST take the copy back after the inspection (obviously).

A few pointers:
- We started the whole process in June, and were lucky to get an appointment at the US Embassy in Ottawa for mid-September. There are no appointments available for ~3-months out.
- The first step was to apply for a Canada visitor visa, it takes long (4-6 weeks) so factor in that time as well and apply early. Canada immigration was easy and quick. They will ask to see the visa appointment with the US consulate if that's the reason you tell them for visiting Canada, so keep it handy.
- My company hired a law firm to prepare the documentation, and they made a lot of mistakes which I had to review and correct. Not sure why we pay them. Be very careful with the documentation, especially the DS-160.
- Be polite and courteous to each person you meet in the embassy/consulate. Follow instructions given. Ask questions if unsure about something.
- Provide detailed answers to each of the questions, explaining as much as you can in the short (20-30 secs) you will get for each question. Prepare but do not mug answers. Be truthful and you will have the confidence you need. Don't make up fantasy stories there to make your job sound more impressive than it actually is - your voice and body language will give it away.
- The consular section of the embassy itself is pretty small, with only a few counters and inefficient crowd management. Be prepared to be confused, as there will be no support staff to guide you and no token numbers issued as in India. Reason is understandable, they don't have a lot of staff as very few applications are processed on a daily basis in this consulate.
- The US Embassy is in the Byward market area in Ottawa, very nice neighborhood with good hotels and restaurants nearby.
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