Monday, January 7, 2019

H1B stamping by an Indian in Canada

Prior to applying one has to apply for a Canadian visa- Most go for a visitor visa. Please ignore this if you are a citizen/permanent resident in Canada. For details on getting a Canadian visa please refer to my earlier post here

Personal credentials
Last H1 visa expired 2015 but had my i797s so was legal till now. Further had changed employer in between.

Applying for an H1B (USA) visa in Canada
  • Fill DS-160 with the hopeful consulate location. These are a few locations in Canada- Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Quebec City, Montreal. Generally, there is a HUGE wait time for Toronto and Vancouver (around 3-4 months) given they are top places
  • Then go to the following site. Create an account and fill in the details and then schedule an appointment.
Documents that I took
  • Valid unexpired passport – Passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond the expiration date of your intended status.
  • Older passport containing the visa category stamp. If you are renewing H1B then take the passport that has the H1B stamp
  • DS-160 confirmation page ONLY
  • Visa application fees receipt. One can get it from this. (Top right-hand side click continue and the last option- View payment receipt)
  • Visa instructions- refer to the picture below
  • Original Non-immigrant Visa Petition Approval Notice (Form I-797) (or something similar).
  • Original degrees
  • Recent Paystubs from your company
  • SSN
  • Valid driver's license
  • Credit card
  • Photograph (within the last 6 months)
Personal experience
Scheduling
  • I started my DS 160 towards the end of October.
  • Took an appointment towards the end of January since that was the only available date at that time
  • Asked for an expedited visa, please refer to the picture below. Phrase it as to why should they expedite your visa
Appointment
  • My interview was scheduled for 8 am, reached there around 720am, given was super anxious and thought why not go and get the lay of the land prior to the interview. However, the elevator was not working and they were delayed. At around 815 the started letting people in beginning with 715 730 and so forth. I finally entered approx 9ish (did not have a watch/phone so not sure of the exact time).
  • Once the prelim guard clears you, you enter inside, go to the left and climb 1 floor and then go through security (TSA style)
  • From here go to Window 1- Someone checks your documents and photographs. [If you are renewing please take the passport that had the last stamped visa]. Also, my photograph was not reading for some weird reason, so I took another snap there (C$10 for 6). Frankly, the new one looked weirder than my previous one but I did not argue and they let me continue. Also, as I mentioned earlier, my chosen consulate was Toronto but I got Vancouver in the end. So they had to transfer the same to Vancouver (took about ~15-20 mins for that- I am not sure given no watch)
  • From there you are sent to window 2- This is where they 10 print (take your fingerprints). Left 4 followed by right 4 followed by thumbprints and they give you a number here
  • From here you are then taken to the 20th floor (around 5-6 ppl at a time)
  • One is made to stand in line again and then wait for a VO to open up.
Questions asked
  • Where are you working?
  • What are you working as?
  • Where did you graduate from?
  • Can you show me your previous passport which had the H1B stamp?
  • Here are your rights, the visa is approved.
  • Collect in 3-5 business days. Gave a green sheet with instructions.
A couple of visas were rejected prior to me for not having enough ties/not proper visa class. I did not pay attention to more details.
Best of luck.

Please Note
  • You can take your cell phone for the Vancouver embassy. I did not take mine, as I was staying close by. (Airbnb)
  • The consulate is close to a Starbucks and it is in a side location, easy to miss. Use google maps and key in the address. Also, there will be a huge crowd of people looking clueless which should tip you in the right direction.
  • One can request for an expedited appointment ONLY once you have scheduled an appt. I was lucky in the sense my request got approved though in another consulate (Vancouver)
  • The VO will take your 797 and you will get it when you collect your passport.
  • The picture that explains couple of the above stuff is this

Post interview
- For some weird reason when I click on my check DS 160 state after the interview the page keeps crashing. But when you open the same in internet explorer does not crash as often.

Few websites that I found helpful

Friday, December 21, 2018

Pediatric board preparation

Senior recommendations and advice
The predicted breakup for the board questions:
  • Between 60-70% MCQs are from concepts asked in the previous years 
  • Between 20-25% MCQs are questions asking a more difficult concept but from the same topics from previous years
  • About 5-20% of the questions are newer topics/very difficult or impossible questions
Therefore, its almost impossible to pass without doing the previous years questions!!

Application procedure
  • Opens in January or somewhere over there and it is administered over 3 day period in mid-October
  • Prior to sitting and writing it you will NEED a PERMANENT license to take the boards. My sincere advice is to start applying for it early. However, it also depends on where you are practicing/doing the fellowship. Since some states like MA, do not allow a permanent license for IMG's unless you have completed a residency (3 years of training in the States)
  • Do note- You can register for exam w/o license but need proof of it prior to writing the boards
  • Once registered for the exam they will send you an email maybe 2-3 weeks later telling you can schedule your exam. I took my test on Day 2. 
Documents needed for above
By early July
  • Copy of your medical school diploma + English translation, if necessary
  • Copy of ECFMG Certificate or documentation of successful completion of the MCCEE or Fifth Pathway/FMGEMS
By October 1st of the year you are writing
  • Copy of your valid (current), unrestricted medical license 
  • The copy of the lice must include the expiration date and must be issued before October 1st 
  • Please note that temporary or training licenses are NOT acceptable 
The exam itself
  • Approximately 335 questions divided across 4 sections, with each section having roughly equivalent content, difficulty, and length
  • 4 sections, 84 questions per section, 1 hour 45 minutes/section
  • Most of us finished at least 2 sections with about a half 20-30 min to spare
  • 3 Breaks: OPTIONAL
  • 15 min, 60 min, 15 min
  • Passing score: weighted score of 180, ~75% questions correct.
  • Each exam is different, and some exams are “harder” than others, but are weighted accordingly to give you a scaled score from 0-300

