F-1 visa delays hurt many meritorious Indian students

New Jersey family waiting for their son’s F-1 visa for nearly a year to stay in the US.

New Jersey based Manali K came to the US back in 2008 on an H-4 visa. The family of three applied for green cards back in 2012 on her husband’s H-1B visa.

But just before the family’s American dream could come true, it was in for a rude shock.

Their only son, a third year undergraduate student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who has been getting straight A’s throughout his academic life, turned 21 in June to age out of his H-4 status.

Since the family was still in line for a green card, their son had to apply for a change of status to F-1 or international student visa to remain in the US.

Manali tells the American Bazaar, “Having lived in the US for so many years, we knew that if we do not get a green card our son would lose his H-4 status at 21. “

“In preparation for what lay ahead of us, we duly applied for an F-1 visa for our son months before his H-4 status ended. In fact we applied for it as early as in Sept. 2020. However, in June, he turned 21 and we are yet to receive any answer on his F-1 application,” she said.

READ MORE: Biden rolls back Trump’s fixed time visa for students, foreign media (July 9, 2021)

Not having a valid H-4 status means that students can no longer avail of any in-state tuition fee and have to pay international fee, which creates a financial strain on families.

But the problems do not end there, says Manali. “Currently in Covid-19 era, the travel restrictions are further creating confusion. We had earlier planned that once the visas are approved we will travel to India for stamping but currently if we were to fly to India on our visas we can’t even come back.”

“My son is a meritorious student, he has always excelled in academics. Today because of his visa status he cannot take up any jobs like his friends.”

“While he is keeping himself positive, it is heartbreaking to see that his possibilities are short-circuited, when he could have done so much more,” she says.

Asked if the family has been sending reminders or expedited processing requests to the USCIS, she says, “We have done everything possible. We have sent so many expedite requests, but every time we get the response that they are processing the application.”

“Meanwhile, we have spent so much money on lawyer consultations. Even the lawyers are clueless on how to navigate the situation as our son awaits his F-1 for so long.”

“Recently we were told to apply for a B-2 visa to use a bridge application. We have done that too. We filed a B-2 application and have already given the biometrics for B-2 as we still await to hear the news on our F1 application,” Manali says.

“We have spent thousands of dollars on lawyer consultations. Sometimes, a single telephonic consultation for a few minutes costs $100. With international student fee and mortgages, we are feeling the pinch.”

With USCIS delaying so many application approvals several Indian families are feeling the heat amid a strong sentiment that the delays are not justified.

ALSO READ:

Months-long OPT work permit delays worry international students in US universities on F-1 visa (February 4, 2021)

H-1B holders at wits’ end to get work visas stamped (July 14, 2021)

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