Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One of a kind immigration and visa story !!

The saga started way back in 2009 and I paid off the price of minor lapse in 2011. Now that I have your attention, here is the details.

My mom, a Nepali citizen, came to visit us in Texas for a period of six months in 2009. Six months is the most you can stay in USA if you are on a tourist visa without applying for extension. We knew this rule and certainly wanted to follow it. A glitch came when the person who was supposed to go back with her had to cancel his plan. I prefer to have somebody accompany my mom who speaks English so I started looking for a person who could match her itinerary. Probabilistically, chances of finding a person who you know and has the same itinerary is very low and that's what happened. We could not find one who was traveling along the route within the six month limit but we did have a person flying back to Nepal after one week of that period. So I changed the itinerary and at the same time filed an application for extension of six months stay hoping that there should not be a problem of extending the say since we were only asking for couple of extra weeks in the worst case.

As you might have guessed, the extension was denied. Now what? Re-booking the ticket was going to cost me couple of hundred of dollars so I thought it may not be too "risky" to overstay for a week and that's what we decided. There was no problem going back to Nepal so it turned out to be a well calculated risk.

Come 2011, my mom came back again to attend my sister's graduation. At Boston airport, officials wont let her pass the immigration because her visa had expired. She had got a 5-year multiple entry visa starting 2009 so visa was valid at least 2014. It turns out that if you overstay, your visa is automatically canceled and you will be sent back to your country if you manage to land in US. Obviously we did not know that, did you? Thankfully immigration officials understood that it was not done on purpose and they let my mom in for a period of six months with constraints that we would not be able to apply for extension and she would have to leave USA before six month period. That's totally fair and we all appreciated the generosity of officials. The six month period is still valid as of this writing and will be over on Nov 10.

Today is Nov 8 and also when my mom has her flight back to Nepal through London. My mom was not allowed to board the flight at Boston airport. Before you read further, I would like you to think why that could be the case. It defies logic and I don't know how general folks like me is supposed to know these things!!

There is no problem leaving USA but there is a problem with transit at London airport. It turns out that if your USA visa has expired/canceled then you can not transit at London airport without having a visa. If we had known that we obviously would have applied for a transit visa but it was too late again. Did you know that? :-(  This only happens at London airport, not at other airports. On top of that I have only 2 days to sort this mess out.

After debating many options, I decided to get a new one way ticket that did not include a transit at London and let go off previous return ticket. I not only lost good chunk of money on return ticket but new one way ticket for NY-Dubai-KTM cost me almost a thousand dollar. My sister drives my mom to NY tomorrow and she departs from NY on 10th morning. I hope that even after this, she gets back home on time and without much hassle. I will keep my fingers crossed and will definitely think twice about flying through London.

BTW, what's so special about London that they have special rule that no other airport has about transit?


Sampath said...

I guess one thing that you should know is you don't need anybody to accompany your mom if she doesn't speak English. You can ask for a wheelchair support through the airlines so that they can take her to the gates as well as through all the immigrations. Both my mom and mother-in-law (twice) visited the same way, and they don't speak a single English word :)

I can't believe why they denied your extension request for mom in the first place, I recently got 6 month extension for my mother in law and this is her 2nd stay in US. During first stay, she stayed for 6 months, and came back again after 6 months to stay for 1 year with the extension. May be you need a solid reason to get the extension granted I guess.

Prabhat Jha said...

Yes, I am aware that she does not need to be accompanied by English speaking person but that was her first time outside Nepal traveling on her own so I wanted to be a bit careful. On top of that she really does not want to be on wheelchair. ;-)

h1b visa lawyer said...

Hope you get extension very soon if still you face problem you can contact an expert visa attorney who can help you to get things done.