(Español) The Department of Homeland Security has arrested eight men in connection to student visa fraud. The complicated operation involved the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), creating the fake Farmington University based in Maine. The school was actually staffed by HSI agents posing as school administrators. From there, recruiters would submit false student records and transcripts to the undercover agents in order to deceive United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The “university” would pay these recruiters to connect students to the fake school and the recruiters would collect thousands of dollars from the “school.” All told, the recruiters were paid upwards of $250,000, collecting anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 per visit to collect.
The students originally entered with F-1 student status through their enrollment at other, legitimate, universities. After the students terminated their relationship with the original school, be it through graduation or dropping out, they would quickly lose status in the country. That is where Farmington University came into play. After “enrolling,” the supposed students were eligible to receive extensions on their student visas and acquire work authorization. This was all done fraudulently once they were enrolled in the school.
Those arrested by federal authorities are being charged with felonies in connection with defrauding the United States. The “students” of the university are also subject to removal and could be charged with immigration fraud. As of Wednesday, January 30, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have begun arresting those who were “enrolled” in Farmington University. The government’s position being that the enrollees were well aware the school was not real; however, they did not know the school was run by DHS. They now face removal from the United States and must appear before an immigration judge. It remains unclear how many students have been arrested in connection with the Farmington University sting operation.