With duped Indian students of a 'sham' university frantically looking for alternatives to avoid deportation back home, the Indian missions have set up helplines to guide them through the legal process.
Some 1,555 students of Tri-Valley University (TVU), 90% of them from India, mostly Andhra Pradesh, face the prospect of deportation following the closure of the university in Pleasanton, California, on charges of selling student visas.
A number of students have already been interviewed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, most have been questioned and released but a few have been required to wear anklet tags to monitor their movments. Many others have been detained and released on bond.
To remain in the US, they must get admission in another school, but with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) of the Department of Homeland Security, a web-based programme to track foreign students, closed for them, it's proving a hard job.
The embassy of India here in a notice on its website said it has taken up with the US State Department the issue of Tri-Valley University, so as to ensure that Indian students are not subjected to any kind of discrimination or victimisation.
The embassy along with the consulate general in San Francisco have set up a dedicated e-mail address to enable the affected students to communicate and seek guidance from the Indian authorities.
The San Francisco consulate said it is taking up the matter with concerned authorities to find out how the affected students can be helped so that they can seek admissions in other universities or can go back honourably to India.
The ICE is expected to bring out a detailed advisory for all students of Tri-Valley University sometime next week which will be available on its website, it said.
ICE will provide guidance to eligible students regarding what they can do to seek admission in other schools, but there will be no blanket reactivation SEVIS. It will be done on a case by case basis, the consulate said.
ICE has also suggested that all students of TVU, wherever they are, should report to the nearest ICE office for instructions. Eligible students will also have the option of seeking voluntary deportation after which they can again apply to other schools in the US.
Those students who are presently in India with TVU sponsored visas should not travel to the US, the consulate advised. They can apply to other universities and, if admitted, can apply for new visas.
ICE has advised that students thoroughly research the credentials of a university before applying for admission. They must ensure that the university is not only accredited at the Federal but also at the State level.
For California, students can call California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Private and Post Secondary Education at 1 (888) 370-7589 to find out about the accreditation status of the university.
Since TVU was not accredited by the above department, its credits cannot be used for transfer to other universities, the consulate said. They will need to seek admissions afresh.
For students who came to the US very recently or transferred from other accredited universities to TVU or had lawful status in the US (for example H4) and are now holding F1 visas sponsored by TVU, should present their cases to ICE.
Those students who are found by ICE not to be in violation of any visa or immigration laws are most likely to be given opportunity to adjust their status.
The consulate also provided a link to help students find the free immigration legal service providers in the San Francisco Bay Area: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/probono/freelglchtCA.htm
Some of these attorneys may even agree to accompany the students when they report to the ICE. This might be helpful, it said.