Thursday, May 14, 2009

Canadians and US Student Visas

Okay... this is the part where I share my story so that if any Canadians entering the US to go to school happen to be reading this, they will avoid my stress.

With all due respect to the US, while Canadians are pretty much immersed in American culture from early in life, Americans just don't really think of Canadians at all. This isn't a dig at Americans, it's just something that makes sense when you consider the population and influence of the US vs. the population and influence of Canada.

Anyway, there is an agreement between the US and Canada called NAFTA which basically makes trade rules different between the countries than between all other international countries. For a long time, Canadians didn't even need a passport to go to the US (or Mexico, for that matter). Since 9/11 this has changed, but the change has been gradual and hasn't even been fully implemented.

This is a really long explanation for my short story. I was always under the impression that acquiring a visa required sending away your passport to get a visa stamped in it. This process, if affected by red tape, could take an unknown number of days.

My best friend is getting married in Iowa on July 24. I want to be down there a week ahead of time to help get ready and throw lots of parties for her. However, since you need a passport to fly into the US, I was under a ton of stress hoping that I would get my passport back in time.

Well... in an effort to expedite the process, I went to see how the whole interview booking process worked last night. After entering all my information, I got a message saying I didn't need a visa to enter the States.

So, I emailed the international students office at UVA (which has been quite helpful, by the way!) and got the reply this morning that I only need my I-20, not a visa in my passport.

Which is a relief... but I wonder why I stressed so much!

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