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Stranded NRIs want US embassies to be included in essential services category

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.

May 29, 2020 / 02:44 PM IST

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.

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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
Swathi Moorthy
first published: May 28, 2020 10:21 pm

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