USCIS Offers Increased Flexibility in Response to Covid-19

From May 07, 2020, The Indian government has been evacuating stranded Indians in a phased manner.  As the aircraft depart from India to pick up the evacuees, the national carrier, Air India, is accepting passengers who fit the following criteria and who wish to travel abroad (select destinations only):

Nationals of the destination countries;

Indian and foreign nationals who hold a valid visa for a period of at least one year to the destination country;

Health Workers holding a valid permit for travel to the destination country. Such individuals must obtain written permission from the Embassy of the destination country.

Other points to note:

The cost of travel must be borne by the passenger.

At the time of boarding the flight, all passengers must undergo thermal screening as per the health protocol.

Before purchasing the tickets, individuals must verify their eligibility to travel by referring to the conditions on the destination country’s regulatory website.

Passengers must ensure that they comply with all travel and health requirements of the destination country.

All passengers must sign an undertaking stating that in case of deportation, the entire cost towards deportation penalty, return fare, and cost of quarantine will be borne by the passenger.

Anecdotally, for the US, we have noted that F-1 students with valid I-20s and OPT work authorization were allowed to board flights but some H-1B workers with valid visas expiring within a week and a few individuals on B visas that were set to expire within a year from the date of travel were not allowed to board.  We have been unable to verify the facts nor the reasons for Air India’s decisions. 

Also, we are given to understand …

1. If you are accepted and do not take-up the place you will be blacklisted and can not apply again through the scheme. 

2.  When you quarantine on return to India it will be in the city you land. Quarantine will be in government accommodations until that runs out,  assuming you are not put into Category 1 on arrival where you will be directed immediately to hospital. 

3.  There are a lot of difficulties moving between States. You require a permit. Therefore you may not find it easy to travel home from the arrivals city. 

Finally the Statements of Practice from each State are out of date almost as soon as they are published.