NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- A New Jersey man who was stuck in India while COVID-19 ravaged the country is now back home with his family.
Ashu Mahajan, 43, had traveled to India to care for his sick father -- who later died due to COVID -- but couldn't return to the U.S. because the consulate was closed.
Mahajan's visa required an in-person appointment to re-enter the country.
Eyewitness News told his story and reached out to Senator Bob Menendez for help.
He was able to contact the state department-- and get Mahajan home.
Mahajan traveled to India on April 17 to see his ailing 75-year-old father just days before his death on April 21 from COVID-19. But before the software solutions architect could return home to New Jersey, new pandemic restrictions went into effect forcing the closures of American embassies and consulates located in India.
As a highly-skilled immigrant worker with an H1-B visa, Mahajan is required to have his passport reviewed and stamped at an American embassy or consulate before traveling to the U.S., but that the earliest he was told he could get an appointment was in Feb. 2022.
"When I was leaving for India, I knew my dad was sick. I was still debating whether I should go or not. If I go, I knew I would have visa issues, but still, I took that decision because that was my dad," said Ashu Mahajan. "While he was in the hospital, I was not even thinking about visa issues."
Sadly, by the time he arrived, his dad had been intubated and never regained consciousness.
"When it's about your parents these are decisions you have to make, I definitely don't regret it, I would have regretted it had I not gone," Mahajan said.
Before Menendez's office intervened, Mahajan was told he would not be able to return home to his wife and daughters until next year.
"Having the family separated for so long would not only be a tremendous hardship-it would jeopardize the very job that makes Ashu's H1-B status and his family's life here in America possible," said Sen. Menendez. "I'm incredibly proud of my staff in New Jersey and in Washington with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for working together to bring Mr. Mahajan home. They reached out to the State Department. They made clear all that was at stake in this case, and they successfully secured an expedited appointment at our embassy in New Delhi so that he could get that passport stamp and board a plane back to America."
The Senator and his staff are also assisting other New Jerseyans facing similar ordeals.
"We really want to thank Senator Menendez and his staff. If it were not for his support and his office's support, I don't know when I would see Ashu," said Neha Mahajan. "When the girls would see him. Every night we spent on two different continents, my girls would ask me, 'When is daddy coming home?' And I really did not have an answer for them. Yesterday, was probably the first night when I saw him and I was able to sleep in peace because during a pandemic we are all going through a lot. And immigration related matters are the last ones that you need to impact and keep us separated."
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