In the 2016-2017 academic year, a record 1.18 million international students were studying in the United States, according to The New York Times. Evidently, large amounts of students come to the United States to receive quality higher-education degrees, but many of these students will also seek opportunities to remain and work in the United States. The school you choose to attend will play a role in your prospects as an international student seeking employment and legal stay in the United States.
In 2016, The New York Times published an article about a sting operation set up by the USCIS. In an attempt to expose brokers and students breaking laws of studying in the U.S., the government established a fake university, the University of Northern New Jersey. In result, 22 brokers were arrested, and 1,076 students had to appear in court to face deportation or even a lifetime ban from the United States. While this was purposefully set up by the U.S. government to catch those committing crimes, there are many actually fraudulent schools that defraud international students. More recently, the USCIS announced the sentencing of the owner of four schools —three in Koreatown and one in Alhambra— all of which were fraudulent operations known as “pay-to-stay” where students pay for their status as students, but never actually attend school. This post is to help you identify and avoid such schemes.
Students who knowingly go along with any arrangement that violates the laws and regulations pertaining to studying in the U.S. face grave consequences as those listed in the referenced article. Those who begin to have suspicions of misconduct while enrolled in a school should report their concerns to appropriate authorities or seek the counsel of attorneys if needed.
Here are some tips on how to avoid frauds and scams:
1. Accreditation: Students should verify that the institution they plan on enrolling in is accredited and recognized by an agency that is recognized by the U.S. government. Accreditation ensures that the school is legally recognized by the government to provide education.
1a. Note for graduate students: Graduate-level degrees given by institutions not accredited by an agency that is accepted by the U.S. government, do not qualify for the Master’s Cap of the H-1B Visa.
1b. No proper accreditation also means that the school cannot issue or extend valid I-20s or OPT.
1c. Use the following link to see if a school you are considering is accredited: https://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/
2. Attendance: The school you seek to attend should have some expectation and requirement for you to attend and complete a full course of study as a student and to receive a passing grade for those courses. The school should also be able to provide transcripts to verify such information and your student record.
3. School Information: Verify the information about the school, for instance: degrees offered, the nature of the university (i.e. public, private, etc.), and more.
3a. Use this official database to search a school for such information: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
* If the school is not appearing in this database, that is another red flag that attending the school may not be a safe choice.
* This link also has an “Accreditation” tab where you can verify the accreditation of every specific program or school within the university at large.
3b. Note for graduate students: A university must be public or not-for-profit for you to meet one of the several eligibility criteria for Master’s Cap of H-1B Visa, which you can also verify at the listed link.
For your case or any individual concerns, you may contact Law Office of Ross Yang for additional assistance.