The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which issued a “notice of intent to withdraw” accreditation to Herguan University of Sunnyvale, California, following a visa scam, has underscored the importance of students keeping immigration authorities informed of changes in their visa status.

Four hundred and fifty students, 94 per cent of them Indian according to some estimates, are facing an uncertain future.

The ICE notice said the students should not fail to contact their designated school official to report any changes in status once the ICE permitted Herguan authorities to re-establish their access to the SEVIS, (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). However, the Herguan authorities have “temporarily” been banned from the SEVIS.

Subsequently students seeking to maintain their status via transfer will have their SEVIS record and I-20 Form updated students can then notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) about their change of status. The ICE also suggested that non-immigrant students are required to file an I-539 Form to change their non-immigrant status with the USCIS.

What is important to note at this early phase of action against Herguan is that the ICE appears to be dealing with the problem differently from the tack adopted in the case of Tri-Valley University (TVU). When news of TVU’s massive visa fraud broke, immigration enforcement authorities shut down enrolment entirely, putting close to 2,000 students out of status.

However, in the case of Herguan the notice of intent to withdraw accreditation has not yet put students out of status and they have options to continue accreditation.

In another high-profile case from 2010, the University of Northern Virginia NVA managed to maintain accreditation after reworking its admissions system. In that case too, students were not out of status.

While there would thus appear to be no need for the widespread panic that gripped, for example, families of students from Andhra Pradesh, the majority of affected students at TVU, it has been suggested that individual case reviews of visa status abuse through work involvement cannot be ruled out.

If individual reviews are carried out, it could resurrect a controversial practice seen in the TVU case, of students being required by the ICE to wear ankle tags for monitoring. There are indications that possibly a large number of the students at Herguan, some of whom may be TVU transferees, have been engaged sometimes in unauthorised work under the “curricular practical training” option.

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