Jan 16, 2014, 11:43 PM
News Code: 80998890
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American Embassy school in Delhi under scanner for visa, tax violations

New Delhi, Jan 16, IRNA -- The elite American Embassy school here is under scanner for suspected violations of tax laws and visa status of some of its staff which the Indian government views as 'institutionalised fraud'.

The sprawling school, located next to the US Embassy on American government-owned land, has about 1500 students on its rolls, nearly 500 of whom are from the US.

The remaining students are from several other countries, including some locals.

Government sources said that they have information that several teachers of the school are working 'illegally', in violation of visas granted to them.

Moreover, it is in violation of tax laws.

Government views these violations seriously and is likely to initiate action in this regard, pti quoted the sources as saying.

India, in 1973, had granted to 16 teachers of the school the 'tax exempted status'.

However, as per information available with government, there were many more teachers who were working but not shown as such.

Meanwhile, a report in New York Times says that a handout for new teachers at the school has offered 'some unusual guidance' to female teachers whose husbands will also be teaching at the school.

Instructing female spouses to list their occupation on visa applications as 'housewife', the handouts state that they should not mention that they would be working.

Indian officials regard this advice as illegal.

As per the news report, the handout notes that India has placed restrictions on the number of tax-free visas available to school employees.

'So, if you are a teaching couple,' the handout says, 'we usually have the male spouse apply for the 'employment' visa and the female spouse be noted as 'housewife' on the visa application.'

The report said that Paul Chmelik, the school's administrator had refused to comment on the visa issue.

The issues pertaining to the school are among those raised by the Ministry of External Affairs with the US government through a diplomatic note and figured in the discussions between US Deputy Secretary of State William J Burns and new Indian Ambassador to the US S Jaishankar in Washington two days ago.

'Deputy Secretary Burns conveyed that we take their concerns very seriously and will continue to address them via appropriate diplomatic channels,' the US State Department said in a statement later.

India initiated a slew of initiatives in retaliation to the arrest and strip-search of its senior diplomat Devyani Khobragade, a 39-year-old 1999-batch IFS officer, on December 12 in New York on charges of visa fraud.

When contacted, the Spokesperson in MEA said, 'we are aware of these reports (handouts). These are very serious issues and we will very carefully examine them.'

India has been demanding withdrawal of charges against Khobragade, who was indicted by a jury in New York hours before she left that country after getting full diplomatic immunity.

Apart from downgrading the privileges enjoyed by the US diplomats and their families, India also sought details about staff in American schools in the country for possible tax violations. It has also asked the Embassy to 'discontinue' commercial activities undertaken by the American Community Support Association (ACSA) from its premises from today.

With India deciding to enforce strict reciprocity about the privileges enjoyed by American diplomats posted in the country, the government has already withdrawn extra privileges enjoyed by them such as airport passes which gave them special access at Indian airports.