The International Student Advisors provide some information about entry into the United States for the purposes of tourism or meetings/conferences. If you are interested in studying or working in the United States, the Education Abroad Advisor is a good resource.
The U.S. Visitor Visa
Citizens of a select group of countries (who fulfill all requirements) do not automatically require a visa to enter the United States as a visitor. Instead they may participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Citizens of all other countries must get a visa to be eligible to enter the United States. The visitor visa is usually known as a B1/B2 (Visitor for Business or Pleasure) visa.
Students and scholars whose citizenship requires them to get a visa must apply for a visa and attend an interview. Those in Kingston will usually schedule their interview at the United States Embassy in Ottawa.
General information on U.S. visitor visas is available through the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Government has also provided a general guide for those applying from within Canada on YouTube. NEW!
How do I schedule my visa interview?
U.S. Visa appointments, for those currently in Canada, are scheduled online (If you are not already in Canada, see below). You must pay your visa application fee before making your appointment. You must also have your passport and have completed the DS-160 form available at: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/. After doing so, you can book the appointment through: http://canada.usvisa-info.com/ Further details are available on their Before You Apply page.
I haven't come to Canada yet, should I apply for a U.S. visa now?
If you meet the requirements set by the U.S. government while in your home country, you are welcome to proceed. In fact, if you will be in Canada for one year or less, it is a good idea to apply for your visa before coming to Canada. This is because U.S. immigration officials who process applications here expect you to prove your ties to Canada by completing at least one academic term (and maybe more) before applying.
If you apply in your home country, please note that information on current country-specific fees and the maximum length of a visa (based on citizenship) can be found through the U.S. Department of State. Note: The visitor visa is the B1/B2 visa.
NEW! How long will it take for me to get my visa?
While you are never guaranteed a visa, it can take as little as a couple of days and as many as 6 weeks to get an interview. After the interview, it can take a few days to a few months for a final decision to be made. Most decisions are made within a few days of the interview. You can check the status of your application by inputing the barcode number from your DS-160 form and the location of your interview at: https://ceac.state.gov/CEAC/
How much will my visa cost?
A U.S. visitor for business or pleasure visa (B1/B2) application will cost $160 US. If you are a citizen of a country that has a specific fee for U.S. citizens, then you will ALSO be charged a "reciprocity fee". Detailed information about available methods of payment can be found on their Fee Payment Options page.
How long will my visa be valid?
If you apply in Canada, your U.S. Visa (if you get one) is likely to expire no later than your Canadian temporary resident status (ie. Study Permit, Work Permit, etc.). In addition, if there are special limitations on the visas issued to U.S. citizens that hope to enter your home country as a visitor, those same limitations may apply to you. This is known as reciprocity.
What should I bring with me to my visa appointment?
It is extremely important to follow the instructions provided when you make your visa appointment. For students, it is particularly important not to forget your transcript, proof of registration and proof you have money to support yourself and pay for your studies here in Canada. Graduate students, particularly Ph.D candidates, should also consider bringing a resume/CV outlining research and publications.
What should I expect when entering the United States?
A visa does not guarantee entrance to the United States. You may be inspected at the point of entry. You will be enrolled in the United States Department of Homeland Security US-Visit program. This includes the collection of a digital photograph and fingerprints.
NEW! If allowed to enter, you may be issued an Arrival/Departure Record (I-94) or a stamp that will be placed in your passport . Either one will include the date by which you must leave the country. If you are not issued an I-94 but require proof of your admittance to the United States (beyond the stamp) you can access it online.
The Visa Waiver Program
Though the Visa Waiver Program eliminates the need for a visa for citizens of a select group of countries (whose passports meet all the necessary requirements), those planning to enter the U.S. (currently only by air or sea) through the program must complete an online form prior to their visit to the United States. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
Is there a cost for the Visa Waiver Program?
There is a fee of $4US to complete the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application. If the application is successful, an additional $10US Authorization fee will be charged to your credit card for a total of $14US.
