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Lessons from the University of Northern New Jersey

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made news this week with their disclosure that they had created and been operating a fake college called the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ) in an office building in Cranford, New Jersey. Offering no classes, the purported purpose of the university was to illegally allow foreign students to maintain their visas and stay in the U.S. The true nature of the college however was a means for the DHS to get a better understanding of the network that supports visa fraud, while simultaneously catching visa fraud practitioners.

With an improving economy, a limited amount of visas available, and increased competition to pursue higher education in the U.S., there will be more brokers, agencies, and people willing to look for ways around the established immigration system, and colleges and universities will be wise to protect themselves from students with fraudulent visas. As visas get more valuable, so does the technology, skill, and art that comes with falsifying them. In fact, according to a New York Times article about the UNNJ sting operation, multiple high-tech companies and financial institutions unknowingly hired applicants with fraudulent visas from the UNNJ. If prestigious institutions with backgrounds in employing foreign-born workers were duped, is it possible your institution could be too?

A story like the one about the UNNJ serves as a reminder that colleges and institutions need to be diligent in their processing of international students. While International Student and Scholar Offices (ISSO) and Designated School Officials (DSO) are adept at handling many of the day-to-day needs of international students, there is an enormous benefit to supporting them with people trained in and familiar with the many complexities of immigration law. GoffWilson has been practicing immigration law for over 30 years, and has experience ensuring colleges and universities remain Student Exchange and Visitors Information System (SEVIS) compliant.

A SEVIS file review is a popular service that we provide to colleges and universities, as SEVIS reporting can be complex and daunting in its own right. SEVIS is extremely unforgiving of mistakes, with penalties for giving false or misleading information as severe as the revoking of an institution's ability to sponsor future international students—a potentially devastating penalty with the increasingly important role international students are playing in today’s U.S. institutions of higher education.

While institutions of higher ed should take a big-picture approach to ensuring SEVIS compliance, issues arise to even the best prepared people. GoffWilson has a well-deserved reputation for delivering personal service that speaks to the needs of the individual. If one of your university or college students finds themselves with immigration issues, we’re here to help. GoffWilson is accomplished in negotiating the intricacies of immigration law, and can help ensure that issues are resolved while keeping in mind what’s best for the individual and university alike. SEVIS is no less severe with individuals than it is with universities, with punishments as harsh as deportation.

If you are concerned about the status of your international students, curious how you can better protect yourself from visa fraud, or feel like a SEVIS review will help you sleep better at night, contact GoffWilson here and let us know how we can help.
Filed under:Immigration Law, J-1 Visa