Bollywood did not misuse visas: US cables

Washington: Following intensive investigation which also included a visit to the shooting site of `My Name is Khan` the US Consulate in Mumbai in 2009 concluded that Bollywood generally does not misuse the US visas issued to its crew, a WikiLeak cable has said.

"The study found that O2 travelers have a low overstay rate of 1.6 per cent. Site visits to major Indian production houses and no evidence of fraud for O2 applicants further suggests that most entertainment companies in Mumbai do not intend to misuse their US visas," said the US Consulate in Mumbai its cable dated December 14, 2009, which was released by WikiLeaks on August 30.

Home to one of the largest entertainment industries in the world, Mumbai sends many stars and production crews to the US on O1 and O2 visas, it said, adding that the investigation was based on reports of fraud in other categories of visas.

According to a validation study of O visa applications in 2008, the cable said, Mumbai has a high approval rate of 88 per cent for O2 applicants. Of the 379 O2`s that travelled to the US, records suggested that 55 did not return. However, it was found that twenty did return after checking case notes entered when they personally returned to the Consulate for cancellation of their visas.

"Twenty-nine of the outstanding O2 visas are still valid for travel to the US. Although there were only six unresolved cases - showing a low overstay rate of 1.6 per cent- some O2`s still jumped ship. In this study, production boys, a valet, and fashion designer did not return from the US," the cable said.

To enhance their interview strategies, officials of the Consulate paid site visits to two major production houses.

They met with the CEO of Dharma Productions, Apoorva Mehta, who said he carefully reviews each member of the film crew before they apply for their visas to the US.

Officials of the Mumbai consulate visited the set of `My Name is Khan` and met with Bollywood actors, the director and choreographer to enhance their understanding of the film industry. Film production teams often take between 40-80 people to the US, including production and camera assistants, lighting assistants, sound engineers, and personal staff of the actors, the cable said.

"Unlike some P3 visa holders from the entertainment industry, O2 visa holders appear to be strong, well-qualified applicants. They have a sound record of using US visas for their intended purpose," it said.

"Given the successful results of this study, Post will continue to monitor O visa holders. If results continue to show a low overstay rate compared to other visa categories, it might be beneficial to consider the O visa category in the Business Executive Program (BEP) program.

By extending the BEP program to larger production companies with a high volume of O1 and O2 applications, fraud efforts could be focused on scrutinising lesser companies or infrequent travelers applying under P and O visa categories," the Consulate concluded.


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