VisitorsCoverage’s Indian American CEO Rajeev Shrivastava tells how to stay safe and connected.
The coronavirus pandemic has caught thousands of Indians visiting America to see their children, meet friends, do business or just some sightseeing by surprise leaving them stranded thousands of miles from home.
With all flights cancelled, children of elderly parents are at a loss to understand how to keep them in good cheer in a country that has emerged as the epicenter of the deadly disease. Then there are additional worries about expiring visas and health insurance coverage besides beating boredom without any friends or social life.
In an interview with the American Bazaar, Rajeev Shrivastava, Indian American CEO and founder of VisitorsCoverage, a San Francisco-based online provider of visitors and travel insurance, offers tips on how to stay safe, healthy and connected during the pandemic through the platform VisitorsConnect.
American Bazaar: You launched a very important and often overlooked initiative in the past with VisitorsConnect. In the current crisis, more than ever people especially elderly who are on a visit visa to the US are anxious to find people in similar situations. What is your update from VisitorsConnect. Are you seeing an increase in queries?
Rajeev Shrivastava: In its current form, VisitorsConnect is a social media platform serving a limited audience. Though we did not see any noticeable traffic increase, we do realize that this tool should be improved and promoted to use its full potential to serve a bigger purpose of connecting people in this time of need. We plan to take it to the next level in the near future, stay tuned.
AB: Keeping in mind the current scenario where most on visit visas are looking to extend their visas do you have any guidelines or help to guide the folks in the situation?
RS: We all know that this unfortunate pandemic came unexpectedly and has hit hard on travelers away from their home. Due to the lockdown and the fact that most international flights are grounded, there is no option for foreign travelers other than to stay back in the US until travel resumes.
Since foreign travelers who are on a temporary Visa are required to leave the country as per the entry permit document called I-94, travelers whose I-94 is about to expire are recommended to file for an extension. This is a much bigger topic with a large volume of information that is important for users to know.
We have put together a step-by-step comprehensive guide on how to extend your US visitors visa on the website.
AB: One of the biggest worries most Indian Americans have while inviting their parents is one of medical insurance. Can you give a detailed brief on the insurance tips to keep in mind?
RS: We all know that the cost of healthcare and related services in the US are the highest in the world. In the event of any medical emergency, the costs are not just financially devastating but can be extremely stressful and may include legal liabilities.
I cannot emphasize enough how critical it is to remind anyone visiting the US that they must get a suitable comprehensive travel medical insurance policy that covers medical and related travel and emergency situations.
Most travel insurance can be purchased online at an affordable cost through a quick enrollment. Here are important tips to know about travel medical insurance:
- Make sure that you buy from a reputed and licensed company.
- Insurance terminologies and benefits are complex to understand, only a qualified and licensed travel insurance consultant should be trusted. Do not just rely on the internet, social media or a blogger’s website.
- Not all insurance policies are the same, each person may have a unique situation and need. Do not buy a particular insurance policy just because your friend bought it for his/her visiting parents. Do your own research and talk to a qualified travel insurance expert or visit a reputed insurance website.
- Read all of the documents related to a plan before purchasing. This will help you to gain insights on the exact benefits and help you make a well-informed decision before choosing a plan.
- Purchase the travel insurance policy before the traveler departs from their home country. This will ensure that the traveler will be covered the moment they leave their home country, including any layovers.
- Most standard travel insurance policies will not cover refills on prescriptions. Make sure the traveler has enough medication to last the duration of their trip.
- Save all receipts, reports and other relevant insurance documents for when you file claims.
AB: In light of the situation we are in right now, how do insurance and travel plans get affected? Do you have any advice for those who are in the US currently on visit visas?
RS: Yes, no one knows the answer of when it would be safe to travel. Even when it reopens there will likely be a fear of travel, especially for visitors who remain in the US and face long overseas journeys to return home.
For those who are currently in the US on a visitor’s visa and have an active travel insurance policy, we suggest you review your policy certificate or reach out to your insurance provider to find out how their plans will cover covid-19. Because we do not know how long the insured could possibly be in the US, it is wise to continue to renew their insurance policy until they are able to return to their home country.
For anyone who does not have travel insurance, it is not too late and they can still buy an insurance policy that can cover their current stay and the travel back to their home country, providing them peace of mind. Again, do consult a licensed travel insurance expert to assist you in picking the right kind of plan.
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