08 March 2011

‘Sham universities’ issue US Visas to bogus students, say senators

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Five US senators have called for a federal crackdown on what they say are bogus colleges handing out student visas to potential criminals and terrorists.

US Senator Claire McCaskill says sham universities are not only circumventing the US Visa and immigration process but also putting the nation's security at risk.

Sham universities operate by making false statements and misrepresentations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to receive authorization to issue visa-related documents to foreign nationals. Many sham universities also operate through a referral and profit-sharing system, where students are able to collect up to 20 per cent of the tuition of any new student they refer and 5 per cent of the tuition of any student their referred students refer to the sham university.

In New York, US immigration officers have already shut down three of these scam schools, and are investigating others.

Last month, Tri-Valley University outside San Francisco was accused of making "false statements and misrepresentations" to receive authorization to issue visa-related documents.

The institution is also accused of receiving millions of dollars to help "foreign nationals illegally obtain student visas in return for tuition fees."

The university went from enrolling just two international students on visas in early 2009 to 1,555 in the fall of 2010 term. A homeland-security site visit in February 2009 found that the university had capacity for just 30 students.

The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their ESTA  applications  to the US Embassy.

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