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'Huge double standard': Vancouverite faces 2 year wait to get a US visa appointment

US permanent residents do not require a visa to visit Canada but Canadian PR holders must pay hundreds of dollars for a visa to cross the border.
A Vancouver woman faces up to two years to get a US visa appointment as a Canadian permanent resident.

A Canadian permanent resident says she won't be able to visit the United States for several months, despite paying hundreds of dollars for a visa application fee.

V.I.A. has granted anonymity to the Vancouver resident, who says she's at the start of a troubling wait for her travel document; her name has been changed to Jennifer to protect her identity.

While American permanent residents can visit Canada visa-free, many Canadian permanent residents must acquire a non-immigrant to make trips south of the border. 

Jennifer came to Canada from Nigeria in 2014 as an international student at the University of Saskatchewan. After completing a degree in international relations, she moved to B.C. at the beginning of March 2020. 

After a couple of months, Jennifer began working in the city to get the experience required to obtain her permanent residency. She acquired her PR status in August and started her non-immigrant U.S. visa application process in September, which included a payment of roughly US$500.

The next available US visa appointment in Vancouver is in two years

After submitting her first application, the U.S. government sent her a link to arrange an interview. However, the nearest available date for an interview in Vancouver was in 736 days - roughly two years away.

"It is very disappointing. Especially over the holidays, you may just want to travel," an exasperated Jennifer told V.I.A. 

Wait times were just as bad for Canadians in other provinces, with an 852-day wait in Calgary and a 774-day wait in Toronto.

People who hold a US Employment Authorization Document (EAD), including Green Card holders, can visit Canada for up to six months and do not need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) or visa. 

'People have to put their lives and travel plans on hold for two years'

"There is obviously a huge double standard here and why is this so?" Jennifer asked. "This is really sad considering that people have to put their lives and traveI plans on hold for two years if not more."

Jennifer is far from the only Canadian PR holder who has expressed frustration about facing the long wait. After discovering she might not be able to make it south of the border until at least 2025, Jennifer found groups with hundreds of people online who were in the same situation. 

The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs told V.I.A. that it can expedite visa appointments for some individuals but they must face "an urgent, unforeseen situation such as a funeral, medical emergency, or school start date."

Jennifer says she will have to keep checking the website to see if a spot becomes available but won't be able to do anything else in the meantime.

"You can see how frustrating and disappointing that is."