Last week, I chatted with two senior officials of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto about my recent urgent application for a visitor visa on behalf of a Canadian permanent resident whose mother was in intensive care in the U.S. following a serious car accident.
Some of the following is what I learned from Consul Jeffrey Tunis and Public Affairs Officer Nicholas J. Giaccobe.
Although Canadian citizens don’t need visas to visit the U.S., many foreigners, including Canadian permanent residents, do depending on their country of nationality.
Applications for these visas are strictly by appointment only, regardless of how urgent the situation. Appointments must be booked online using the consulates’ Visa Appointment Reservation System at www.nvars.com.
Appointments are not always available, and when they are, they are often several weeks away and too far into the future to be of any use. At the time of this writing, no appointments were available for the next six weeks.
Understandably, my client wanted to be at his mothers’ side now, not in weeks.
I was directed by consular staff to its emergency instructions on its website at http://toronto.usconsulate.govbut, frankly, I had quite a bit of trouble finding them. For those in need, they can be found by clicking “Visa Info” on the top blue bar and then “Visa FAQs” at the bottom of the yellow section on the left.
The consulate instructs individuals in such situations to select any appointment available online regardless of how far away it is in time. The applicant will need a passport number and pay $9 to book the appointment. The system will give them a reference number.
Applicants must then send an e-mail to TRTNIV@state.govrequesting an urgent appointment and must provide all the information specified in the FAQ. An automated response will be generated. However, a case-specific one will usually follow within a day or two with an earlier date, if the request is granted.
Examples of what constitutes a legitimate emergency are listed in the FAQ but both Tunis and Giaccobe stressed the circumstances contemplated are those that are “unforeseen.” Applicants who waited till the last minute to apply for a visa to attend a wedding in the U.S. will probably have to settle for a piece of frozen wedding cake brought back by a caring guest who did make it to the event.
Same day visas are simply out of the question because procedures implemented since 9/11 require certain security screenings, including facial recognition checks, to be done in the U.S.
Hopefully, you’ll never need this service. But if you do, perhaps this will help.