CHENNAI (Reuters) – Several south Indian film personalities have been barred from the United States for their role in a visa scam, the U.S. consulate in Chennai said on Thursday.
Indians wishing to emigrate have apparently been paying film industry figures to pretend to hire them to work on shoots in the United States, U.S. officials said. They enter on a temporary visa and then stay on illegally.
“All who participated in this scheme – the fraudulent applicants, the film industry figures who assisted them, and the visa brokers or consultants who devised the scheme and produced and sold the false documents – have violated American law,” David Hopper, the U.S. consul general in Chennai, told reporters.
Chennai is the largest city in south India and has a thriving Tamil-language film industry.
Around 200 people have been given a life-time bar from receiving U.S. visas, he said, including an unspecified number of film industry figures. Some bogus applicants are believed to be currently in the United States. Their names have been given to U.S. authorities, Hopper said.
Names and other details of the barred people are not being released in keeping with U.S. law, he said.
Indian police said they arrested a young actress named Flora Shiny on Tuesday in connection with visa fraud. A broker and a bogus applicant have also been arrested.
The racket was first detected last May when a visa applicant admitted to paying 500,000 rupees (about $12,000) to a “consultant”. In exchange he got false documentation and a known film industry figure to apply for a visa along with him.
He lied that he was a producer accompanying the actor to the United States to scout film locations.
“Normally these applications come in pairs where the actor or director is supporting the case of the other applicant to procure a B1 visa for a short business trip,” Hopper said.
Sarath Kumar, an actor and president of the South Indian Artistes Association, said he doubted any famous actors or directors were involved.
“If any of our members have been found to be part of this racket, we would remove them from our rolls,” he said. “The handiwork of a few unscrupulous elements will now put even genuine visa applicants to unnecessary hardships.”