Indian students, job seekers left in the lurch after Germany’s travel restrictions

On April 26, Germany announced that most people, barring very few groups, will not be allowed to enter the country from India in view of the COVID-19 threat.

After four months of waiting and the tedious process of gathering documents, Ashutosh finally got a Type D visa to enter Germany, for joining his Masters course at the University of Koblenz-Landau. He had booked his ticket for May 6 and was ready to fly out; however, the government of Germany announced strict restrictions on travellers from India from April 26, 2021. The sudden announcement threw his plans completely off track. For many students like Ashutosh, and those who were to join new jobs there, the travel restrictions have come as a jolt. 

According to the German Embassy’s website, Germany recognises India as a “country with significantly elevated risk of infection (virus variant area)”. In view of this, most people, barring German nationals, permanent residents of Germany, health workers and a few other groups, are not allowed to travel to the country from India. Consulates in India are also not processing visa applications for those who wish to go to Germany for their studies or work.

Anusha, who was all set to start her PhD programme in Server Architecture at a public university in Germany on June 1, is among those who have been affected by the rule. She had been applying for a work visa since April 22 at the German Consulate in Bengaluru, but has still not received an appointment. Her research project cannot be done remotely, and she will have to physically sign a contract in order to legally begin her work in Germany and earn a stipend. However, the visa section of the Consulate has switched to ‘Emergency Mode’, according to its website; several visa applications like Anusha’s are still pending. “Work contracts are limited and organisations cannot wait for too long for us. We have no job, we have no income now. We have to travel as soon as possible for our livelihood,” she said.

Pawan Dwivedi had received an offer letter from Delivery Hero SE, a food delivery company based in Berlin, in April. He was to start work there in July. In order for his work contract to come into effect, he must register an address in Berlin and get a tax ID. But to do any of this, he needs a visa, which the Consulate in Bengaluru is not currently providing. Like Pawan and Anusha, many who are eager to start working in a new country, and in need of an income, have been left stranded by the travel ban, without any clue on what to do next.

Indians who are now stuck in the country regularly try to contact the German Consulates and Embassy in New Delhi, but have not yet received word on when the restrictions might be lifted, or when visa applications will be processed again. They have even written to the Ministry of External Affairs, and are constantly making appeals regarding the matter on social media. “We are extremely stressed and every morning we start tweeting, sending emails and checking multiple websites,” Anusha said.

While most universities in Germany currently have online classes, some insist on students appearing for exams on campus, like the University of Koblenz-Landau. If they fail to appear for these, they will lose an entire year and will have to give the exams in 2022. This will also cost the students more money in fees. Universities may open up for physical classes from the next semester as well, according to Ashutosh, which will cause problems for Indian students if the travel restrictions are not lifted.

 

Those who are stranded in India also expressed that they are ready to undergo strict quarantine and procure all the necessary COVID-19-related documents, if it means that they will be allowed to start a new chapter of their lives in Germany. Ashutosh, Pawan and Anusha have also been fully vaccinated. “Germany allows people of other nations to enter even if the Delta variant is found there, like the US. The US has allowed Indian students to enter even if they haven’t taken the COVID-19 vaccine. We’re even ready to go under strict quarantine for longer, bring negative RT-PCR tests and take all sorts of precautions,” Ashutosh said. 

“We have left our previous jobs to take up German offers, we are waiting to travel,” Anusha lamented. 

Walter Lindner, the German Ambassador to India, told NDTV recently that he hopes Indians are able to travel to Germany soon, especially considering that Germany has a high population of Indian students in universities. “I would hope travel can resume sooner. Germany and Europe had the third wave. Now India is expecting a third wave— we hope that doesn’t arise.” He also said that, as of July 2, visa sections at German Consulates in India will be open, to allow the process to be easier for travellers once the restrictions are lifted.

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