Visa fraud an issue of concern: US, Indian students quizzed

The US expressed concern over any activity involving visa fraud, as several Indian students of a California-based University shut down by authorities on charges of illegal immigration were interrogated.

Updated: Jan 27, 2011, 16:12 PM IST

"Any activity involving visa fraud would obviously be of
great concern to us. The investigation of that is done by law
enforcement, obviously with our cooperation, since we are the
ones who issue visas," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley
told reporters at his daily news conference.

According to a federal complaint filed in a California
court last week, the University helped foreign nationals
illegally acquire immigration status.

The university is said to have 1,555 students. As many
as 95 percent of these students are Indian nationals, the
complaint said. The students are reported to have paid lakhs
of rupees for obtaining a visa for their category and also for
students work permit.

"Since 9/11, one of the areas that we as a government
have strengthened is the tracking, so that if you come here on
a student visa, you have to check in and you have to go to
school. That is a requirement of that programme," Crowley
said.

Meanwhile, reports from the San Francisco area said a
number of students have been interrogated by federal
authorities as part of their investigation against the
Tri-Valley University, which is being charged of part of an
effort to defraud, misuse visa permits, and indulge in money
laundering and other crimes.

Investigations by Immigration and Custom Enforcement
(ICE) found that while students were admitted to various
residential and on-line courses of the university and on paper
lived in California, but in reality they "illegally" worked in
various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia,
Pennsylvania, and Texas.

ICE has called it as a "Sham University".

The ICE investigations found that more than half of these
students were reported to be residing in a single apartment
located in Sunnyvale California.

During the course of the investigation ICE found that the
university gave the residential address of its students in
order to conceal that they did not live in California, said
the court papers.

For a student to maintain an active immigration status,
they must show proof that they are making reasonable process
toward completing coursework and physically attending classes.

Federal investigating authorities are now sweeping out on
every such student, who paid lakhs for obtaining students
visa and also students work permit.

Several of them have been interrogated, thus creating a
panic reaction among the Indian student community.

Many of the students from Andhra Pradesh who were
planning to join the university for the new semester have
cancelled their US travel plans. Classes were scheduled to
start on January 10 after the winter break.

It is understood that many of these students are planning
to leave the country as soon as possible as they are being
interrogated.

There are unconfirmed reports of some of the students
being detained and deportation process has been started
against them.

Once the university has been shut down, the students who
come on F-1 visa, lose their status within a stipulated time.

PTI