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Immigration sting a pall over international student visa program

Recent reports detail a sting operation that was set up by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its target was those involved in an immigrant student visa scam, and the consequences might have a chilling effect for international students seeking to enroll in educational programs all over the country.

As one immigration attorney in another state commented when the sting was revealed, it could “cause further decrease in international students choosing the U.S. . . . to continue their education[s].” Instead, she opined, they might choose countries that “don’t set up sting operations with fake universities and say, ‘Gotcha.'”

Perhaps due to the unfriendlier atmosphere for international students in the United States, there are fewer international students who have enrolled at American colleges and universities. During the 2017-2018 academic year, enrollment dipped by 6.6 percent. This was the second consecutive year that international student enrollments dropped over 6 percent.

If you are an international student here on a visa, you already know that you must abide by all laws in order to remain here and continue your education. As such, the Detroit Free Press reported that there were signs indicating that students knew or should have known that they would not be able to uphold the conditions of a student visa at the school advertised in the sting.

Allegedly, they were aware they would not earn class credits or attend classes and progress toward a degree. The paper reported that “[e]ach student knew that the University’s program was not approved by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was illegal, and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others.”

Still, the sting university appeared to have numerous features of real universities. It had a website detailing its 1950 founding and active social media accounts with current announcements that classes were canceled because of the frigid Midwest weather. It had an actual physical address, offices and claims of accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, although those officials were working with DHS agents in the sting op.

If you are here on a student visa, you can’t afford to run afoul of U.S. immigration laws. If you suspect you may be facing legal trouble, you should seek the counsel of an immigration attorney to advise you on how to proceed.