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US authorities moving to improve student visa oversight in recent years

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US authorities moving to improve student visa oversight in recent years

Three men were arrested in Los Angeles earlier this month in connection with an apparent “pay-to-stay” scam involving four private, postsecondary institutions in California. The scheme allegedly centres around Prodee University, an institution based in Los Angeles’s Koreatown and affiliated with three other schools: Walter Jay M.D. Institute and American College of Forensic Studies – both also located in Los Angeles – and Likie Fashion and Technology College, which is based nearby in Alhambra, California.

All four institutions are now the subject of an investigation by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI has reported that the four schools primarily enrolled Korean and Chinese students – as many as 1,500 in total – and generated US$6 million per year in questionable tuition revenues.

The alleged scam, authorities say, exploited loopholes in the US immigration system. For example:

  • Unaccredited schools can still be certified to issue the I-20 forms on which applications for US student visas are based.
  • Students can secure admission to one US college, obtain a visa, and then transfer to another American school – without attending the institution to which they were originally accepted and with limited monitoring.

Such systemic gaps, combined with limited compliance oversight by US authorities, have given rise to a situation where school operators abuse the system by providing I-20s, fabricating transcripts, and otherwise falsifying documents. In exchange for regular “tuition” payments, students remain in the US to live and work while only rarely attending class (or not attending at all).

 
 
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