Gaining illegal access through fake institutes to the US could be easy. But is it worth the risk?
Manisha Kumar (name changed), a 22 year old commerce graduate from Andhra Pradesh was hoping that a higher education course at a relatively newer institute in the United States would be her golden ticket to get a permanent residency there, but her plans went awry after she ended up enrolling in a fake institute and has spent the past few weeks in a detention centre.
The University of Farmington was set up as part of a sting operation by the US Department of Homeland Security, and has led to 129 Indian students being under lens for an alleged immigration fraud. The legal process is underway and Kumar and several others’ fate is uncertain.
While Kumar could not be contacted, her relatives in India said that she was genuinely unaware that the institute was fake. She was apparently advised by her friends who also had similar plans. Her parents are now also worried that they will be unable to find a groom for her if she is imprisoned.
Depending on the legal situation, the students could be deported with a 10-year ban on their visit to the US. Worse, they could be imprisoned with a hefty fine being imposed on them.
Enrolling in degree mills to get a quick entry into the US has been a route opted by a section of Indian students. The maximum number of international students in the US belong to China closely followed by India.
According to the Open Doors 2018 report, the US had 10,94,792 international students pursuing higher education there. Of these, 1,96,271 students were Indians. It is estimated that almost 0.5 million to 0.8 million Indians apply for student visa every year.
Shady ‘fly-by-night’ operators offer promises of an instant visa to the US. This is done through unaccredited universities setting up shop only to dupe students. Considering that a lot of students may not fulfill the eligibility criteria to work in the US after their education considering the stringent immigration norms, these degrees are often seen as a shortcut.
Overseas education consultancies state that often students are well aware that the degree is not recognised and still choose to take that route.
Take the incident of Mahesh Patil from rural Karnataka. He had plans to enroll into another such fake institute (University of Northern New Jersey) that was shut down by the immigration authorities. Initially, he worked in a few departmental stores hoping to find a route to stay there. However, a random police check led him to being deported and he has been banned for five years.
Patil who is now employed in an IT firm in Bengaluru cannot visit the US even though he could get a H1-B visa.
There are hundreds like Kumar and Patil who fall prey to unauthorised education institutes. Unlike India where unaccredited institutes continue to operate and churn out 1,000s of fake degrees each year, the US is far more stringent atleast for outsiders.
If caught, you may not even be given the benefit of doubt, considering the past track record of Indian students fraudulently travelling to the US for gaining permanent residency.Risking your future for this American dream is simply not worth it.