THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Ending weeks of agony, Prasanth Venugopalan and Neena Ajitha, the couple who got stranded in the US due to lockdown, is flying back to Kochi with their six-year- old daughter Bhadra on Saturday. The family faced problems in extending their stay as Prasanth lost his job upon expiry of his work visa (H1B) and Neena who is on dependency visa is in advanced stage of pregnancy.
Though the repatriation flights under Vande Bharat Mission had started to bring back stranded Indians from abroad since May 7, lack of flights to the state was a cause of worry for the couple. The first set of flights from the US were towards Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru. “We did not want to get quarantined in other states as Neena’s due date was approaching,” said Prasanth. He is a resident of Pattom in Thiruvananthapuram and went to the US six years ago as a software professional.
H1B visa holders are allowed to stay in the US for maximum 60 days after the expiry of visa. The family had to extend the rented accommodation which was a major drain on their savings. People facing similar issues had formed a WhatsApp group and reached out to various diaspora associations, Ministry of External Affairs and politicians. The efforts proved successful as the Centre announced flights from San Francisco to Kochi in the next phase of Vande Bharat Mission.