WASHINGTON: Many Indians, mostly on H-1B visa, have said that they feel being left out as their US-born children are ineligible to travel to India due to the restrictions put in place by the Indian government in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Vande Bharat mission, launched last month, is the Indian government’s largest-ever exercise to repatriate its nationals stranded abroad due to the coronavirus lockdown. Over 1.07 lakh people have so far returned to the country under the programme.
Anguraj Kailasam, who is now out of status in the US as her work visa has expired, requested the Indian government to allow minors of Indians with visas to travel in the Vande Bharat mission as well.
The US laws expect her to leave the country as soon as possible, but the current Indian law would not allow her with her US-born daughter.
“She (daughter) has an entry and emergency visa, but due to the current travel visa restrictions, we cannot go back to India since all visas are suspended by the government of India,” Anguraj said.
“The Indian consulate considered my request for an emergency visa and they approved it last week, but even with that I cannot travel unless visa restrictions are relaxed for categories like emergency/entry visa,” she said.
Gopinath Nagarajan said that his mother is in coma in India.
“Doctor said that it’s better I have to be there immediately as her life is at very risk and she is breathing her last days,” he told PTI.
“I am planning to visit India as soon as possible, but I have a US born infant of four months (Prakruthi Gopinath). Myself and my wife are Indian passport holders,” he said.
Jincy Mathew said “we are in a situation that we cannot be a part of repatriation flights as my baby (six months old) doesn’t have an Indian visa or Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card. We have a valid reason to fly back to India but we cannot because our minor baby cannot be left alone in the US”.
The student visa of Jincy is to expire soon.
“I have registered with the Indian mission San Francisco and tried to apply for an emergency visa for my baby but the mission in San Francisco is not accepting any applications. We are really stranded here with no food and money.
“My husband lost his job around March second week. A charity is helping us for food, diapers among others… Please help us to get an emergency visa for my baby and please help for repatriation,” Jincy said.
Rose Merin Pathrose, who was working in Chicago on an H-1B visa, vacated her apartment, sold her car and furniture and packed her suitcases to move back to India with her three-year-old son, for whom she said was able to get an Indian tourist visa.
“I was never able to apply for his OCI since my visa was expiring soon and having six months validity on the parents visa was one of the requirements to apply for OCI,” she said.
There are many people with similar situations who would be running out of money to survive unless they reach India and resume work, Pathrose said.
“I am not having medical insurance either for me or my son, you can imagine how risky it is to stay here with this situation,” she said.
“I am in an emergency situation,” said Sayooj Valsan from San Francisco.
Laid off from job on H-1B visa, Valsan was planning to move back to India in April but with a month-old baby girl, an American citizen by birth, he is not able to travel back as his daughter could not get an OCI card in time.
“We are bleeding emotionally and financially here, and with my family it’s getting very difficult to continue being here. Can someone help us?” he asked.
The US work visa (L1B) of Georgy Sebastian expired on March 7 and his renewal petition was rejected on April 22.
“As a result, I was put on suspension pending a move back to my company’s Indian subsidiary. I would not be getting salary, medical benefits among others while I am here in the US. If anyone in my family falls sick, with the expenses here, all our savings would be wiped off in one day,” he said.
Sebastian has a nine-month-old daughter who is a US passport holder with valid Indian entry (X1) visa.
“The only way to return to India for us with our infant daughter is if we have an OCI card based on the current GOI guidelines. However, we cannot apply for an OCI card because we are already out of status in the US. Even otherwise, OCI applications take at least 60 days in San Francisco.
“My employer is fully supportive and wants to get me back to India however possible. However, even their hands are tied because of the stance of the Government of India and the US laws,” Sebastian said.
Sandip Barui and his wife are both Indian citizens and their baby is a US born child with an emergency entry visa to India.
“We are moving to India permanently as I have to join a job in India by July. My wife’s visa status will expire in a few days.
“I am aware there are repatriation flights and I have registered with the embassy as well. But, since my child is not an Indian citizen or OCI card holder, we won’t be able to travel even if we are chosen by the embassy for repatriation,” Barui said.
Victoria Michael, a Malaysia citizen, married to an Indian citizen last year and is now 30 weeks pregnant.
“I would like to return to my husband in Punjab as I am unemployed and have no family or friends in Malaysia to look after me during my pregnancy and my baby after delivery. However, I am not eligible for an OCI card as I am married for less than two years,” she said in an email from Malaysia.
“I really hope to get a visa to travel to India before my due date (mid-July), otherwise my child will end up in an orphanage as I am not financially stable to take care of the baby on my own,” Michael said, adding that she sent many emails to the Indian mission but to no avail.