Hyderabad: Eighteen more students from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh returned Hyderabad on Saturday after being deported by the American authorities.
The students, who had gone to the US to join various universities, were sent back from New York airport after cancelling their visas. They returned to Hyderabad airport by three different airlines.
They complained of interrogation and ill-treatment by the officials of US Customs and Border Protection at John F. Kennedy Airport International Airport, though all their documents were valid.
The students said they were detained for several hours without drinking water and food. They said the officials threatened to bar their entry into US for five years, if they fail to withdraw and return home.
The students claimed that no reason was given for not sending them back, though they gave satisfactory reply to all the questions asked and despite possessing all valid documents.
"One officer said he was doing this on the boss' order," said a student, who did not wish to be named.
Another student who had gone to join Northwestern Polytechnic University, California said the officers told him that there is a problem with his visa. "They asked me if I bought the visa," he said.
The student was told that if he wanted he could apply again for admission into another university and come back.
Students, who had taken admissions in other universities, were also sent back. The officials were not convinced when students pointed out that the institutions were not blacklisted by the US authorities.
This is the latest in a series of incidents in recent months in which students from the two Telugu states were sent back either after landing in the US or from destinations enroute like Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
About 90 students, who had left after completing all formalities including admission letters from the universities, were sent back during last three to four months.
As many as 14 students, who had taken admission at two California universities, were sent back from San Francisco on December 19. The next day Air India stopped another batch of 15 students from boarding the San Francisco flight at Hyderabad airport.
New advisory speaks of heightened scrutiny
Just before the New Year, the Indian government issued a new advisory to all Indians travelling to the US following the deportation of a number of Indian students for providing information "inconsistent with their visa status".
"The US government has conveyed that the decision to deny entry to these (Indian) students is not because of the corresponding institutions being 'black-listed' but based on the assessment made by the US immigration authorities of individual applicants," the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
"According to the US government, the deported persons had presented information to the border patrol agent which was inconsistent with their visa status," it added.
Earlier this month, 14 Indian students who had gone to join the Silicon Valley University at San Jose and Northwestern Polytechnic University at Fremont -- both in California -- were deported by the US authorities.
In a statement, national carrier Air India said it received a communication on December 19 from the Customs and Border Protection that the two universities were under scrutiny and the students who arrived in San Francisco were not allowed to enter the US and were deported back to India.
The Indian government said it has taken up this matter with the US government. The US authorities have been asked to explain the reasons for the denial of entry on a large-scale to Indian students holding valid visas, the government said.
However, according to Wednesday's external affairs ministry statement, "there have been further cases of denial of entry to Indian students holding valid visas to pursue studies in other US educational institutions".
"Some Indian nationals travelling on business/tourism/work visas have also been deported," it stated.
According to the statement, India has remained closely engaged with the US government on the issue and has strongly emphasised the need for the US authorities to honour the visas issued by their own embassies and consulates.
"Meanwhile, it is reiterated that all Indian students seeking admission in US educational institutions should do due diligence to ensure that the institutions to which they are seeking admission have proper authorisation and capacities," the external affairs ministry statement said.
"Apart from travel documents, the students should also carry all required documentation regarding their study plans, housing, financial support, healthcare arrangements etc. and be prepared for admission (entry to the US) interviews with US immigration officials.
"Similarly, all Indian nationals traveling to the US on other visas are also advised to carry the necessary supporting documentations regarding place of stay, financial support, medical arrangements, sponsorship details etc.," it added.
On Tuesday, IANS reported from Washington that the Telugu Association of North America (TANA) has advised students from India to come well prepared in view of the heightened scrutiny at US airports.
TANA officials have been working with the Indian and US authorities to resolve this crisis, TANA president V. Chowdary Jampala said in a statement.
"We do not feel that there is any reason to worry for genuine students that are intent on pursuing their studies, respectful of US immigration laws and regulations," he said.
All students coming to the US on new F-1 visas are being screened thoroughly at the airports, TANA said. Most of these students are being allowed entry after they satisfy the immigration authorities of their credentials.
However, a few students have been denied entry at various airports for varied reasons, including failure to speak confidently about what they plan to study, where they plan to live and how they plan to meet their tuition and living expenses, it said.
Some of those denied visa were not able to demonstrate having adequate financial resources and told the immigration authorities that they planned to get part-time jobs which is not allowed by the law, TANA said.