H-1B visa ban affected families file lawsuit, detail trauma

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After being forced to eat humble pie in court on the student visa rule, the Trump administration faces another trial, with regard to its rule on the H-1B visa suspension.

Indian H-1B visa holders stuck in India, finding no solution to their repeated request to return to the US, filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia early this week.

Trump had April 22 issued Proclamation 10014 suspending the entry of immigrants who are outside the United States without an approved immigrant visa or other valid travel documents.

June 22, he issued Presidential Proclamation 10052, which suspended the entry of foreign nationals on temporary visas, H-1B, L, H-2B and J, until at least December 31, 2020.

The case has been filed by 171 Indian nationals who live and work in the US but are currently stuck in India. These H-1B visa holders, their spouses and children are not allowed in the US, thanks to the new rule.

The complaint, filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of the plaintiffs by the noted law firm Wasden Banias, has testimonies from four families who are in distress due to non-issuance of their US visa in India.

One of them, Vinod Winston Albuquerque, a resident of Duluth, Georgia, is an H-1B visa holder who has been working in the US for the past three years. He had to visit India in February this year after his father had a stroke, and his wife and 6-year-old son stayed back because she is expecting her second child in September.

The lawsuit states that Albuquerque carries a valid H-1B extension until 2022 and submitted a DS-160 to US consulate in Chennai to obtain a visa commensurate with his recent H-1B extension.

As is common with extension visa appointments, Albuquerque scheduled a “dropbox appointment” where he would deposit his passport with the consulate and the consulate would return it with the visa foil inserted.

But the consulate in Chennai canceled his appointment, the lawsuit states. He repeatedly requested to expedite his appointment, but those requests were denied. In June 2020, the Chennai consulate told him all appointments had been withdrawn.

Albuquerque’s wife is on H4 dependent visa and does not drive a car and is dependent on cabs, friend and neighbors.

Another plaintiff, Siddhartha Adla, is a Texas resident and has lived in the US for at least 12 years. He is married with two US-born children aged 5 and 3 years, and carries a valid H-1B petition and an approved immigrant visa petition based on an approved permanent labor certification.

According to the lawsuit, Adla’s 3-year-old son was diagnosed with autism in the US and in December 2019 the family traveled to India to get a second opinion from a world-renowned physician in India.

The physician in India confirmed that Adla’s son is exhibiting extreme signs of autism. The family intended to return to the United States as quickly as possible to re-start treatments.

Despite making timely visa appointments, the consulates have not issued the couple their visas. The result is Adla’s son’s continued deterioration, and his company putting him on its India payroll, making it impossible for him to make payments on his mortgage.

“I may have to either sell my house or file for bankruptcy soon, depending on how bad things turn into. Our home may end up undergoing foreclosure,” Adla is quoted as saying.

The third Plaintiff Anup Bhagirathbhai Tiwari has lived and worked in the United States for the last six-and-half years in H-1B status and he has an approved immigrant petition that is based on an approved labor certification application.

Swati Sharma, Tiwari’s wife, also has an approved H-1B with an approved immigrant visa based on approved labor certification. They pay $2,700 rent for their apartment.

The couple traveled to India in February 2020 to deal with a family emergency and at the time, Swati was five months pregnant. The couple timely made visa appointments and filed DS-160 applications in February, but the consulate has yet to make decisions on their applications.

Due to the stress of the delay, Swati had a lot of anxiety and depression in her last trimester of pregnancy, according to the lawsuit, and gave birth in India amid the troubling situations at the hospital due to COVID-19.

The family did not have health insurance in India, requiring them to pay out of pocket for the pregnancy and hospitalization, despite paying medical insurance in the US. They continue to pay their rent every month and bills.

Tiwari also recently filed a DS-160 application on behalf of his newborn but has yet to receive a decision.

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