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Tamil community interacts online with SF CG

Tamil community interacts online with SF CG
April 24
13:02 2020

Chockkalingam Karuppaiah

Bay Area Tamil Manram, in collaboration with Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (FeTNA), Arizona Tamil Sangam, Charlotte Tamil Sangam, Chicago Tamil Sangam, Connecticut Tamil Sangam, Greater Atlanta Tamil Sangam, Greater Milwaukee Tamil Sangam, Harrisburg Area Tamil Sangam, Jacksonville Tamil Mandram, Metroplex Tamil Sangam, Mid-South Tamil Sangam, New York Tamil Sangam, NewJersey Tamil Sangam, Reaction Team, Sacramento Tamil Mandram, San Antonio Tamil Sangam, San Diego Tamil Sangam, Seattle Tamil Sangam, Socal Tamil Organization, South Bay Tamil Sangam, South Florida Tamil Sangam, Tamil Sangam of Greater Washington, Tamil Sangam of Missouri and Tennessee Tamil Sangam arranged a meeting with Consul General, Ambassador Mr. Sanjay Panda from San Francisco Consulate General of India.

Amb. Sanja Panda addressed the community first and then took many questions from the audience.

Here are some excerpts:

I’m very happy to be here. These are difficult times. I’ve been in contact with the community through radio and Zoom interviews. Thanks to the Bay Area Tamil Manram for taking this initiative and thanks to all other Tamil organizations who joined hands in this initiative.

First and foremost, these are not normal times When I say these are not normal times, we cannot conduct business as usual. This pandemic which is at the global level has really shown us that we do live in a global village. National borders and boundaries have no meaning when a pandemic like this happens. This also goes to prove that we need to respect Nature.

I know you have several questions. All of you have major links with India. There are Indian Nationals here and there are people of Indian origin with PIO and OCI cards. Let me tellyou at the outset what we have been doing during this period, before I take your questions.

When California instituted shelter-in-place, we got clarification from the state indicating that the Consulate office is considered an essential business and that we cannot close our office. So we were processing emergency requests and we were inundated, as people started coming directly to the consulate which was driven by the outsource agency CKGS closing their office.

This led to the crowding of the consulate and the neighbors complained and the state of California requested us not to have any in-person visits. This led to the closing down of the consulate office for in-person visits. Having said that, we are working remotely and taking care of emergency requests. In fact we have very skeletal staff who go to the consulate and take care of these emergency requests.

On passports

With respect to Passports, there are cases where their passports need to be renewed to maintain the statushere such as extension of H1 B or other visas or they need passports to travel elsewhere. For emergency cases like these with respect to Passport renewal, please be in touch with us through email [email protected] or through email [email protected]

These emails are for those who are in San Francisco Consulate Office’s jurisdiction. For the rest of the areas, please get in touch with your respective consulates and our embassy in DC. We have also provided emergency numbers. We have been responding to these requests in real time.

People are working from home and responding to these requests.

 OCI applicants

There have been several questions on OCI. People are wondering about the status of the application, with their passport mailed to the consulate. This question applies for passports as well. People had sent in passports and are now without any travel document. As far as passports are concerned, since CKGS is closed, you can send a prepaid courier envelope to our office and we will mail the Passport. You can get the reimbursement for the postal expenses from CKGS once they open.

We have done this in San Francisco. Please check with your respective offices in your jurisdiction.

 If you are a new OCI applicant and if you need to travel to India, please don’t wait for the OCI as it will take time (needs to be printed in India). If it is OCI renewal, we can process it within 15 days. Anybody who wants to travel to India after travel restrictions are lifted, then I would recommend you to apply for a visa, as soon as the visa application process opens up.

On US Visas

For parents and relatives who are visiting from India and are stuck here with their US Visa expiring, we have been in touch with US Homeland Security. What we have heard from them is that people should immediately apply for Visa extension, explaining the situation. The website to do so is at https://uscis.gov/coronavirus. The other situation related to this is the prescription refill for these visiting family members, who cannot get medicines here as they don’t have prescriptions in the US. We have made arrangements where a team of doctors from the community has come forward to give prescriptions. I have tried to cover as much as possible and let us go to a few specific questions.

Full recording of the call with Amb. Sanjay Panda and his answers can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/wf4fvq3

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