Authorities in the U.S. have raided offices of another university on charges of fraud, this time in the suburbs of Washington; 90 per cent of the 2,400 students are from India.
During the day-long exercise, dozens of officials from different federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and FBI, on Thursday raided offices at the University of Northern Virginia's Annandale campus. They took away a large number of boxes full of documents and computer hard drives from the administrative division.
Earlier in January, U.S. authorities had raided and shut down Tri-Valley University in California on charges of massive immigration fraud, affecting over 1,500 Indian students.
Officials from ICE's Student and Exchange Visitor Programme (SEVP) “served UNVA with a Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOIW) UNVA's authorisation to admit foreign students,” ICE spokeswoman Cori W Bassett in a statement.
Based in Annandale, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, the university is believed to have 2,400 students of which 90 per cent are from India, with an overwhelming majority said to be from Andhra Pradesh.
The university declined to make any comment, neither did it communicate with its students and staff, except for posting a notice at its entrance, informing that the university is still open but students have the choice to move to other varsities or look for other options if they want.
The university temporarily cannot accept any foreign students, reads the notice.
UNVA students must leave the country immediately if they are unable “to continue to attend classes and maintain their active status in a manner required by federal government regulations.”
Informed sources said UNVA was authorised to issue I-20 form to about 50 students, but had issued and enrolled a much larger number.
Based on their experience of the “shamed” Tri Valley University, wherein the Indian government had strongly objected to the manner in which students from India were treated, federal authorities this time have taken steps to ensure that students face less inconvenience.
Officials have assured the Indian embassy here that no arrest or detention or electronic monitoring would be done on students; the university would not be immediately shut down but be given a one-month notice for explanation.
The Indian embassy has been in touch with the U.S. officials to ensure that the students are not victimised.
Some of the mitigating measures that are being taken in this case are also because of continuous efforts made by the embassy since the Tri Valley University case.
Contrary to the Tri Valley case, the focus of investigations here is not on students but on the institution itself, an official told PTI.
The present students would have one of the three options: continue at the University while it functions; seek transfer to another university and seek voluntary return to their country.
Also the visa status of the students would not be terminated, they would remain valid for their present duration, which would also provide time for seeking transfers while continuing in a valid visa status.
The University of Northern Virginia is an unaccredited, for-profit private university that calls itself the most popular American university for students from India.
If the investigation discovers the varsity improperly handled student visas, it could face severe penalties.