Indian Diplomat Comes Under Fire for Immigration Fraud

1409592_gavel_2.jpgRecently, U.S. and India relations were rocked by a very public scandal involving an Indian diplomat's arrest for committing immigration fraud - specifically for engaging in visa fraud, for allegedly mistreating her domestic servant, and for allegedly failing to pay the servant the appropriate salary under U.S. immigration law. This case brought to light one of the lesser utilized visas that is reserved for domestic servants, and also served to highlight the consequences of noncompliance with immigration laws.

This case concerned an Indian Deputy Consul General named Devyani Khobragade who was posted at the Indian consulate in New York. Ms. Khobragade brought a household worker with her to the United States and sponsored the worker for an A-3 visa. The A-3 visa is for domestic workers who diplomatic or consular officials only. These types of workers typically include maids, nannies, and household servants.

In order to obtain the A-3 visa for her worker, Ms. Khobragade was required to provide the U.S. consulate in India with, among other documents, an employment contract signed by her and the worker which outlined a description of the worker's proposed household duties, the amount of hours expected in the worker's workweek, and the worker's salary which must meet federal and state minimum wage requirements. The contract must also state that the worker's salary should be made by electronic transfer into her account or by check, but that no members of the Indian consulate can have access to the worker's account. Moreover, the contract must confirm that the worker will be given transportation to and from the United States at no cost to the worker.

According to the allegations of the case, after many months of employment with Ms. Khobragade, the household worker whose name is Sangeeta Richard, complained about her working conditions to the diplomat (citing that she was working up to 100 hours per week and was not receiving her wages) and told the diplomat she wanted to go back to India. Allegedly, Ms. Khobragade refused the request and also refused to give Ms. Richard her passport. Some time later, Ms. Richard left the diplomat's residence and went to Safe Horizon, an organization that is dedicated to assist human trafficking victims. Safe Horizon put Ms. Richard in touch with legal counsel and soon the U.S. Attorney for New York's Southern District brought the aforementioned charges against Ms. Khobragade.

The arrest proceeding included a strip search of Ms. Khobragade and a determination that she would not be accorded full diplomatic immunity, both of which greatly incensed the Indian public and resulted in the country's government transferring Ms. Khobragade to India's mission to the United Nations which did qualify her for full and complete immunity. Ms. Khobragade has since departed the United States.

Were it not for Ms. Khobragade's immunity, the charges brought against her could have resulted in her imprisonment for up to 10 years.

At the Gee Law Firm, our attorneys are always available to counsel foreign workers who feel they are not working under acceptable conditions. U.S. immigration and labor law protects foreign nationals to a similar extend it does U.S. workers. If you or a loved one are not being treated appropriate by your U.S. employer, contact us today at 650-293-0270 to discuss your case and possible options with our office.

Additional Blog Posts

President Obama Signs Rare Private Immigration Bill, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, January 8, 2013
Reforming Asylum in the Immigration Bill, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 28, 2013

Immigration News / by Michelle Gee