ICE fake university fallout: Students who have overstayed US visa by 180 days face grim prospect of 3 year bar

The Donald Trump government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials remain firm that that the intent of the 129 students arrested in the ICE fake university sting operation was to “fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization”.

Nikhila Natarajan February 04, 2019 20:01:12 IST
ICE fake university fallout: Students who have overstayed US visa by 180 days face grim prospect of 3 year bar

New York: The Donald Trump government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials remain firm that that the intent of students arrested in the ICE fake university sting operation was to “fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization”. Without going into the particular circumstances of the 129 students arrested, Cyrus Mehta, immigration attorney based in New York, explains that students who have "accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence will face a 3 year bar if s/he departs after February 5.”

ICE fake university fallout Students who have overstayed US visa by 180 days face grim prospect of 3 year bar

Representative image. Reuters

This comes even as the Indian government told the US Embassy in New Delhi that these students may have been "duped" into enrolling and should be treated differently from “recruiters” who have duped them - also in custody.

“We have urged the U.S. side to share full details and regular updates of the students with the Government, to release them from detention at the earliest and not to resort to deportation against their will” says a Ministry of External Affairs update. So far, Indian consulates have been able to contact "about 30 Indian students" with efforts continuing throughout a bitterly cold weekend in many US states.

On 9 August, 2018, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memorandum changing how the agency calculates unlawful presence for students and exchange visitors in F, J, and M nonimmigrant status, including F-2, J-2, and M-2 dependents, who fail to maintain status in the United States.

According to the USCIS, the 3 year bar applies in these scenarios:
"You accrued more than 180 days but less than 1 year of unlawful presence during a single stay in the United States on or after April 1, 1997; and
You voluntarily departed the United States before DHS initiated either expedited removal proceedings under INA 235(b)(1) or removal proceedings before an immigration judge under INA 240.
This 3-year inadmissibility period starts when you depart or are removed from the United States.
During this 3-year inadmissibility period, you are not eligible to:
Receive an immigrant (permanent) visa or a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa to come to the United States;
Adjust your status in the United States to that of a lawful permanent resident (Green Card holder);  or
Be admitted to the United States at a port of entry."

We still don’t know if any of the 129 students arrested were on first time visas where the visa was based specifically on admission into the ICE fake university named Farmington University.

Khaalid Walls, Northeast Regional Communications Director and Spokesman for ICE sent us this reply based on a query: “Each of the foreign citizens who “enrolled” and made “tuition” payments to the University knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits, or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study – a “pay to stay” scheme.  Rather, their intent was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization under the CPT program. Each student knew that the University’s program was not approved by the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), was illegal, and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others. the fact that The 129 students arrested in the US and placed in removal proceedings “knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits, or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study – a “pay to stay” scheme”

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