Open Letter to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga
Hon. Prime Minister,
I am writing to you as an international student from Tonga to the University of Utah. I came here to Utah based on an academic scholarship to the State of Utah to finish a bachelors degree. I was able to finish my degree in four years here.
For any international student finishing their degrees they get to apply for an Optional Practical Training whereas they would apply their degrees for up to a year working in the US. I was involved in this training and my work visa which allowed me to do this, expires on May 20th, 2020 with a two-month grace period allowing me to go home between that time.
Before this was about to take place, I announced my leave to the US company, where I did my training, on March 25th. I told them that I would like to go back home to Tonga before my visa expires in May so I planned to go back on April 30th.
I had booked my ticket back home to Tonga on April 30th. A little while later, I learned that the situation with CoViD-19 had progressed. I learned that the Tonga government had closed down its borders on March 21st. I told my workplace that I won’t be able to quit until my visa expires on May 20th, 2020. I listened to all the Tongan news when they said the borders will be opened June 12th.
Then later I learned that this was still a decision in progress. That nothing was certain until parliament discusses the issue before then.
So I called my university international office and asked what I should do if my country, the Tongan government won’t open up for me before my visa expires in July 20th, and they were surprised that my own country would let me live illegally here in the US, because they won’t open up our country for even us, Tongan citizens.
My advisor even went on to ask what the Tongan country expects me to do, after my visa expires, especially when the US government have made no exceptions to allow us international students to stay in the US longer than we’re supposed to.
My question is, does my country, Tonga, expect me to break the United States law and be punished by it, because our Tongan government can’t even open up their borders even for a limited period of time for their citizens who are stuck worldwide to come home?
PS I have no means of supporting myself for the next months because I am not sure how many months will pass before the borders open. I just want to go home.