H-4 holder recounts her horror as officials investigated her approved NIE.
With President Joe Biden’s April 30 proclamation restricting travel from India due to Covid-19, many Indians have wondered how to return to their homes, jobs and in many cases families in the US.
Off late, a lot of Indians with valid US visas who are stuck in India, are considering applying for NIE or National Interest Exception to beat the travel ban.
While many in recent times have reported success in obtaining an NIE or a waiver to return to the US, it hasn’t been an easy passage for everyone.
A Phoenix, Arizona based Indian couple shared with the American Bazaar their recent ordeal while returning to the US with an NIE.
Karan K (name changed on request) is an H-1B holder who works in the IT industry. His wife is on a dependent or H-4 visa. She traveled to India in February to meet her family.
“Since the Covid situation both in the US and India was getting better, she traveled to spend some time with her family,” he says.
“However, things took a sharp turn towards March-April in India and she found herself stuck there,” Karan said. “Her ticket was scheduled for June and when a few people suggested applying for NIE we took that chance.”
“We were lucky to get an approval within two days and she set off to travel. Her journey was smooth from Delhi to San Francisco. All her papers were checked at Delhi airport but once she reached the immigration desk at SFO airport, the official looked puzzled.”
“She furnished the email document she had received from the US consulate showing an approved NIE. She was later asked to stay back in a room, where a few other officials investigated her case.
“During this time, my wife was messaging me about what had been going on. But when an official spotted her messaging, she was asked to submit her phone,” Karan said.
“For the next three hours, I had no contact with my wife and had no idea what was going on. Worried, I began dialing the Indian missions in SFO and Washington DC and US consulate in Mumbai but none of the offices answered the calls.
“I even tried an SOS number listed for SFO consulate but no one picked that phone too. I want to stress that in situations such as these it becomes very stressful as we have no idea whom to contact.
“I began writing to some immigration forums and they were the only ones who responded to my queries,” he said. “A little later, my wife was informed that the officials could not find her name in the approved list of NIE shared with them by the US consulate in Mumbai.”
“And since the NIE document is just an email shared by the authorities with no official seal, the officials got suspicious if it was a fake document.
“We are assuming that since the day before my wife traveled, it was a long weekend in the US, the consulate in Mumbai got delayed in sending my wife’s confirmation,” Karan said.
“My wife broke down during this entire process, as we had no clue if she would be allowed to enter the US. Our ordeal ended only after a senior official intervened and the authorities realized that there was a lack of communication at their end.
“They apologized and asked her to continue her travel. By then she had missed her connecting flight from SFO to Phoenix.
“The US authorities re-booked her on the next flight and owned up to their mistakes, but it is incidents like these that make us realize that immigration process needs better streamlining in the US.”