US arrests 129 Indian students for pay-and-stay visa scam

The US authority has arrested 129 Indians arrested for enrolling at a fake university allegedly to remain in the US, officials said on Friday, even as immigration attorneys claimed that the youths were not aware of the varsity’s illegitimate operation and criticised authorities for using “troubling” methods to trap them.

The university in Detroit’s Farmington Hills was part of an undercover operation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS designed to expose immigration fraud, according to federal prosecutors who announced charges in the case.

The Indian embassy in the US has opened a 24/7 hotline to assist the arrested students. The two numbers 202-322-1190 and 202-340-2590 would be manned by senior embassy officials round the clock, officials said.

In what the authorities called a “pay-to-stay” scheme, foreign students knowingly enrolled in the fake school to falsely maintain their student visa status and remain in the US, according to prosecutors.

“The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement has administratively arrested 130 foreign nationals enrolled at the University of Farmington for civil immigration violations. Of the 130, 129 were Indian nationals,” Khaalid H Walls, an ICE spokesperson, told .

“These individuals have been placed in removal proceedings, and ICE will seek to maintain them in its custody pending the outcome of those proceedings,” he said.

The ICE agents made the arrests on Wednesday, the same day federal indictments were unsealed that charged eight people, all of whom are either Indians or Indo-Americans, in a visa fraud scheme.

The eight defendants were charged criminally for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbouring aliens for profit. But the 130 students were arrested on only civil immigration charges, Detroit Free Press reported.

The sweep was one of the largest tar