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

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Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jan 27 (PTI) The US expressed concern overany activity involving visa fraud, as several Indian studentsof a California-based University shut down by authorities oncharges of illegal immigration were interrogated.

Duped by the authorities of Tri-Valley University, whichhas now been shut down, hundreds of Indian students, mostlyfrom Andhra Pradesh, faced the threat of being deported backhome after having lost their student visa status.

"Any activity involving visa fraud would obviously be ofgreat concern to us. The investigation of that is done by lawenforcement, obviously with our cooperation, since we are theones who issue visas," State Department spokesman P J Crowleytold reporters at his daily news conference.

According to a federal complaint filed in a Californiacourt last week, the University helped foreign nationalsillegally acquire immigration status.

The university is said to have 1,555 students. As manyas 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals, thecomplaint said. The students are reported to have paid lakhsof rupees for obtaining a visa for their category and also forstudents work permit.

"Since 9/11, one of the areas that we as a governmenthave strengthened is the tracking, so that if you come here ona student visa, you have to check in and you have to go toschool. That is a requirement of that programme," Crowleysaid.

Meanwhile, reports from the San Francisco area said anumber of students have been interrogated by federalauthorities as part of their investigation against theTri-Valley University, which is being charged of part of aneffort to defraud, misuse visa permits, and indulge in moneylaundering and other crimes.

Investigations by Immigration and Custom Enforcement(ICE) found that while students were admitted to variousresidential and on-line courses of the university and on paperlived in California, but in reality they "illegally" worked invarious 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 thesestudents were reported to be residing in a single apartmentlocated in Sunnyvale California.

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

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

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

Several of them have been interrogated, thus creating apanic reaction among the Indian student community. (MORE) PTILKJ BDS GSN

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