Lengthy waiting periods for return visa deterring Indian-Americans working in the US to visit families back home.
The pandemic has affected people’s lives in so many ways, causing unprecedented obstacles, undue stress and hardship. But with a record number of vaccinations over the last few months and fewer Covid-19 cases reported, winning the war over the Delta variant was looking like a distinct possibility, and the end of 2021 was promising to bring some cheer at last. But whoever it was that said, it is better to live without expectations to avoid disappointments, was not off the mark by much. Instead of cheer and hope, the world has once again been thrown into deep turmoil over the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
As it turned out, many Indians on US work visa, who went to meet their families this year, have now been stranded in India for months with no clear understanding or assurance of when they can go back to the US. In addition, thousands more are afraid to make the visit to their homeland, worried about the uncertainty of the returning process.
Here is an account of one such unfortunate young man, Rahul Fernandes, facing this unwished-for dilemma:
“I live in the US on a work visa. I’m among thousands of Indians unable to see their families because US consulates in India haven’t fully functioned through the pandemic. If I leave the US to see my parents, I won’t be able to return unless I get a consular appointment.
I’m on a Telegram group with 60,169 strangers who are trying to find an appointment. Discussions have revolved around how people get blocked from the website for three days if they try logging in more than four times a day.
There are other online groups where people discuss the pain of staying away from loved ones. Some are worried about employment; others fear children missing school. For me, my 80-year-old father’s health is a constant worry. None of these qualify for emergency appointments.
Last week, families in America got together for Thanksgiving. Over the next month, more people will come together. During this time, I predict the Telegram group will get larger, busier and grow more frustrated with no end in sight – not in the next many months, possibly years.
I’m sharing this because I believe this issue has not received the attention it deserves. Those of us who work in Silicon Valley building products and services that have helped the world through this pandemic deserve to see our families.
And while I have your attention, I’d love for someone to explain why the US, while renewing visas for people to live and work here, requires one to fly to another country to get the visas stamped. This made little sense to me before the pandemic. Today, it feels sadistic.
As it turns out, the two years of the pandemic spanned two American governments. But, for Indians, it seems it doesn’t matter who rules America.”
Some replies to this tweet also speak of sheer heartbreak being faced by families.
Rahul has tried his best to highlight this issue through Twitter, hoping to find some assistance for the thousands who have been caught in this visa rigmarole as consulates grapple with a backlog of thousands of applications. However, with uncertainty looming over-travel in the coming days, one wonders when the fight with this virus will ever end. In the meantime, people continue to suffer, lose their jobs, school years, friends and family members, and nobody is sure how to stop it.