Indian immigration accuses US embassy teachers of visa fraud

Indian immigration authorities have accused staff at the US embassy school in New Delhi of tax and visa offences. This is being seen as retaliation for the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York for visa offences in December 2013

The American Embassy School is a school primarily for the children of English speaking diplomats in New Delhi. The school is situated on land owned by the US government next to the US embassy and has 1500 pupils. Many of the teachers at the school are married couples from the US; it is frequently the case that both husband and wife teach at the school.

There is a 1973 agreement between India and the US which allows some teachers at the school to be employed tax free. This does not apply to all staff and when the quota of tax free teachers is reached, India requires the rest to register for tax.

Women in breach of tax and immigration laws

To maximise the number of tax free staff working at the school, India claims, the school advises female staff who are married to male teachers to claim that they are 'housewives' who do not work for the school. This, Indian officials say, means that the women are in breach of Indian immigration and tax laws.

Syed Akbaruddin of India's Ministry of External Affairs told The Times of India that this was 'clearly a violation of tax law. The Ministry believes that up to 16 teachers may have broken the rules and be guilty of tax and visa offences.

The accusations are seen as being in retaliation for the treatment of an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade. Mrs Khobragade was the Deputy Consul General at the Indian Consulate in New York. On 11th December 2013, she was arrested outside her daughter's school. She was taken to a police station and allegedly strip-searched.

Indian diplomat charged with visa fraud

On 9th January 2014, Mrs Khobragade was charged with making false statements in support of an application for a visa for her daughter's nanny Sangeeta Richard. The US police alleged that Mrs Khobragade had falsely claimed that Ms Richard was being paid the US minimum wage of $9.75 per hour.

Ms Richard had made a statement to the authorities that she was, in fact, being paid closer to $3.31 per hour, which would be a breach of the terms of the grant of her visa; an A-3 visa for the personal staff of diplomats in the US.

After being charged, Mrs Khobragade faced a possible ten year jail term, if convicted. In the hope of restoring normal relations with the Indian Government the US authorities then issued her with a G-1 visa which grants near total immunity from prosecution. G-1s are normally issued to international staff of organisations such as the United Nations. She left the US shortly thereafter.

India angered

The Khobragade episode has caused considerable anger in New Delhi. The Indian Government has already somewhat inconvenienced the US Government in other ways.

Before the investigation into the American Embassy School, the Indian government had on a temporary basis withdrawn Indian army protection from outside the US embassy and had also expelled a US diplomat.

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