Published April 4, 2016

The University of Northern New Jersey in Cranford, New Jersey was a sham from the start.   It was set up by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of a sting operation to catch criminal recruiters and brokers who, for a fee, would arrange for their foreign national customers – legitimate international students already in the U.S. on an F-1 student visa – to be admitted to their fake university program.  From there, the students would have their status converted to that of enrolled F-1 students of this sham university, and thus have the cover of lawful visa status and even obtain employment authorization under special student visa provisions, but without having to attend classes.   Of course, the “school” offered no curriculum, no classes and had no classrooms.

In general, international students living in the U.S. on F-1 visa status, must be attending an accredited educational program on a full time basis and pursuant to the curriculum set forth on the student’s “Form I-20” document.  International students generally also pay a significantly high tuition to attend school.   If approved by the Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services, an F-1 student program will allow a foreign national to live in the U.S. for as long as they are enrolled and attending as a full time student.    In some circumstances, as stated above, an F-1 international student is eligible to be issued an employment authorization document while enrolled and pursuant to a variety of special circumstance provisions.

With their fake university, the federal government was looking to infiltrate networks of recruiters and brokers in immigrant communities who would take money from legitimate international students already here in legal visa status and allow them to “stay legal” as F-1  students, but without the burdens of attending school full time, or at all.   The brokers and recruiters would keep a significant fee or kickback for steering foreign nationals to the fake university.  Additionally, their foreign national customers would know full well that there was no “educational program”, but instead a fraudulent vehicle by which they would be able to maintain legal status in the U.S. for as long as they were “enrolled”.

As a result of this sting, the federal government arrested 21 recruiters and brokers (mainly from the New York area) and more than 1,000 foreign national enrollees (mainly from China and India).   The recruiters and brokers are being charged as criminals for having engaged in visa fraud, harboring aliens for profit and perjury.  If convicted these individuals face prison terms of up to 10 years and fines of up to $250,000.   The foreign national “students” will not be charged criminally, but instead face removal proceedings with the possibility of being deported to their home country.

In addition to cracking down on criminal schemes within immigrant communities, the federal government carries out these kinds of operations because “pay to stay” type visa “mills” are seen as dangers to our national security.    With this operation, the federal government sends the message that visa fraud is on their radar and the Department of Homeland Security will not allow criminal enterprises to profit off desperate foreign nationals who will pay almost any price to remain legally in the U.S.



PUBLISHED April 4, 2016– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2016, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois