Domestic Employees of Diplomats To Get Protection

The USCIS has recently announced that A-3 and G-5 visa holders who are victims of human trafficking and other violations would become eligible for deferred action.

With this relief, the victims may be allowed to work legally and remain in the United States to resolve their pending complaints regarding the violation of the terms and conditions of their employment contract, or conditions related to human trafficking and similar violations.

A-3 and G-5 visas are nonimmigrant visas issued to attendants, servants or personal employees of ambassadors, diplomats, consular officers, foreign government officials or officers of international organizations.

Human trafficking, sometimes referred to as “trafficking in persons” and considered a form of modern-day slavery, includes acts of forced labor, holding a worker against his/her will to pay off a debt, and sex trafficking.

Trafficking may occur even in labor situations, as in the case of A-3 and G-5 visa holders. These individuals are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their employers because the latter can claim diplomatic immunity from civil and criminal prosecution.

In the request for deferred action, the victim must submit a letter requesting deferred action and outlining the violation of the employment contract or conditions and the ongoing civil action, as well as a copy of the civil complaint filed in court. The victim must give proof of legal entry into the U.S. through an A-3 or G-5 visa.

If the application for deferred action is approved, the USCIS will adjudicate the I-765 or application for employment authorization. The EAD to be issued will be valid for one year but may be renewed upon proof that the civil case is still pending. Fee waiver is available.

There have been many documented cases of trafficking especially of domestic workers who were subjected to abuse and maltreatment by their diplomat employers. For instance, from 2000 to 2008, there were some 42 domestic workers who had accused foreign diplomats of wrongdoing.

These cases involved promises of fair wages being made to the workers while still in their home countries. After arriving in the United States, the employees usually found their passports being taken away by the employer. They were threatened not to leave the premises, forced to work long hours and seven-day weeks, and paid very low wages, if at all. The workers were also subjected to physical, psychological and even sexual abuse. However, because of diplomatic immunity, many of them were simply scared into silence.

By allowing for deferred action, the USCIS has taken a small but vital step towards alleviating the plight of trafficking victims by giving the workers immigration status, albeit temporary, and taking out one of the factors adding to these workers’ vulnerability.