The government planned out a scheme, from the beginning, to catch visa frauds that many brokers were commiting. The government set up a fake university, the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ) to catch illegal visa brokers. As a result, 22 brokers were arrested and the foreign students enrolled are facing deportation.
There are several nonimmigrant work visas that a foreigner can obtain. One option is the F-1 visa, in which a student can work with Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT). This option is available only if the nonimmigrant petitioner is enrolled in a United States accredited university.
The brokers and the students who paid the brokers to be enrolled at the UNNJ misused the option of the F-1 visa in order to work in the United States. The students were promised that they would be enrolled at an accredited university, but did not have to attend any classes. Instead, they would be able to work full time with the F-1 OPT or the CPT. Students just needed to pay the broker $3,000 – $12,000, and all of this would be possible.
This operation lasted 3-years with the university “opening” in the year 2013. The school was state-licensed and certified by the Homeland Security Department. They had undergraduate and graduate courses listed on their website. The university also had a working Facebook and Twitter page. However, they did not have any classes or faculties. There were undercover agents that took calls from brokers. The brokers were warned that there would be no classes. The brokers still placed more than thousands of students in UNNJ over the three years.
The result of the sting operation
The government announced that the university was fake on April 5. After the announcement, brokers were caught and arrested. Students enrolled in the school are facing deportation or a lifetime ban from the United States. The government’s reasons for punishing the students were that,
“They were 100 percent fully aware, […] All purported students are recorded at some point or another fully going along with the pay-to-pay scheme.” (New York Times article stating what Alvin Phillips, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said.)
However, there have been many complaints from the former enrolled students. The fake school was set up so perfectly that many complained that they did not think of the process as strange. The school sent out letters stating that the students were allowed to work instead of attends classes. One student had gone to the school in person, met a man that represented himself as the president of the school, and even sent the student home with a school t-shirt.