Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

Indian Diplomat Indicted for Visa Fraud, False Statements


In a case that has sparked diplomatic tensions between the United States and India, a grand jury for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has indicted Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat with an A-1 nonimmigrant visa, on charges of visa fraud and making false statements to U.S. authorities to obtain an A-3 visa for her domestic worker, whom she brought with her to the United States when she was posted to the consulate of India in New York in 2012.

The indictment notes that Ms. Khobragade did not pay the domestic worker the required wages under U.S. law or provide her with other protections mandated by U.S. law and publicized to foreign diplomats, despite representing that she would do so. Among other things, the indictment alleges that Ms. Khobragade submitted a fraudulent employment agreement that made it appear that she and the worker had entered into an agreement that complied with U.S. labor laws and the prevailing wage. The true wage was approximately $573 per month, or $6,876 per year regardless of overtime. Once in the United States, the worker often worked up to 100 hours per week with no full day off, which resulted in an actual hourly wage of approximately $1.42 or less. Ms. Khobragade took the worker’s passport and never returned it. The worker fled after about seven months and sought aid from a nonprofit anti-human trafficking organization. Ms. Khobragade had various people attempt to persuade the worker to return to India and not report her experience. She also started legal proceedings in India against the worker and her husband.

Following her indictment, Ms. Khobragade received diplomatic immunity and returned to India. Her husband and two daughters remain in New York. The case provoked outrage among protesters who allege that she was strip-searched and put in a jail cell with criminal defendants before her release on $250,000 bail. Subsequently, India expelled U.S. diplomat Wayne May, reportedly in retaliation for Ms. Khobragade’s treatment in the United States.

An A-3 visa allows the personal attendants, employees, or servants of a principal A-1 or A-2 visa holder to enter the United States. The exhibits attached to the indictment note the requirements for an A-3 domestic worker visa, including that the applicant will receive a fair wage comparable to that being offered in the area of employment, and that the applicant must submit an employment contract with provisions stating the working hours (normally 35-40 hours per week with a minimum of one full day off each week), and other requirements.

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