US encourages prospective students to protect themselves from visa fraud

New Delhi/Washington, Jan.31 (ANI): The U.S. Government has said that welcomes all legitimate students wishing to study in the United States, and strongly encourages prospective students to protect themselves from predatory visa fraud rings and fraudulent document vendors.

A US Embassy statement released today said that to combat fraud, the U.S. Embassy offers extensive educational advising resources and regularly undertakes consular outreach initiatives to help prospective students avoid fraudulent document vendors and diploma mills.

The U.S.-India Educational Foundation provides college information and counseling services to students across India, and consular officers give frequent seminars on the proper way to apply for a student visa, including how to protect against visa fraud. We encourage all students to use these resources to ensure that they are enrolling in registered and accredited programs that are appropriate for their means and needs.

The U.S. Department of State also cooperates extensively with the Indian government to identify and shut down visa fraud rings - and we encourage the Indian government to further support local police forces in these investigations.

Visa fraud is not a victimless crime, and fraud agents and fake document vendors target some of the most vulnerable and impoverished members of Indian society.

Fraud hinders genuine students from studying in the U.S. and causes opportunities and resources to be taken away from legitimate applicants. However, victims of fraud do have access to a variety of federal and state resources in the United States - at minimum, each U.S. state has victims' assistance units to aid victims of crime, and a legitimate student who is a fraud victim should have little trouble re-applying and enrolling in a different, fully-accredited educational organization. If fraud victims choose to return to India first and apply for a new student visa, they will be treated the same as any other applicant.

The Department of State takes allegations of immigration and visa fraud very seriously, and the Tri-Valley University fraud allegations are an excellent example of the universally damaging effects of visa fraud. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have established a helpline for the Indian students affected by the closure of Tri-Valley University in California, which any affected student may call to seek help.

Some of those involved in the Tri-Valley investigation have been issued ankle monitors. Use of ankle monitors is widespread across the United States and standard procedure for a variety of investigations, and does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity. An ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signal containing location and other information to a receiver. It allows for freedom of movement and is a positive alternative to confinement during a pending investigation.

The Department of State is following this case closely and is in regular communication with Government of India officials. The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (DHS/ICE) is leading the investigation, and as an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to discuss urther details at this time. (ANI)

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