Federal agents set up a fake university as part of a sting operation that on Tuesday resulted in the arrests of 21 individuals on visa fraud-related charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey announced.
The 21 defendants were arrested for their suspected involvement in a “pay to stay” scheme in which they allegedly helped foreign nationals enroll in the sham University of Northern New Jersey, which purported to be a for-profit college but in fact was created by Department of Homeland Security agents in 2013. The institution had no instructors and no curriculum and held no classes. It did, however, have a storefront location that was staffed by federal agents who posed as school administrators.
Federal investigators identified hundreds of foreign nationals, primarily from China and India, who initially entered the U.S. on F-1 student visas to attend other educational institutions and then in effect “transferred” to this fake school. “Through various recruiting companies and business entities located in New Jersey, California, Illinois, New York and Virginia, the defendants then enabled approximately 1,076 of these foreign individuals -- all of whom were willing participants in the scheme -- to fraudulently maintain their nonimmigrant status in the U.S. on the false pretense that they continued to participate in full courses of study at the UNNJ,” the government’s press release stated.
“Acting as recruiters, the defendants solicited the involvement of UNNJ administrators to participate in the scheme. During the course of their dealings with undercover agents, the defendants fully acknowledged that none of their foreign national clients would attend any actual courses, earn actual credits or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study. Rather, the defendants facilitated the enrollment of their foreign national clients in UNNJ to fraudulently maintain student visa status, in exchange for kickbacks, or ‘commissions.’ The defendants also facilitated the creation of hundreds of false student records, including transcripts, attendance records and diplomas, which were purchased by their foreign national conspirators for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities.”
In some cases the defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining work authorizations for their clients by issuing false documents that “created the illusion that prospective foreign workers would be working at the school … The defendants then used these fictitious documents fraudulently to obtain labor certifications issued by the U.S. secretary of labor and then ultimately to petition the U.S. government to obtain H1-B visas for nonimmigrants.”
The 21 defendants are variously charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, making false statements, conspiracy to harbor aliens for profit and H-1B visa fraud. The former two charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; the latter two are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A program that allows international students in Canada to work for up to three years after graduation is creating a low-wage workforce and encouraging the creation of low-quality university programs, says an internal Citizenship and Immigration Canada report obtained by the CBC.
The report found that the majority of international students employed through the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program are employed in low-skilled, low-wage service jobs. The report also found that “low-quality education programs with minimal entry requirements” have developed to take advantage of the program in the wake of 2008 changes extending the possible duration of a work permit and eliminating a requirement that students find work in their field of study.
The availability of postgraduation work opportunities is widely seen as a way to increase a country’s competitiveness in recruiting international students. The United Kingdom experienced declines in international student enrollments -- and in enrollments from India especially -- after it eliminated a two-year poststudy work visa program in 2012. (Students who wish to stay and work in the U.K. still have the option of applying for a general visa if they can find a sponsoring employer paying a wage of £20,800 -- about $30,000 -- or more.) Meanwhile, the United States has issued a new rule, to go into effect May 10, extending the period that international students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields can work after graduation from 29 months to three years.
A new report from the Institute of International Education provides data on the range of noncredit educational activities students are pursuing abroad, including volunteering and service learning, work or internships, research or fieldwork, study tours, religious missions, and travel for academic conferences, artistic performances or athletic competitions.
The report, based on a survey of 803 universities, 227 of which responded, stresses the difficulties of collecting complete data on noncredit experiences -- as opposed to for-credit study abroad, which is tracked in IIE’s annual Open Doors survey -- but nevertheless offers some general findings.
Among the universities surveyed, Latin America is the most popular destination for noncredit activities. (By contrast, the most popular destination for for-credit study abroad is Europe.) The most common activity is volunteer work or service learning. While universities did not have complete data on the gender and race of students undertaking noncredit activities, the data they did have show that women outnumber men and that white students account for 71 percent of participants whose race or ethnicity is known. The demographics are similar for for-credit education abroad.
A Reuters investigation found that the security of the SAT has been compromised in Asia much more frequently than the College Board, the nonprofit entity that owns the test, has publicly acknowledged.
An internal PowerPoint presentation obtained by the news agency showed that half of the 18 SAT tests in the College Board's inventory in June 2013 had been leaked to outside entities, in part or in full. The College Board confirmed to Reuters that it proceeded to use material from some of the compromised tests, though officials said that test questions were used in countries other than those where they were known to have circulated.
The investigation also highlights the security challenges caused by the College Board’s practice of reusing test questions and the ways in which a thriving test prep industry in Asia exploits this vulnerability. A College Board vice president told Reuters that the entity “would never move forward with a test administration … without the full confidence that we can maintain the integrity of the exam and deliver to our member colleges and universities valid scores.”
At least two university students were among the dozens killed in the terrorist attacks at the main airport and a subway station in Brussels last week. Howest University College on Friday announced the death of Bart Migom, a second-year marketing student. According to a New York Timesprofile, Migom, 21, was at the airport for a flight to Atlanta to visit his girlfriend, whom he described as his “Georgia peach” and “partner in Christ.” This article has been updated to delete a reference to the university attended by Migom's girlfriend, as reported by the Times, after the university said she was not currently enrolled.
Earlier in the week the Université Saint-Louis in Brussels announced the death of Léopold Hecht, a law student, in the subway bombing. Hecht, 20, was remembered in the Times for his talent for acting and improvisational theater.
A top Chinese university may have been tricked by a man pretending to be a member of the Rothschild banking family, the Associated Press reported. A Tsinghua University administrator cited “oversights” in the institution’s screening processes after the Economic Observer newspaper reported that Oliver Rothschild – who attended fund-raisers and received gifts from Tsinghua’s president on a recent visit -- might not be a part of the famous banking family after all.