Close to 1,000 NRIs have written a petition seeking inclusion of US embassies in the essential services category in India."The US Embassy and consulates are essential services that grant us a valid visa to board our flights to the US. We further request you to…establish alternatives to in-person services to enable issuance of visas to eligible stranded individuals who have homes, families and jobs in the US today,"
the petition read.
US embassies in India stopped routine visa processing from March 16 due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown has ensured that resumption of office work remains on hold.
Netra Chavan, who runs one of the largest Facebook groups representing H-1B and H4 visa holders, said there is no clarity either from Indian or the US embassy on resumption of operations.
"We have been informed by US embassies that they are closed since India is under lockdown and when we reach out to Indian Embassies, they say that it was USA's decisions to keep the embassies closed. This is another big confusion to many stranded in India today waiting for visas, as no authority is ready to communicate with each other and show leadership/ empathy towards these NRIs/US aliens/Indian stranded community today," said Chavan.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Most of the petitioners travelled to India on an emergency basis. With no communication, they are now unable to decide future course of action as they face multiple challenges including job losses, expecting wives and children who need vaccinations. There is also anxiety about the review of executive order targeting guest worker visas such as H-1B.
The 30-day review of guest worker visas such as H-1B ended recently. Further orders related to guest work visa that focuses on H-1B is expected any time. For many, this would mean that they might lose their jobs and worst will be unable to return to families.
Among them, Pranav K* finds himself in a tough spot. Pranav works for an Indian tech firm in the US and came to India to complete his father’s final rites in March first week.
"I came at a time when my H-1B visa was about expire. So I had to file for my extension. But appointment was cancelled because the offices were shut," Pranav said.
But he is desperate to return as his spouse, who is expecting and 4-year-old son, are in US. "I am just hoping I will get my visa and be with them soon," he said.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here