Things that I used for the preparation are as follows

My first year ITE was pretty good. I attribute that to my Step 3 knowledge. However, my 2nd year ITE was not great. Started reading from the Medstudy books system wise and doing questions, system-wise (the video shows how to do it). I even bought the medstudy flash cards. My 3rd year ITE was good and I just kept at what I was doing till then. Towards the end of 3rd year, kept glancing through 'Laughing your way through the Boards'. Recommended by my seniors and attending. Loved it

PediaLink
The following video has tips that I used for studying.

Medstudy
The following video has tips that I used for studying from Medstudy


OneNote

Best of luck.

P.s.- I passed the boards! Yay. I am now a Board Certified Pediatrician.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Applying for Canadian Visa from the US

Decided to write on this given felt that it was one of the most confusing visa's I have applied for.

The following website is a good place to read up on the prelim stuff.
https://www.desi-compile.com/applying-canadian-visitor-visa-step-step-guide/
I, unfortunately, had issues with my browser (Chrome- given it was translating pages and kept redirecting me a million times)

Online application
  1. Go to the following page and determine your need for the visa/travel https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/come-canada-tool.html
  2. Once done, they will give you a reference code and a document checklist to keep handy and will help you to fill the visa document.  I had the misfortune where my browser kept giving me the following error  
  3. ERROR Message that I kept getting
  4. Realized after surfing a million pages and after installing adobe a number of times that it was just a glitch on the system and once you download the PDF (IMM5257E)  it will be sorted out. This means you will get a fillable application.
  5. Once you are done downloading the application and filled it in create a MyCIC login via this link
  6. Most likely you will have to register for a GCkey (if you have never applied for a visa prior to this)
  7. Once logged in choose ‘Visitor visa, study and/or work permit’ service to continue. You will be asked to enter the personal reference code you received in the step above. (P.s.- I kept getting redirected at this point- I finally used internet explorer and then things went smoothly thereafter)
  8. Follow instructions thereafter and it should be smooth sailing. You will have to upload documents (travel history and family history etc), pay stubs, employer letter and what not. At the end of this, you will pay for the application and then finally submit it.
  9. You will then receive an email stating that they have got your application.
  10. Within next 1-2 business weeks (please check processing times online- it depends on the place where you have applied from), you will receive an email from CIC asking you to submit your passport to VAC (Visa Application Center). This indicates that your application was approved and now CIC needs your passport to stamp the visa. (This step is the most confusing part of the process as the email from CIC is not descriptive enough and causes confusion among applicants).
Sending the passport

  1. Follow the link in the letter sent by CIC above- https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/application/account/where-submit-passport.html
  2. Find the center based on geographic location. In the USA it is either LA or New York.
  3. Find the VAC website which should be mentioned below the options available.
This is the most confusing part of the application.
  1. You will have to submit the following in the mail (by UPS)
    1. Cashiers check/Money order- Get it from nearby local businesses which might charge 1 dollar to do the same. A bank may charge you 7 dollars which is half the cost of the money you are sending. ($19.90). The fees are listed here. I guess when I submitted my application this place just opened up and hence there was no UPS return fee available, which I expect will change with time.
    2. Letter from the embassy
    3. TTS services consent form
    4. Passport
    5. Return shipping label by UPS (go to the nearest UPS store who will help you out with this)
Got my passport back in 2-3 weeks (again no updates from the VAC center regarding the reciept of my passport or no. Thankfully I had UPS on my side and I knew they had definitely received it but still it was nerve wracking waiting for an answer)

Hopefully, this helps a bit. Best of luck!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Indian passport renewal in the USA

Most residency and fellowship programs give only 1-2 weeks of vacation at a time. This makes it difficult to renew one's passport back home in India. Hence, it is easier to do the renewal in the States while you are working and don't really have a pressing need for the same.

I would recommend/it is recommended to renew your passport in the States at least 1-2 months prior to the expiration of your current passport. Generally would be recommended to do at 2- 3 months prior to future travel plans and the visa renewal, but would talk to the attorney processing your legal paperwork (like H1B or J1 renewals)

To be frank, the renewal process is pretty straightforward. Go to this website and follow instructions as is https://passport.in.ckgs.us/howtoapply. But just in case, I found a really helpful link to someone's personal experience on renewing their own passport. https://www.am22tech.com/renew-indian-passport-usa/

My personal timeline with the renewal process
  • Sept 18th- Submitted my passport application
  • Sept 19th- Under process with the consulate 
  • October 3rd- Returned from the consulate
  • October 4th- Shipped back to me
  • October 5th- Received my new passport

A couple of tips 
  • There is generally a notary at the place where you work who will notarize your documents for free
  • Passport size photos are 2*2 in the States. The cheapest spot I found was in Costco, but people have used Walgreens Walmart CVS etc. They are pricey just FYI
  • Renewals can be done on the basis of a petition. One does not need an approval to apply for the passport