Phony Colleges Cash In by Selling Student Visas

Foreign students get 'educated' on bypassing U.S. immigration law

In an American labor landscape already bursting with foreign workers — particularly in the IT sector — savvy labor brokers have concocted a scam to game the student visa system, bringing in overseas workers to fill jobs Americans both want and need.

“Visa mills” offer the documentation needed to obtain visas for foreign workers who are ostensibly in the U.S. to obtain higher education — for a price.

“What is baffling is why U.S. employers are so interested — these students can’t possibly have sophisticated skills,” said one policy expert.

“It’s a pipeline for lower-cost labor,” Hal Salzman, a professor in the E.J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said. “It’s good wages and good employment for that visa-holder, if he’s got some skill. The real issue is that employers here are looking for low-cost labor — this is a demand-driven problem. Employers are supporting the low-end labor market, obtaining workers from weak to outright fraudulent university programs.”

How fraudulent are the universities in this labor pipeline?

Northwestern Polytechnic University near San Francisco is now being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security. Financial records indicate the school somehow made a profit of close to $30 million on gross receipts of a little more than $40 million in 2014, according to the Center for Immigration Studies website.

It has about 2,000 F-1 visa students, almost all from southern India.

David North, a senior fellow at CIS who has studied immigration policy for over 30 years, told LifeZette, “It’s a successful operation these universities have — typically run by someone with a Chinese name recruiting from India. A student checks in with the ‘university,’ pays their tuition, and wanders off and gets a job. The schools I am concerned about currently are in California — Northwest Polytechnic, the University of Silicon Valley, and Herguan University.”

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Some real universities also offer master’s programs for overseas students, but typically the offerings are far below anything that would actually equip a graduate to enter the workforce at a sophisticated level.

“The ‘why’ of it on the university side is the obvious — master’s programs are big money-makers,” said Salzman. “Set up a master’s program, staff it with part-time faculty, the students essentially go right to work for employers who are paying lower wages.”

“Many major universities of higher learning have F-visa students in their computer science program — many say that it is a weak program in an otherwise legitimate university,” he continued, saying that these students eventually transition to an H-1B visa. “What is baffling is why U.S. employers are so interested — these students can’t possibly have sophisticated skills. Why don’t employers seem to care? Lower-quality software is becoming more acceptable — another issue within the issue.”

These college programs range from holding a few courses for students to online courses with very marginal offerings — to no offerings at all, according to Salzman. “The goal here is to put them on student visas, so they work right away. Then there are the outright fraudulent schemes — one university had 550 students all registered to one apartment. They were placed in a work program under the CPT.”

The CPT — Curricular Practical Training — allows foreign students to legally work for an employer and gain experience of their field of study while they work.

In some cases, the “university” is little more than an empty storefront — a vehicle to shuttle students into the country to fill up jobs that should go to Americans needing a paycheck.

In some cases, the “university” is little more than an empty storefront, a vehicle to shuttle students into the country to fill up jobs at a lower wage — jobs that should go to Americans needing a paycheck.

National security is another factor worrying law enforcement and immigration experts. Every year, over 55,000 students overstay their visas and drop out of contact with authorities — and the 7,000 agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) don’t have the ability to keep tabs on all of them.

“Our legal immigration system has many vulnerabilities and the student visa program is no different,” Claude Arnold, an ICE agent in Los Angeles told Fox News in January. “It is only a matter of time before there is either some horrible criminal act, or some act of terrorism, and there is absolutely no information available that would have caused [authorities] to go out and pick that person up.”

In April, Homeland Security Investigations conducted a sting in which 21 student recruiters, labor brokers, and employers were arrested from all over the U.S. They fell for the bait — allegedly conspiring with more than a thousand foreign nationals to fraudulently maintain student and foreign worker visas through a New Jersey college ICE set up called UNNJ — University of Northern New Jersey, located in Cranford.

Foreign Students
Data showing the massive increase in the number of foreign students studying in the U.S. and their region of origin (courtesy: Brookings Institute)

Unbeknownst to the defendants and the foreign nationals they conspired with, UNNJ was an HSI trap.

ICE revealed the sting on their website and spelled out the national security threat.

“Pay-to-Stay schemes not only damage our perception of legitimate student and foreign worker visa programs, they also pose a very real threat to national security,” said New Jersey United States Attorney Paul J. Fishman. “Today’s arrests, which were made possible by the great undercover work of our law enforcement partners, stopped 21 brokers, recruiters and employers across multiple states who recklessly exploited our immigration system for financial gain.”

There are proposed reforms to foreign student visas. A program dubbed “Green Cards for Grads” would put control of green cards for foreigners into the hands of colleges and universities, who would be granted authority to issue a green card with a diploma. The proposed policy, which Hillary Clinton supports, would allow new graduates to bypass temporary H-1B work visas and move directly from student visas to green cards.

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Clinton’s plan has no specifics, and the idea has had bipartisan support from Democrats and RINOs in the past — Mitt Romney supported the idea in 2012 during his ill-fated presidential run.

“We will see a flood of foreign student applications, which will crowd out American students from STEM fields,” Ron Hira, Howard University public policy professor, said about the proposed policy in March 2015 during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on H-1B visas. “Those foreign students will in turn flood the labor market in the STEM fields, depressing wages, and further steering American students away from studying in these fields.”

Salzman too offered testimony on proposed bills friendly to foreigners.

“‘Green Cards for Grads’ provisions in … bills would further distort the U.S. higher education system, providing incentives for colleges and universities to establish, or expand current master’s programs as ‘global services’ that offer a green card for the price of a graduate degree, and that are offered primarily or even exclusively for foreign students and directly or indirectly exclude U.S. students,” he said.