Requesting urgent consideration on resuming visa appointments at US consulates in India and allowing non-immigrant visa holders to travel home to the US.
An Indian national with an approved and valid petition for a non-immigrant visa would need to get the non-immigrant visa stamped in their home country in order to be able to enter the US. In non-COVID times, this would mean giving an in-person interview at their closest US Consulate where they present their case with paperwork and answer the consular officer’s questions. However, during COVID, with the consulates being closed and the recent travel ban in place, people who need a stamp to enter the country are stuck in India until the consulates open for regular appointments.
And for those with an approved petition who are in the US, but do not have a valid stamp yet, traveling outside the US right now means they will also get stuck in their home country. This is causing significant discomfort for Indian nationals in the US who have families back home and cannot visit them even in emergency circumstances e.g. losing a family member due to COVID.
With the current pandemic situation in India, hundreds of non-immigrant (H1B/H4/L1/L2/OPT) visa holders with an approved and valid petition are stuck in India due to the sudden closure of non-immigration visa services and/or the recent travel ban. Many of us travelled to India for family emergencies in light of the pandemic, some to say their final goodbyes to parents, grandparents, and loved ones. Our visa appointments got cancelled without reasonable notice, some even on the day of the appointment with no support or option of rescheduling the same. We are now stuck in India indefinitely, separated from our spouses, children, families and organizations.
This is causing serious implications on our livelihoods & mental health:
- Severe financial impact which is affecting our families as well
- The absence of a timeline on how and when visa services and travel options will resume, is causing mental stress on top of the existing trauma because of the pandemic
- Lack of information on the steps being taken by the US government to repatriate the people stranded in India, whose lives, work and assets in the US are hanging in the balance
- Not all companies & institutions are offering remote work or study options for extended periods of time outside the US, which will result in career/job losses for the impacted
- Our leases, mortgages, investments, etc. in the US are in limbo and left unattended, leading to further financial stress considering the possibility of a career loss too.
1. US consulates to consider deploying contingency non-immigrant visa services for work-visa holders, and their dependents to review and accommodate the massive application backlog. Provisions such as mail-in processing of non-immigrant visas and/or virtual interview appointments may be a way to expedite this process.
2. Allow a conditional travel ban exemption for non-immigrant (H1B/H4/L1/L2/OPT) visa holders with an approved and valid petition from USCIS, with mandatory provisions of a negative RT-PCR test, 14-day quarantine and vaccination proof etc. that have already been extended to international students, Green Card holders, and US Citizens traveling from India at present.
We are hopeful that the Government of the United States of America and the US Congress, will with required precautions, consider allowing us to return home, and continue contributing to the nation. We look forward to working in an amicable & expeditious manner with the American administration to find a way out for us aggrieved US residents.