Embassy of the United States, New Delhi

Bhutanese skilled workers visas to USA gets shortest validity from entire South Asia but Foreign Minister clueless

Bhutan bracketed along with Taliban controlled Afghanistan

In what is both an inconvenience for skilled Bhutanese workers working in USA, and also an embarrassment, it has been found that the validity of H-1B visas given to skilled Bhutanese workers going to USA to work is only for three months.

This is while it is three years for India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and one year for Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Even China gets a 12-month validity.

Bhutan has been given H-1B visas validity only for three months along with the Taliban controlled Afghanistan whose government is not even recognized by USA.

Bhutan is also in the company of Iran who has hostile relations with the USA, and gets only a three-month validity for H-1B visas.

The majority of countries in the world fall in the one-year to three-years categories with Bhutan being in an unenvious list.

Apart from being a diplomatic embarrassment, the short validity of the visa causes a lot of problems to skilled Bhutanese workers there.

The H-1B visas are given to people mainly in technology, finance, engineering, architecture, etc., and are also generally highly paid. This basically means higher remittance for Bhutan and more exposure for its young professionals who can come back some day with their skills.

A young Bhutanese working with a H-1B visa with a company in New York said that because the visa validity for Bhutanese is only three months, whenever they travel out of the USA back to Bhutan to meet family or to other parts of the world they have to reapply for the H-1B visa all over again.

She said, “The visa, itself, costs USD 200 each time and we are not allowed to renew it while in USA so we are forced to leave the USA to get it stamped.”

“That means filling out a visa appointment application every single time, paying for it, buying a flight ticket to another country, paying for accommodation in that country and waiting for days or even weeks to get your passport back. It makes it very difficult for me to travel since the whole process of getting a new visa stamp will eat up a lot of time,” she added.

She said that even though the time limit is for three months, it starts on the day the visa is given and not the day the passport is issued, and this can bring down the actual visa period to even two months or less.

The Bhutanese skilled workers on H-1B visas have work permits to work in the USA for three years or more, but the moment they travel outside the USA they have to reapply for a visa all over again.

“In essence the visa stamp is like the key to enter the USA, and we Bhutanese have to keep getting new keys every three months unlike most other countries,” said the skilled Bhutanese worker.

The problem has become so bad that many skilled Bhutanese workers on H-1B visas in America have migrated in numbers to Canada, Australia and other countries where the visa conditions are better.

Apart from visa issues, skilled Bhutanese workers will have to think ten times before coming home to visit family in Bhutan or even take a short holiday outside the USA over the inconvenience caused and even fears of if they do not get the visa again.

For Bhutanese, they have to apply for visas to the USA through the US embassy in Delhi and that is another major headache as this particular embassy has the highest wait times among US embassies in the world for H-1B visas due to the large number of applicants from India, itself.

When the reporter took the issues to the Foreign Minister Dasho Dr Tandi Dorji, the minister replied saying he is not aware, as no one has officially complained to the Foreign Ministry.

The minister instead asked why are Bhutanese applying for H-1B visas when the conditions are such.

The minister initially said he can spare five minutes but after a few questions berated the reporter for coming without an appointment.

The US Embassy in Delhi in reply to a query by the reporter said, “U.S. law requires U.S. visa fees and validities to be based on the treatment given to U.S. citizens. That’s why maximum validities for all U.S. visa classes vary by each country’s visa policies.”

The reply from the Embassy does not take into account that Bhutan allows American citizens to work on projects for months and even years at end in Bhutan.

A lack of communication from the Foreign Ministry of Bhutan to sort out the issue also does not help.  

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One comment

  1. ran bahadur biswa

    It is very good to know that Bhutanese also do have H1-B Visa to US. However, 3 months is too short. i think government should explore the duration la. How shall we apply for H1-B Visa from Bhutan la.

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