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US university CEO charged with visa fraud

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a “notice of intent to withdraw” certification to accept international students to California’s University of Herguan after federal agents charged CEO, Jerry Wang, with visa fraud.

If convicted on all 15 counts, Wang could be jailed for up to 23 years and forced to pay as much as US$1 million

Wang was arrested just a day after the US House of Representatives passed HR 3201 that would require all HE institutions that enrol 25 or more students on nonimmigrant visas to have national or regional accreditation, as reported by The PIE.

The university of Herguan is not accredited but only approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, a department of California Consumer Affairs established to protect students by instilling standards at private institutions in California.

At an arraignment in a US District Court in San Jose California on Monday, Wang, also CEO of the University of East-West Medicine, pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of conspiracy to commit visa fraud; use of false documents; aggravated identity theft; and unauthorized access to government computers.

If convicted on all 15 counts, he could be jailed for up to 23 years and forced to pay as much as US$1 million in restitution and fines.

The incident brings up last year’s Tri-Valley University scandal where president Susan Xiao-Ping – a former adjunct faculty member at Herguan University – was arrested for submitting fraudulent documents in order to admit international students on student visas.

Like Tri-Valley, Herguan in 2008 submitted to immigration authorities letters from three accredited colleges promising to accept its course credits in order to be able to legally accept foreign students. But, representatives at these universities told The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2011 that they never wrote such letters.

Unlike the Tri-Valley case, however, the US government has not immediately shut down the university. Rather, ICE said in a statement that in light of the allegations, Herguan and the University of East-West Medicine could lose authorisation to enrol foreign students.

“Foreign students who are currently enrolled at these universities may continue to attend classes as long as the schools remain SEVP-certified [Student and Exchange Visitor Program] and the students are able to maintain their lawful immigration status,” ICE said.

450 international students, mostly from India, are now left in visa limbo

Once served a notice of intent to withdraw accreditation, schools have 30 days to respond and request an interview to contest.

Both schools’ websites say they “have submitted 3 names to SEVIS for PDSO and DSO. We are waiting approval. It has taken longer than expected.” A Designated School Official (DSO) or Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) is a regularly employed member of the school administration who acts as the liaison between students and SEVP.

During this waiting period, Herguan’s 450 international students, mostly from India, are now left in limbo awaiting notification of their visa status. If the school closes, many will be forced to return home without a degree or to transfer to another university in the US.

One graduate still connected to Herguan, who only gave his name as Rajiv, told the San Jose Mercury News that the news of the raid came as a shock.

He said foreign students were told “that in the next 15 days, if something doesn’t change, you either have to find a different school or leave the country.”

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