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Students warned against fake university traps set up by US Federal agents
April 10, 2019
WASHINGTON: The Indian embassy in the United States has cautioned Indian students to watch out for fake universities and ensure they do not fall into “traps.” It advised them to exercise due diligence while seeking admission in the US universities.

In recent years, several cases of fake admissions have come to light and there have been instances of “fake” universities set up by the US law enforcement agencies to trap the illegal immigrants. The undercover law enforcement agents pose as owners and employees of the university. The purpose of such operations is to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud in the US.

The most recent examples of such universities are the University of Northern New Jersey set up in 2013 and of Farmington University established in 2015 by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in the Department of Homeland Security of the United States. In both cases, a number of Indian students enrolled into these Universities, paid the requisite tuition fee and were granted F1 visa as well as Curricular Practical Training (CPT) permission.

These Indian students, many of whom claimed later that they were caught unawares, were subsequently detained by US law enforcement agencies and subjected to deportation proceedings. They were accused of having violated the US immigration laws and of knowingly remaining enrolled in a “fake” University for the sole purpose of continuing their stay in the United States without the intention of pursuing any academic activity.

In order to ensure that Indian students do not fall into such “traps”, it is advised that due diligence be exercised while seeking admission in US Universities. The fact that a University is duly accredited by relevant US authorities such as its inclusion in the Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVIS), is not an assurance in itself about the bona fides of a University.

Before seeking admission in a University, students are advised to take into account several other factors, the embassy listed:

Does the University function from a campus or merely maintains a website and has administrative premises only? If not, such Universities are not to be regarded as a bona fide educational institutions and admission into such Universities should be avoided.

Does the University have a faculty and regular instructors/educators? If not, admissions to such Universities should be avoided. It may be noted that such Universities typically employ only administrative staff and their websites have no information in respect of faculty.

Does the University have a proper curriculum, hold regular classes and actively implement academic or educational activity? If not, admissions to such Universities may be avoided. Students admitted to such Universities, even if in possession of regular student visa may be tried for violation of visa norms and subjected to detention and subsequent deportation from the US.

\In February last, 129 Indian students were arrested arrested. Eight Indian-Americans were also arrested for recruiting students for University of Farmington in Michigan State, which was run by undercover Federal agents to catch illegal immigrants, in a “pay-to-stay” immigration scam. Around 600 students were enrolled in the admissions. In fact, most of them were already in the US.

In April 1016, ten Indian-Americans and 11 others suspected to be agents in a visa racket were arrested on charges of committing fraud. They procured fake visas for a thousand foreign students, mostly Indian and Chinese, for admission at the fake University of Northern New Jersey. The agents faced a jail term of up to 10 years.

The brokers as well as the beneficiary foreign students thought the university was yet another sham set up to make money, but they had no hunch that the Federal immigration enforcement agency was doing an Indian style sting to trap visa fraudsters. The students wanted entry to the US and were not serious about higher studies. The university had no syllabus, nor classes, but an attractive website, later taken down, and a Facebook page. The website had a school seal looking like the Princeton's.

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