The US lifts a ban on travel to India and ends the Maldives gold rush

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As of November, the U.S. will no longer impose a travel ban on fully vaccinated Indians. Indians, among other travelers from around the world in Europe, Brazil and South Africa, will be able to enter the US without any problems. A negative RT-PCR test performed 72 hours before the start of the trip will still be required.

On April 30, following the deadly Delta variant, President Biden had imposed a general travel ban on non-immigrant Indian visa holders, including H1-B, L-1, their dependents, business travelers and the visitors. Although the initial order only lasted 30 days, the ban has been renewed in 30-day increments each month. The number of cases is much better now and vaccination levels have improved, which caused Biden to reverse course.

Political inconsistencies

My column on BusinessLine criticized that inconsistent Biden policy. The ban exempted U.S. citizens and permanent residents as if the virus could tell the difference. Students on F-1 / M-1 visas also had an automatic exemption, thanks to the university lobby, which depends on international students for their existence. The order made no exceptions for Indians who had recovered from Covid and were immune to it or had been fully vaccinated.

The ban was also arbitrary. People in developing countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries were exempt from similar restrictions, although their infection rates have been significantly higher than in the United Kingdom and other Schengen countries, which were subject to prohibition.

Worse, Biden continues to host a flood of illegal immigrants bombing the southern border of the United States, placing the United States at a much greater risk of Covid spreading than Indian travelers. Many migrants do not follow Covid protocols and are not vaccinated. However, they are being released in the vast interior of the United States before their asylum hearing with Warnings to appear, which could take years, and immigrants often ignore.

Unintended consequences

The United States is not the only country with strange rules. Canada, in its wisdom, refuses to accept a Covid test administered by India. Fearing that test results could be manipulated, Canada, which requires travelers to undergo RT-PCR or a quick test 72 hours before the trip, forces Indians to make a stopover in a third country just to get a test. Wouldn’t it be easier to test everyone on arrival in Canada?

The Maldives benefits from Canadian rule. As one of the few countries granting visas on arrival to Indian passport holders, the city of Male is enjoying an economic resurgence that had not been seen since the pandemic. Indians bound for Canada fly to Male, rehearse, stay in a hotel and leave the next day, revitalizing the local economy and the various airlines with regular schedules from India to Male.

Australia and New Zealand were so paranoid that they didn’t mind isolating themselves more from the world at large. Already isolated and only accessible by sea or air, both countries have imposed strict rules banning any unauthorized vessel in their waters since April 2020. Therefore, if you are a sailboat trying to reach Perth from the coast East Africa at the 40th parallel, you may not be lucky. You can’t even go back west because the strong winds that propelled your boat are only going in one direction. Last week, both countries realized the madness of pursuing a Covid zero-rate policy and announced that these bans would be slowly relaxed.

The economies of other countries are benefiting by hosting thousands of stranded Australians and New Zealanders. Ashleigh Barty, the Wimbledon champion, had not returned home since February when she left Melbourne to compete in the European clay court season.

Strategic advantages

Biden’s unreasonable policy put the U.S., a magnet for Indian travelers, out of reach. The Indians, applying their congenital jugaad training, found ways to legally circumvent the ban. The rule states that Indian passport holders with nonimmigrant visas cannot come to the US directly from India. But if they came from another country where the number of Covid cases is not relatively as high and stayed there for 14 days, they were welcome to travel to the US. The world’s first subcontractor has also cleverly outsourced Covid’s risk. CDC research shows that the pandemic has been highly contagious for 14 days since the initial infection. If a third country has the coronavirus during the temporary stay of the Indian passport holder, the US agrees, arguing that it is the headache of the other country.

Mexico, Serbia and the Maldives, shaken by the pandemic, have made a lot of hay by agreeing to accommodate desperate Indian travelers who want to visit the US. These passengers board a Western Asian carrier such as Emirates, Qatar or Etihad and land in Mexico City, Belgrade or Male, places they had never dreamed of visiting on their own before. Upon arrival, they stay in an all-inclusive resort, often under severe local travel restrictions, leaving aside the 14 days. At the station everything is choreographed. Airport transfers, food, entertainment, access to local sightseeing tours in vehicles owned by the resort and even an RT-PCR test before the expected departure flight to the United States are included in the package. Having re-outsourced Covid’s travel protocols to airlines, the US doesn’t even bother to check out the dramatic increase in Indian travelers from these cities. Everyone wins.

Driven by the success of the Maldives, creative tour operators in Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai now offer 14-day desert vacation packages to avoid the ban. The bill for these excursions, which quickly rises to $ 10,000, is gladly taken on by the pair of diaspora technicians waiting in the United States, eager for parents to reunite with their children or their children yet. to be born. $ 10,000 is still much less expensive than babysitting and domestic help expenses.

Covid has changed the world forever because of unpredictable and sometimes silly government policies. Travel restrictions had sparked a surprising economic revival in parts of the world desperate for recovery. The gold rush is over.

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