Don’t Fall into the Fake University Trap! Lessons to Learn from the Arrest of 129 Indian Students in the US

In 2015, when some Indian students were offered a shortcut route to a Master’s degree from the US, it seemed too good to be true! University of Farmington, Michigan was allowing them a CPT (student work-permit) right from Day 1. The students could start working immediately and would not have to attend classes, earn credits or make any academic efforts towards their degree. All that was required was a one-time payment to 8 Indian ‘recruiters’, based in Detroit, Florida, and Virginia, who were recruiting students to this university. These agents themselves were in touch with the university authorities to facilitate the admissions.

“If you take shortcuts, you get cut short.”                                                                           Gary Busey

Little did they know that behind the façade of a fancy admissions website, a Facebook page with an events-calendar and the claim of being accredited was a trap set up by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arm of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Even the authorities that the Indian ‘recruiters’ had coordinated with were actually undercover HSI agents. Last week, based on the claim that the students were voluntarily part of this “pay to stay” scheme, 129 Indian students from India were arrested and charged with civil immigration charges. If convicted, the students may face possible deportation.

In the past few years, US immigration authorities have been taking tough measures to deter fraudulent universities that enroll students only so that they can stay in the US till they get an H1B visa. Admissions are usually run by ‘recruiters’ who charge high commissions and guarantee a fake degree, without any consideration for the legality of the process or safety of students. Similar sting operations had been conducted at Tri-Valley University (2011) and Northern New Jersey University (2016) to weed out student-visa frauds – both cases saw a number of Indian students being arrested.

In light of this, aspirants to the US must keep in mind that ‘not being aware of the correct processes’ will not hold up as a justified excuse. When selecting universities, you must do a thorough background check and evaluation of the universities you are planning to apply to.

  • Talk to any seniors of yours who may be studying there.
  • A quick search about the faculty teaching your course is a good idea.
  • Some other essential checks include accreditation, testimonials and QS Rankings.
  • Even better would be to take help from a reputed professional with years of credibility.

Remember, one can never be too safe when thinking about the future.

It has become very common for phony counselors and ‘admissions agents’ to take high commissions from questionable universities in exchange for sending unsuspecting students there. It is only once the fees have been paid and the students start classes, that they realize they have been shortchanged. At this point, any further action requires more fees to be paid and a lengthy transfer process.

However, if you are a student applying through the appropriate channels and to genuine universities, do not let such incident scare you away from pursuing an MS in the US. To safeguard your dreams, it is advisable to take counseling from a reputed source. Get all your doubts regarding which university to apply to, what the visa process includes and how to orient yourself to a new country cleared at once.

Dilip Oak’s Academy has a proven reputation of sending students only to accredited and genuine universities. We take great pride in the fact that over the last 23 years, not even one of the 28,000 students we have sent to the US has ever faced such issues. Safety of our students’ future is our primary concern and that is something that should never be compromised on. We sincerely urge you all to be precautious about this aspect as well.