In April 2016, the U.S. authorities have arrested 21 individuals that were involved in a fake university student visa scam. The ‘University of Northern New Jersey’ was specifically established to expose student visa scams and 21 suspects were arrested by American immigration authorities.
The “university” came with a Facebook page, its own website, a classic seal with the Latin words ‘Humanus, Scientia, Integritas’, a like-real menu of business degrees, and offered ‘an exceptional education experience’. The ‘university’ address was in Cranford, New Jersey, and was established in 2012.
The detainees are suspected of committing visa fraud and some other offences after their illegal activities were discovered, but the authorities needed to go at great lengths as they had set up the University of Northern New Jersey, a fake education institution that was established by the U.S. department of homeland security.
In reality, the school was merely a front for the department of homeland security, set up to flush out the methods that criminal networks use for visa fraud and to understand more about how fake universities are working.
The arrested individuals were acting as brokers for more than one thousand foreigners, mainly from China and India, to get hold of foreign worker or student visas illegally via a so-called ‘pay-to-stay’ scheme. Some of the arrested persons are naturalized U.S. citizens, others have permanent resident status.
Undercover homeland security agents who worked on the sting were paying the brokers commissions that ranged from $1,200 to $2,000 for each of the ‘students’ they recruited. In the three years the ‘University of Northern New Jersey’ was active, it did not award any degrees during the three years of its existence, and had never any faculty or administrative staff.
Over the three years, more than 1,070 ‘students’ falsely signed up and they will have to appear in immigration court to have their ‘student’ visas revoked. Pay-to-stay schemes are not only severely damaging the reputation and integrity of legitimate overseas students, they are also posing a potential threat to out national security.
The arrested individuals were engaging in schemes that are undermining the great and remarkable educational opportunities that international students have in the United States, and they represent a serious affront to those students who are playing by the rules. These unscrupulous individuals that are now arrested are undermining also the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.
The ‘University of Northern New Jersey’ sting was organized after in 2012, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has severely criticized America’s Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities because they had failed to adequately monitor and track the processes under which individuals and institutions are obtaining visitor and student visas.
In recent years, U.S. Immigration officials have been investigating dozens of suspected ‘fake’ schools, also called ‘visa mills.‘ Several investigations have resulted in charges. Two school officials (one in Georgia and one in California) have been sentenced to prison, while another official received 16 years for, among other charges, visa fraud. In this ‘University of Northern New Jersey’ sting, though, federal authorities had set up their own fake education institution.