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AG's Advice on illegal staff at NY mission: No More US Visas
Expired A-2 work visas for locally-recruited staff (LRS) attached to the New York-based Consul General’s office will not be renewed. The matter has engaged the attention of Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran and Consul General Nan Ramgoolam for almost three years before finally being referred to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan for a conclusive legal determination last month.
The A-2 is a diplomatic, non-immigrant visa which allows foreign accredited officials outside of the diplomatic category, to enter the US and engage in official activities of their government. All foreign government officials, ranking next to diplomats and officials, representing their national government and immediate family members of A-2 diplomatic visa holders are eligible for an A-2 visa. The holder of such a visa cannot be tried by the US for any crime and is assured of unrestricted travel to, from and within the US.
According to inter-ministerial correspondence, obtained by the Sunday Guardian, Ramlogan and two senior legal minds at his office came to the same conclusion—that it was “improper and unethical” to use the power of the T&T consul’s office to obtain work visas from the United States State Department. “This policy should therefore cease with immediate effect,” Ramlogan said a letter to Dookeran.
Ramlogan said using the consulate’s office to obtain work visas for people living illegally in the United States was “a misuse and abuse of diplomatic protocol.” “Foreign missions should only hire persons who are lawfully resident and entitled to work in the host nation. Missions should therefore desist from hiring persons who are not lawfully entitled to reside and work in the host nation in accordance with the relevant immigration laws,” he said in the letter.
The AG also said it was an abuse of the “reciprocal comity that exists between nations for Trinidad and Tobago to circumvent the host nations laws by employing illegal immigrants and procuring an A-2 visa”.
No visa should be needed
The consul offices can hire two categories of people, home bound staff (HBS) who are based in T&T and the LRS, made up of people already holding a green card or people with American citizenship. “There is no need to apply for an A-2 visa (or any other kind of visa) to facilitate the employment of locally recruited staff in the host nation. Such persons would already be lawfully resident and entitled to work in the United States of America,” Ramlogan said.
“If, on the other hand, the employee is not legally resident and entitled to work in the USA, the employment of such a person using the A-2 visa is improper and unethical. It is a backdoor method of regularizing their immigration status in circumstances where they are otherwise not entitled to legally live and work in the USA,” he said.
Ramgoolam: I am vindicated
Consul general Nan Ramgoolam, initially raised the concern and had refused to continue to facilitate the visa renewals yesterday said she was unaware that a legal determination was made, but said she was glad that Ramlogan had. “What happened is that you had people coming to the US with a visitor’s visa and they were being hired even though they were not legally allowed to work in the US,” she said in a telephone interview yesterday.
“Some were working at the Mission without proper documentation and I was expected to carry on that custom,” she said. Ramgoolam said she respected the trust her office held and had already refused to renew any expired A-2 visas. “I am vindicated now that the Attorney General has made this determination,” she said.
Ramgoolam, in her capacity, would have to notify the US State Department of the expired visa to facilitate a renewal. “You cannot breach the laws of another country and once one of these visas come to an end, I am not renewing them,” she said. Neither Ramlogan nor Dookeran could be reached for comment.