The British Ambassador (Lindsay) to the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)

Dear Moffat: I am anxious to have the benefit of your opinion on a matter which the Government of India have raised with us. I refer to the effect of the United States Immigration laws and regulations on Indian merchants and business men who wish to enter this country for the purpose of carrying on a trade or business.

The Embassy had some correspondence on this question in 1935 with the late Colonel D. W. MacCormack1 of the Department of Labor. I understand from this correspondence that Indian business men and merchants can enter this country only as non-immigrants under section 3 (2) of the Immigration Act of 1924,2 classified as “aliens visiting the United States temporarily as tourists or temporarily for business or pleasure”. As such, they are admitted at the discretion of the immigration authorities for a period not exceeding one year, which period may be extended by the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalisation upon the application of the visitor, who is required to show that he retains the status of temporary visitor under which he was admitted. In practice, I believe it is comparatively rare for the period of temporary stay of an alien visitor to be extended beyond a total period of eighteen months in all. It is apparently the view of the immigration authorities that anyone remaining longer than that must be regarded as having relinquished his status as a temporary visitor and that his proper course, if he wishes to reside here for a longer period, is to leave the country and qualify for admission as an immigrant, which of course an Indian cannot do owing to racial disability. Furthermore, in the absence of any treaty of commerce and navigation applicable both to the United States and India, they cannot obtain visas under section 3 (6) of the Act.

As the law at present stands it is thus impossible for Indians to make a prolonged residence in this country to conduct business or [Page 350] carry on trade. The Government of India have been contrasting this position with the freedom enjoyed by American merchants and business men in India, who suffer under no such disabilities, and they have enquired whether the United States Government would in these circumstances be willing to negotiate a treaty with them with the object of according to business men and merchants of either one [each] country permission to enter, travel in, and reside in the country of the other with the purpose of promoting trade between the two. It has been suggested that a model for such a treaty might be based somewhat on the terms of the Convention between the United States and Australia on the same subject about which there was official correspondence between us in 1933 and 1934, ending with your official note of January 30th, 1934.4

I should be very grateful to you for your opinion on the Government of India’s proposal, in particular as to whether you think that the United States Government would be willing to negotiate such a treaty.

Yours very sincerely,

R. C. Lindsay
  1. Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, 1933–1937.
  2. 43 Stat 153.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1934, vol. i, p. 834.