If you will be entering the U.S. by land (ie. car, bus, train, etc.) through the Visa Waiver Program, the ESTA application is not currently required. There is a $6US entry fee in this circumstance. It is a good idea to have some U.S. currency with you upon arrival to pay this fee.
When should I complete the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application?
You should do so as soon as you begin considering travel to the United States (when travelling by sea or air). It will take up to 72 hours to process an application. If Travel Authorization is denied, you will be required to apply for a visitor visa.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization will remain valid for 2 years or until the expiry of your passport (whichever comes first).
What should I expect when entering the United States?
A visa waiver and positive response to an ESTA application (if required) do not guarantee entrance to the United States. You may be inspected at the point of entry. You will be enrolled in the United States Department of Homeland Security US-Visit program. This includes the collection of a digital photograph and fingerprints.
If allowed to enter, you will be asked to pay the fee noted above and issued an Arrival/Departure Record (I-94 white or I-94W green) that will be placed in your passport. It will include the date by which you must leave the country.
Before leaving for your visit to the United States
Proof of Enrollment/Employment
It is strongly recommended that all Queen's students and scholars get proof of their relationship to Queen's University before leaving Canada. This may make entering the U.S. and/or returning to Canada easier.
Students can get proof of enrollment for no cost from SOLUS [accessible through https://my.queensu.ca]. In case further assistance is needed, students can visit the Records and Services section of the Office of the University Registrar (found in the lower level of Gordon Hall). Graduate students may be able to get proof of their status from their academic department. Exchange students can see the University Exchange Coordinator in the Queen's University International Centre (QUIC) or their Faculty Exchange Coordinator.
Visiting scholars should contact their supervisor or the academic department that is hosting them.
Exchange students planning to visit the United States after finishing their time at Queen's should make sure they have copies of their airline ticket home instead of proof of their studies in Canada.
Health care costs in the United States are much higher than costs in Canada and the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) offers very limited coverage outside of Canada.
It is extremely important that you consider supplemental insurance when planning to visit the United States (or any country outside of Canada). More information is available from our Health Insurance and Care page as well as our Travel Beyond Kingston page.
Returning from the United States
Returning to Canada
You may be inspected by Canadian Immigration officials before being allowed to re-enter Canada from the United States. It may be helpful to have proof of your relationship to Queen's as mentioned above.
If you required a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to enter Canada you MAY not need a valid TRV to return to Canada following a visit to the United States. Please check with our advisors if you are in this situation.
Do I need to pay tax on items I bought in the United States?
You may be expected to pay taxes and duties on items that you buy while in the United States. The length of your time in the United States determines the value of goods you can bring back to Canada without needing to pay. Details are available from the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Proof of Departure from the United States
When leaving the United States, please return your Arrival/Departure Record (I-94), if applicable, to immigration or airline officials. If you leave the United States with your Arrival/Departure Record (I-94) in your passport, it is possible that your departure will not be recorded properly.
If you depart by a commercial air or sea carrier (airlines or cruise ships), your departure from the U.S. can be independently verified using the passenger manifest, and it is not necessary to take any further action, although holding on to your outbound (from the U.S.) boarding pass - if you still have it - can help ease your re-entry next time you visit the United States.
If you depart by land, private vessel or private plane, you will need to take steps to verify your departure. If you do not validate your timely departure from the United States, or, if you cannot reasonably prove you departed within the time frame given to you when your entered, the next time you apply for admission to the U.S., Customs and Border Protection officials may conclude you remained in the U.S. beyond your authorized stay. If this happens, your visa may be subject to cancellation or you may be returned immediately to your foreign point of origin.
Further instructions on how to record your departure from the United States after you have returned to Canada is available through United States Customs and Border Protection.
If you have further questions, after reviewing the information above, advising is available (without an appointment) from the International Student Advisors at the Queen's University International Centre from Monday to Friday between 1:00pm and 4:30pm.