Covid-19 crisis: Indian parents seek visit visas for children stranded back home
HOPE FOR REUNION: Mononita Chatterjee with her son and (right) Shradha Salla with her daughters.
Dubai - Parents said their sons who have crossed the age of 21 cannot travel since the UAE does not issue visit visas for those from India.
Long-term residents, whose children are stranded in India without residency visas, have appealed to Indian and UAE authorities to allow their children to travel to the UAE on visit visas.
Parents of both minor children and varsity-going students are desperately seeking permission from authorities to allow their children to travel on visit visas so that they can reunite with their parents.
In some cases, parents said their sons who have crossed the age of 21 cannot travel since the UAE does not issue visit visas for those from India. Parents also expressed fear that they will miss out on the 15-day travel deadline set by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) which expires on July 26.
Many fear their General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs (GDRFA) and Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) approvals will expire along with their Covid-negative test results.
'It's a mixed bag of problems for parents'
Dr Nita Salam, administrator for the online initiative #takemetomom - a group that was formed by over 200 Indian mothers whose children are stranded in India - said: "Various kinds of requests from distressed parents are coming forward. Many have applied for residency visas and have not received approvals, some have their application statuses suspended due to the Covid-19 issue, and some have expired visas to name a few."
Indian expat and renowned tarot reader Shradha Salla has been stranded in Mumbai with her daughters Aarna (15) and Sunehra (13) since March, while her husband is here in Dubai. The family was in the process of making Dubai their second home when the pandemic hit. Though Shardha has a valid UAE visa, her daughters do not. "I need to get my girls' birth certificates attested. Unfortunately, as the UAE Embassy in Delhi is closed, I cannot proceed with the paperwork," Shradha told Khaleej Times from her home in Mumbai.
"Before Covid-19, I used to travel to Dubai every few weeks for the past four to five years. In February this year, we began our official move to the UAE. We were hoping to start the process after my girls' school closes, and get their residency procedures completed as well," she explained.
Ever since India has begun allowing flights for stranded expatriates, Shradha has knocked on every door possible to get back to the UAE with her daughters. She added: "Earlier since my girls had US visas, they did not need a separate UAE tourist visa. I applied for a visit visa on May 28 and got the approval on July 2. I immediately completed my Covid-19 tests, got the necessary approvals and we booked our tickets to Dubai."
Even after receiving the boarding passes from Emirates and getting her luggage checked-in at the airport, Shradha and her daughters were not allowed to travel at the last minute. "After waiting hours at the airport, we had to return home dejected. My GDRFA approvals will expire by July 27. I have lost money, lost energy, and my kids' hope and morale is so low," she said.
Parents with sons face more significant challenges
Adhiraj, 21, son of Dubai-based teacher Mononita Chatterjee, is a student of Indian Institute of Hotel Management in Aurangabad in Maharashtra. "My son's college shut down in the end of March and they refused to keep any of the students on the campus or the hostel. He had to leave immediately," said Mononita.
According to his mum, ahead of the lockdown in India, Adhiraj travelled to Delhi in the hope that if airports were to reopen in India, it would first open in the nation's capital. "Since then, he has been stranded all alone in a government guesthouse in Gurgaon. He has not stepped out and only goes to the kitchen for food," said a very stressed out Mononita.