The second COVID-19 wave compelled several nations to ban the entry of travellers from India, including the UK, New Zealand, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, China and European Union nations.
Although special restrictions were issued for travelers from India, there seems to quite a bit of confusion among those who want to travel abroad after being vaccinated for COVID-19. Moreover, they are unsure about vaccine passports, which vaccine to opt for and quarantine norms.
The US is among one of the top destinations for Indian students and approximately 2 lakh of them enter the country on student visas, followed by China.
The US government started processing visas for Indian students from June 14 and given the anxiety among prospective candidates, CNBC-TV18's Parikshit Luthra spoke to Don Heflin, Counselor of Consular Affairs at US Embassy in India, to discuss visa protocols, guidelines they need to follow and which categories of visa holders can travel to the US.
When asked about allowing Indians to enter the country, Heflin said. "The US government does not have a vaccine policy. Our CDC has mandated an RTPCR within three days of travel and no requirement of vaccination. Schools and universities each have their own requirements and you need to check what they want to do. Some schools require people to start with self-isolation and if you haven't been vaccinated, then the first thing they want to do, is to take you to a vaccination center and get you vaccinated."
Speaking about students he explained, "It's been a tough year for everybody. One of our favorite things is to issue student visas. Last year it didn't happen for anybody as the pandemic was so strong. This year is better, but we got a late start. We usually like to interview some people in May and a lot of people in June but lot of our consular cities were locked down. We are getting started but we will really get started on 1st July. More of our appointments will be in August than we wanted to. Lot of people had technical difficulties but thousands got their appointments and we will release more appointments next week."
"If students are not able to arrive in US by the start date of the program, the universities usually work with you. You can talk to them and ask them to send you a letter that you can show up a little late. We are pretty sure you can work with your university and have a late arrival," he added.
He also spoke of allowing journalists to travel to the US and said, "Journalists have to apply for National Interest Exception. Generally speaking, they will qualify because of the strong press freedom we have in the US. So we tend to treat journalist visas with certain amount of difference. We haven’t had that many journalist applications but the once who have come in generally speaking will qualify."
To know more, watch the video.
(Edited by : Jerome Anthony)