H-4 spouses may get travel waiver on grounds of family separation

Spouses not covered by exemptions to Covid travel ban from India, but some have managed to get waivers.

Even though H-4 spousal visa is not listed among the exceptions to  President Joe Biden’s April 30 Covid travel ban from India, a few have  managed to get waivers on grounds of family separation.

Besides citizens, green card holders and students, the State Department has listed 16 critical infrastructure sectors eligible for NIE or National Interest Exception, for traveling to the US.

Earlier this week, Ati George from California informed the American Bazaar that an H-4 visa holder friend of hers who was in India since March was able to secure an NIE within three days of her request citing family separation.

Read: To beat travel ban, Detroit man flies home via Turkey (May 31, 2021)

A few IT professionals from India were able to return with NIE waiver as information technology is listed as one of the areas eligible to file for an NIE.

But there was skepticism if H-4 visa holders, who are dependent spouses of H-1B work visa holders in the US would qualify for NIE. However, there is still no definite timeline on how and when one may secure an NIE.

Vijaya B. who has applied to US consulate in Chennai for NIE citing family separation, has been waiting for 13 days without any news about whether her request would be approved or not.

Some visa holders desperate to return to their homes, kids and jobs are also booking their tickets through a third country with Mexico being the most popular choice.

Read: Can NIE help you fly from India beating Covid travel ban? (June 9, 2021)

Another H-4 visa holder who did not wish to be identified shares, “My husband and kids were in the US while I was stuck in India. I applied for NIE, but hearing nothing for over a week, I decided to travel via Mexico but en route my transit my permission for exemption came through, leaving me stumped.”

Immigration consultants note the presidential proclamation is not only causing family grief with unwanted separation, but is stressful for visa holders.

California based immigration consultant, Netra Chavan who is flooded with urgent messages from people looking for ways to get back home noted Biden’s Proclamation 10199 suspended non-immigrant travel to the US by those present in India within the previous 14 days.

Read: Because of the India travel ban, I am separated from my 9-year-old (May 15, 2021)

“While the US Department of State continues to grant NIE for qualified travelers, the main concern remains about those seeking re-entry on grounds of family separation and jobs that may not be eligible for the NIE,” she says.

“In such circumstances, these legal immigrants or non-immigrants are stranded away from their own life,” Chavan says. “It is a humanitarian crisis. No one should be seeking permission to meet and unite with their children when they have a valid visa.”

“This unpredictable scenario has led to many opting to stay back in the US even in case of dire emergencies. I have known people who had to miss funerals of their parents and living with the guilt put them through early onset of stress.”

Chavan “would like to request the Biden administration to revisit the decision and help reduce this unwanted stress for all.”

Read: Travel ban keeps Indian American away from husband’s funeral in US (May 11, 2021)

Read: Indian Americans help families hit by India travel ban (May 6, 2021)

Read: Indians on work visas upset about selective Covid travel ban (May 4, 2021)

Read: Students, academics exempt from US travel ban from India (May 3, 2021)

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