A recently published article by the New York Times titled “New Jersey University Was Fake, but Visa Fraud Arrests Are Real” revealed that the University of Northern New Jersey, said to be established in 2012, was actually a sting operation led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) meant to capture “agents” attempting to commit visa fraud.
On the surface of the program, UNNJ was said to provide Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to foreign students. CPT can allow foreign students to work legally in occupations related to their field of study while enrolled at an American university. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department of DHS was specifically targeting foreign students that have not obtained other legal working status such as H-1B, and instead abuse student privileges such as CPT to pose as student for the purpose of working in the US.
Before arrests were made on April 5th, the fact that UNNJ was an illegitimate university was only known to USCIS authorities. Not only did UNNJ have its own website and Facebook page (which have since been taken down), it had its own emblem with the Latin “Humanus, Scientia, Integritas” emblazoned on it. UNNJ offered degrees in a series of business studies, and prided itself on providing an “authentic educational experience” to its students.
UNNJ’s “official” campus location was in Cranford, New Jersey, and had listed accounting, marketing, and health management undergraduate and master’s degrees on its website. The website listed tuition fees as well as state and DHS certificates, though enrolled "students" were well aware that UNNJ had no faculty and offered no courses.
The ploy of UNNJ, first beginning in 2012, was finally brought to an end this week when authorities arrested 21 “visa brokers” for conspiracy to commit visa fraud. The 21 arrested were nationals of China and India who actively recruited foreign nationals for fraudulent visa programs in exchange for thousands of dollars in fees. The agents were fully aware that UNNJ was a sham, having worked secretly with employers of UNNJ (undercover ICE investigators), taking in student fees and providing legal status to over 1,000 foreign students. In some cases, the agents involved employers for the students, who have now been issued arrest warrants or court summons.
Currently, there are over 1.2 million foreign students who reside in the U.S. on F-1 status, most of whom legitimately attend American colleges and universities. DHS and ICE continue to ramp up efforts to identify immigration fraud and threats to national security as immigration programs grow in size and scammers become more sophisticated. While non-immigrant work permits in the US become more difficult to obtain, more foreign nationals are electing to continue their studies while they pursue longer term residency programs. In consideration of UNNJ and increasingly exclusive US visas, we remind students to operate responsibly in the short-term, so they do not jeopardize the futures that they have spent considerable resources developing.
Source: The New York Times - Liz Robbins