Covid-19 travel ban unintentionally causes Indian Americans to get stuck in India

Gauraf Chauhan, who lives in Georgia, decided to travel to take care of him immediately when he heard that his father was hospitalized in Covid-19 in India. But Chauhan was unaware that he was in the middle of a bureaucratic loophole in doing so. Many Indian-born visa holders are struggling to get permission to return to their home or career in the United States and are trying to navigate.

Chauhan’s father was discharged from the intensive care unit seven days later, but “he’s still too weak to do basic work and needs help,” Chauhan emailed an NBC Asian American. It was.

While working to help his father recover, Chauhan is trying to find a way to return to his wife and young children in Atlanta. Like all H-1B visa holders, Chauhan requires U.S. consulate officials to stamp the visa directly and return home, but due to coronavirus-related closures, all Indian consulates have been closed. , Reservations cannot be made.

The White House announced in April Restrict most trips from India to the United States Beginning May 4, US citizens, permanent residents, and spouses, siblings, or parent visa holders of US citizens are exempt. For this reason, Chauhan (both children were born in the United States) is not subject to travel bans.

However, the current closures at the US Embassy in India and consulates across India mean that he and many other US-based Indians are effectively barred from re-entry into the country. I will. Many visa holders are afraid that their careers and immigration status will be compromised, as there is currently no fixed time for the consulate to reopen.

For Chauhan and his wife, the most difficult part about his uncertain visa status was to explain the situation to children aged 3 and 7.

“My 3-year-old kid doesn’t understand and keeps looking out of the car and asks where he is and why he doesn’t come,” he said. “This breaks my heart.”

He recently tweeted a video of a young child and tagged several lawmakers and the press to draw attention to the impact of unprocessed coronavirus-related visas on American families.

Chowhan and his family are not the only visa holders affected by the current embassy closure. Claire Pratt, an immigration lawyer for Jewel Stewart & Pratt in San Francisco, is working with several clients navigating the effects of India’s travel ban and some consular outages.

“Some clients had to postpone their wedding because they didn’t know if they could return home,” Pratt said, and other clients are afraid that they won’t be able to get an entry visa for their new spouse in the United States. Added. While the operation of the consulate is on hold. “Some clients need to come back to meet their sick family, but they couldn’t go because they knew they wouldn’t come back. This definitely has real consequences.”

Nehama Ha Giang and her husband Ash, who first came to the United States on an H-1B visa in 2008, are also considering their options for the lack of visa certification for Ash Maha Giang. He flew to New Delhi in mid-April when his father was informed by Covid-19 that he had a serious illness.

“Doctors literally called us and said,’If you want to see him, it’s time to come,'” said Neha Mahajan, co-founder of a skilled immigration group in the United States. It was. “Imagine our plight. What if a doctor calls you? You drop everything you have and you just hurry.”

Ash Mahajan’s father died in Covid-19 shortly after arriving on April 17. Since then, like Chauhan and others, he has been unable to appoint the consulate to be stamped with a visa. Neha Mahajan was staying at his home in New Jersey with children aged 9 and 15, so he contacted elected officials and others to evaluate their options.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told NBC Asian Americans in a statement that all regular visa reservations at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and the consulates of Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai will continue to be suspended. ..

“The US mission in India continues to do important work to support US-India relations and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some services are limited,” the statement said. “Mission India Post will make every effort to continue to respect approved emergency visa reservations.”

Neha Mahajan, left, husband Ash and his children.  (Courtesy of Neha Mahajan)

Neha Mahajan, left, husband Ash and his children. (Courtesy of Neha Mahajan)

Neha Mahajan personally disagrees with tourists banning travel from India, but there should be a way for visa holders with work and roots in the United States, especially those exempt from travel restrictions, to return to the country. Because they are the parents of the citizens.

“It’s not time to travel for leisure,” Neha Mahajan said. “But people like us have been working and living in the United States for over a decade. So that we can come back soon to take care of the dying people. Deserves to be. “

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