We don't want to speak anything. It will only make matters worse for the children,'' says a parent. Watching her words carefully, she consciously avoids taking the name of the student or even disclosing the gender. “There is no GPS collar to our child,” she says.
Ever since, the visa fraud at California-based Tri Valley University unfolded, parents here are now making it a point to be in regular touch with their children in the US to keep the morale up.
In another case, Karthik, whose sister is also a student of the same university, says students are being punished for no fault of theirs. According to him, his sister is not in elements while speaking to him due to the recent development. The latest is that the local court will hear the case in September.
“Is it not the responsibility of the US authorities to check if the university is genuine issuing visa?” he questions. If the I20 (an admission confirmation letter) given by Tri Valley is processed, it implies that the US has not seen anything abnormal with the university. His sister, who went to the US some eight months ago, does not have a permit to work there.
Karthik says several students have been asking the university authorities to conduct regular classes. The authorities also evaded the question relating to a permanent campus. “Are our students animals to be tagged with GPS collars?” he ask.
“My sister is a merit student and has cleared GRE and Toefl. The US authorities should make the university answerable and refund the fees,” he says. The family spent about Rs 4 lakh for sending her to the US.
Meanwhile, support is being rallied here to bring pressure on the US to remove GPS collars and make arrangements for shifting them to other universities.
Pradesh Congress Committee Intellectual Committee chairman Shyam Mohan says the onus is on the US government to keep a tab on the visas being issued and the institutions name.
The state government has set up a call centre in Hyderabad to deal with the queries on Tri Valley university. Some of the parents have already got in touch with the centre. There are also instances of some students calling and explaining the state of affairs there. “We expect more details to come in,”' says an official at the call centre.
The AP government has also written to External Affairs minister SM Krishna to take the matter through the diplomatic missions in Washington and San Francisco. A statement from chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy’s office said: “Due to the closure of Tri Valley University in USA, majority of Indian students have lost their academic courses and money. A majority of the students are hailing from Andhra Pradesh.”
When contacted, the US Consulate General in Hyderabad said: “This is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to discuss the details at this time. We can tell you that we have discussed this case with our Indian counterparts.”
The US embassy, on January 31, in a release stated: Some of those involved in the Tri Valley investigation have been issued ankle monitors. Use of ankle monitors is widespread across the US and standard procedure for a variety of investigations, and does not necessarily imply guilt or suspicion of criminal activity. It allows for freedom of movement and is a positive alternative to confinement during a pending investigation.
It said the Department of State was in communication with the Government of India. The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division (DHS/ICE) is leading the investigation. Victims of fraud do have access to federal and state resources in the United States. "A legitimate student who is a fraud victim should have little trouble reapplying and enrolling in a different, fully-accredited educational organisation. If fraud victims choose to return to India first and apply for a new student visa, they will be treated the same as any other applicant,” the statement said.
An estimated 110,000 students from across the country go to the US on F1 visa for higher studies every year, after China. Tri Valley has over 1,500 students and of these, 35-40 per cent are from AP. Students, to maintain an active immigration, must show proof that they are making reasonable process towards completing coursework and physically attending classes.
A senior official of an overseas consultancy says students who have enrolled at Tri Valley, which had a skewed ratio of 5:95 domestic to foreign students, would be at loss. “If students are guilty in the visa fraud, the same will be updated on the Student Exchange Visitors Information System, an online tracking mechanism,” he says. The remarks entered in this are irreversible and mar the chan-ces of securing a visa in future.
Students opt for universities that have a mix of 40 per cent local candidates and 60 per cent international students. Legally, they are allowed to work for 20 hours a week. Students opt for a low-rated university due to the flexibility they offer in terms of employment. They later get the F1 visa converted into a HI B visa citing Optional Practical Training. During this time, students have to find an employer who will sponsor the visa. Typi-cally, Indian students on average spend about $8,000 (Rs 360,000) a semester.