200 visa applicants banned from visiting US

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Chennai, Mar 12: The US Consulate General in Chennai today imposed a life time ban on travelling to the US for 200 visa applicants, connected to the South Indian Film Industry (SIFI) for submitting false credentials while applying for visas to the US.

''About 200 visa applicants claiming to be connected to the SIFI used false credentials to apply for visas to the United States. These individuals now face a lifetime ban on travelling to the US'', an official release said here. However, this should not be viewed as US condemnation of the SIFI. The Consulate's announcement comes a day after three people connected with SIFI were arrested yesterday by the city police for attempting to get visas to US with fabricated documents.

Following a complaint from the US Consulate authorities, a team of officers from the Royapettah police station last evening arrested Shiny, an actor from Andheri West, Mumbai, Venkat Reddy and Srilatha of Hyderabad.

Interrogations revealed that Venkat Reddy had taken several lakhs from Srilatha, who informed the Consulate authorities that she was a make up woman for Shiny and was promised her a job abroad.

The Consulate's Fraud Prevention Unit uncovered the racket, in which film actors or directors used their position to lend credibility to a second unqualified applicant. The unqualified applicants has paid Rs five lakhs to a ''visa consultant'' and the accompanying actor or director. ''Immigration records show that the majority of those who received visas are illegally present in the US. Their identities have been passed on to US law enforcement authorities, but their names are not made public as per the US law'', the release said.

While the Consulate welcomes all legitimate travellers, anyone committing fraud to obtain a visa can be charged with crimes in US as well as in India, it said and added that film actors, directors and their companions who used fraudulent documents have received a lifetime bar from ever traveling to the United States.

Consul General David Hopper said this action should not be viewed as a condemnation of the SIFI.

While the Consulate acknowledges the artistic and commercial successes that have made this industry known and admired around the world, it also recognises and welcomes the increasing technical and artistic collaboration between Indian film makers and the film industries in other countries, including the US.

''It is unfortunate that some people in the industry have misused the well-earned reputation and stature of the Indian film industry for illegal purposes'' , he said.

Consular Chief Mark Fry said applicants should strictly avoid documents sold by document vendors or brokers, and only submit genuine documents.


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