Published: Sun, February 03, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

129 of 130 arrested in US visa fraud scheme are Indians

129 of 130 arrested in US visa fraud scheme are Indians

According to the to the indictments, from February 2017 to January 2019, a group of foreign citizens, conspired with each other and others to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the USA by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university Framington University.

As many as 129 Indians are among the 130 foreign students arrested for enroling at a fake university allegedly to remain in the US.

The ICE said foreign students are granted what are called "F" and "M" visas to study in the U.S. and must maintain their legal status by enrolling in a varsity certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

The ICE agents made the arrests on Wednesday, the same day federal indictments were unsealed that charged eight people, all of whom are either Indians or Indo-Americans, in a visa fraud scheme.

So far, about 30 Indian students have been contacted by Indian consular officers.

The Indian Embassy here and its consulates are in touch with student organisation and offered help. We got these two.

The ministry said it urged the United States to release them "at the earliest" and cautioned that some "may have been duped".

In the evolving case of the University of Farmington sting operation that The Hindu has been closely monitoring, 129 of the 130 arrested "students" are Indian nationals, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in an email.

A post on the official Facebook page of the ATA said, "Beginning in 2015, the university was part of a federal law enforcement undercover operation created to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud".

Unbeknownst to the conspirators, the university was operated by special agents of the Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) as part of an undercover operation, from a small building in Detroit area.

Ravi Mannam, an immigration attorney in Atlanta, said the fake university "hooked these students by promising them credits for their previous master's programmes". The website tells affected students to contact their local office of Homeland Security Investigations, the ICE agency that did the undercover operation.

Over 600 Indian students in the United States, especially from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, have been arrested for violating immigration rules.

The US embassy spokesperson confirmed the receipt of the demarche.

One of them, the American Telugu Association has launched a webpage to help the students and organized a webinar with immigration lawyers to guide them "to be watchful with fake agents who promise illegal ways to stay in United States of America with admissions in unaccredited colleges". The US authorities claimed that the students, who were enrolled by these 8 recruiters knew that they were committing fraud but still stayed in the US illegally. Assistance from the Indian community has also been mobilized to provide legal support to those who seek.

The foreign students, however, had no intention of attending school, it added. It held no classes and collected a nominal fee from students and gave them "curricular practical training" after their enrolment, providing temporary authorisation for practical training related to their study or to work.

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