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A Mayo Doctor and family stuck in Mexico, awaits work visa renewal

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Kate, Dr. Tingjun, and Jiaxuan Chen

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A Mayo Clinic Doctor and his family were forced to leave the United States as they now wait for a visa renewal.

Dr. Tingjun Chen, a neuroscientist, has been at Mayo Clinic, from China under a five-year working Visa. He was working on a special research project for the clinic, but his project has taken longer than the five-year time frame. 

Chen thought the process of getting his visa renewed would take a week but it's turned into a four-month wait.

Now, Chen, his wife Kate, and his 12-year-old daughter, Jiaxuan are living in Guadalajara, Mexico.

"We miss all our friends and my work, my colleagues, the Mayo Clinic, and we also miss our dog," Chen said.

He joined the clinic because of its prestigious research and he's helped research a rare disease called Neuromyelitis Optica.

"Patients often get blind and often paralyzed in three to five years," Chen said.

He's been studying this disease for years and hates the thought of his work being put on pause. His biggest motivation is the patients that are diagnosed with the disease.

 "I want to show them science can really help, and as a neuroscientist, I want to help them," Chen said.

In Mexico, the family rents an Airbnb.

It's a hard adjustment for all three, especially Jiaxuan

 "I am unable to attend any education right now. Originally I was allowed to be in the online school system" she said.

Jiaxuan was supposed to be entering seventh grade at Kellogg Middle School.

Her mother Kate is mourning the loss of her mother who died from Cancer in July while in China. The family helped support her mother during her treatment but was financially unable anymore once they had to move.

"I have no chance to say goodbye to her," Kate said.

The family has experienced all these hardships while struggling to live in Mexico and pay their Rochester home mortgage. They also have no real income and rely on help from family and friends.

Sean Herberts is the Chen family's neighbor and created a petition to help speed up the visa renewal process.

 "They said the most important thing would be to receive support or signatures for a letter of support," he said.

 The goal is to receive 1,000 signatures. As of Tuesday night, the family received 992. 

Herberts said the family gives a lot to others and even helped his own family as he went through a medical diagnosis.

"The Chens amplify, everything about America. That it's supposed to be. So without them, this community is a little emptier," he said.

Dr. Chen said tension between the United States and China has something to do with the Visa renewal process taking so long.

 The family says Mayo Clinic and its lawyers are doing their best to help the family return home.

 Mayo Clinic gave us this statement: 

Mayo Clinic works with and supports staff as needed to navigate immigration processes in accordance with applicable law. In accordance with legal proceedings and staff privacy, Mayo cannot comment on specific pending immigration cases.

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KaMaria Braye

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