James Banks, 47, who’s been in Munich for nearly eight years, said his wife Shandy Darruiz, 38, travelled to her country of origin, Venezuela, for a three week holiday at the beginning of March to visit family.
But the couple, who have been married for two years and live in the Bavarian capital, are now facing a nightmare situation after Darruiz became stuck in the South American country as flights have been grounded and borders across the world slammed shut as the pandemic worsens.
“We are trying to be positive,” Banks who's originally from the UK told The Local. “We can only play it day by day. There are no flights. There is going to be no flights out of Venezuela probably in the next three to four weeks at the bare minimum.
“We have to deal with the fact she probably is going to be there for months.”
As the coronavirus outbreak accelerated in Europe in early March, the couple agreed to change Darruiz's flight so that she could get back to Germany early.
However, Venezuela imposed a 30 day ban on flights to and from Europe and then her original Air France return flight scheduled for March 23rd was axed too.
They also tried booking other flights back to Germany but they were all cancelled.
Adding to the stress is the fact that Darruiz' Venezuelan passport only lasts until June 17th and the country is not issuing new ones.
“Before she left Germany we had applied for a two year passport extension that the embassy offers instead, at the end of January,” said Banks. “But after taking the $100 processing fee we have heard no more from the Venezuelan Embassy in Frankfurt.”
Darruiz's Aufenthaltstitel (residence permit) is linked to her passport, so that also expires on June 17th.
However, immigration offices are running a limited service to the public at the moment as Germany deals with the pandemic. Banks has, however, contacted the Ausländerbehörde to explain the situation and hopes they get back to him soon.
'She needs to get back one way or another'
Germany has vowed to bring back citizens stuck abroad due to the crisis.
As The Local reported on Monday March 23rd, some 120,000 Germans stranded abroad have been flown home recently in a massive rescue effort.
The government had been focusing on “holiday regions” and is now looking at countries further afield including Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and The Gambia.
Repatriations from these countries would be more challenging, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, because of difficulties accessing airports.
However, the couple is not hopeful that they will receive help in this way.
“We’re not the only people with problems or the only people stranded,” acknowledged Banks. “The problem with my wife is she’s a Venezuelan citizen in Venezuela so there aren’t flights going to Caracas picking up people with an Aufenthaltstitel or anything like that. This is a different circumstance.”
Banks, a tree surgeon, is also finding it difficult to send money to his wife because of the precarious situation in the South American country.
The couple are now hoping that the coronavirus situation eventually calms down in Germany in the coming weeks and months, and doesn't flare up in Venezuela.
“The best of circumstances would be to get her home in three or four weeks time or if Air France decide to run flights again and notify us that would be a big help.
“She needs to get back one way or another whether its via Panama, or Colombia, whichever; I don’t care. If we can get her home, that would be the best.”