Indians on work visas upset about selective Covid travel ban

Many Indians on H-1B, L-1 and spouses with dependent visa stuck in India.

Fremont, California,-based Anu Sharma, who is on H-4 visa, visited India two months ago just as Covid situation had started getting better both in India and in the US.

But beginning this month, as the Covid began resurfacing in India, she started panicking. She tells the American Bazaar over the phone, “I was planning to travel back in mid-May. But just as a second wave of Covid hit India, like a blitzkrieg and UK put travel restrictions on travelers from India, I knew what to expect.

“While, I understand the need to protect their citizens from the pandemic, I was aghast to know that the travel restriction was only for certain category of visa holders.

“The virus surely does not differentiate and can travel with someone who is a green card holder. We feel we are once again been penalized because we are in this long line for green card.”

READ: US restricts travel from India; H-1B, L1 holders most affected (April 30, 2021)

Sharma is not alone in feeling upset. Vivek, (who did not want his last name disclosed) also a California resident, says, “My wife is on H-4 and is expecting next month. I had to visit India recently to check upon some relatives on an urgent basis.”

“This travel restriction means that I wouldn’t be allowed to fly back, but my situation is dire as my pregnant wife would not be able to manage alone. I am busy finding out if there is any provision for cases like mine to travel back to the US.”

As soon as President Biden issued a proclamation restricting travel from India to the US beginning May 4, there was a rush of anxiety among many Indian planning to travel to and from India.

The new proclamation extends for an indefinite period but does make a few exemptions for certain categories of students, academicians, journalists and other individuals.

According to the US State Department, US nationals, those having green cards, their non-citizen spouses and children below 21 years of age, are among the various categories exempted from the restrictions.

While Indians working in America have generally welcomed the travel ban considering the widespread pandemic in India, it is the selective restriction that has upset many.

READ: Indian Americans concerned about travel to Covid hit India (April 26, 2021)

Seattle-based Anushka Shah, also on H-4 visa had put on hold her sister’s plan to travel to the US from India this summer.

She says, “It felt like a responsible thing to do. My sister would have travelled on a B-1/B-2 visa, but the latest tsunami of Covid in India has upset all our plans.

“However, the logic that some on permanent visas can still travel does not quite make sense as the threat from the virus remains equal for all travelers.”

Oregon-based immigration attorney, Brent Renison agrees that selective travel bans fail to fulfill the purpose they are essentially implemented for.

READ: US asks Americans to leave India amid Covid surge (April 29, 2021)

He says, “Its time that the POTUS stops this travel ban madness. Travel bans do not work, unless they are complete.” He also explains that just targeting work visa holders makes no sense if Americans are traveling.

California-based immigration consultant Netra Chavan, who has been getting many harried calls from families stranded in India due to the travel restrictions, says, “American rescue plan for India does not just mean distribution of funds, it should also mean giving a helping hand to all.”

“With such restrictions White House is altering the destiny of people overnight. Especially with natural disasters around us, we need some empathy.”

Asked if the travel ban has impacted a certain category of visa holders more, Chavan says, “Many visa holders are having anxiety attacks. Those who are in the green card backlog, frequently find themselves in a Catch-22 situation.

“Now while they are looking at a possible family separation as some of them had traveled due to emergencies, it’s ironic that their green card holder counterparts are still allowed to travel back and be with their respective families.”

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