Washington, Jul 29 : Authorities in US have raided offices of another university on the charges of fraud, this time in the suburb of Washington, where 90 per cent of the students are from India.
In a day-long exercise, dozens of officials from different federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and FBI, yesterday raided offices at the University of Northern Virginia's Annandale campus and took away with them a large number of boxes full of documents and computer hard drives from its administrative division.
“Today, 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, of which an overwhelming majority are said to be from Andhra Pradesh.
The university declined to make any comment, neither did it communicated with its students and staff, except for posting a notice on 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 can't accept any foreign students, reads the notice posted on the door of the offices. 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,” the notice reads.
Earlier in January, US authorities raided and shut down Tri-Valley University in California on charges of massive immigration fraud, leaving over a thousand Indian students' fate hanging.
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 and the university would not be immediately shut down but would be given a one month notice for explanation.
The Indian Embassy has been in touch with the US officials to ensure that the students are not victimised. Some of the mitigating measure 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 schools 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 school improperly handled student visas, the school could face severe penalties.PTI