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

india Updated: Jan 27, 2011 12:38 IST

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.

Duped by the authorities of Tri-Valley University, which has now been shut down, hundreds of Indian students, mostly from Andhra Pradesh, faced the threat of being deported back home after having lost their student visa status. "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 P J 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 per cent 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.