15 foregin students arrested opt stem fraud phase 1 dhs uscis

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced today that they had arrested 15 Foreign Students for OPT-related fraud due to Operation OPTical Illusion.

Quick Summary About ICE Arrests

  • Phase 1 of the Ongoing Operation resulted in 15 arrests.
  • These students claimed to be employed in Companies that did not exist (or fake companies)
  • One Company was Identified
  • 168 leads were sent to field offices
  • ICE identified
    • 3300 students situations suspicious
    • ICS communicated with 2/3rd of 3300
    • 1100 students violated status and are  out of status
    • 700 letters are sent by USCIS that work permit is revoked
    • The remaining 400 applicants work permit will not be renewed
    • ICE will seek to Remove those 1100 individuals
    • DSO’s who authorized these OPT’s is considered  to have willfully ignored the policies
    • Those DSO’s could be removed form their role

The following statistics were also shared by ICE based on their investigation.

ice arrested quick stats opt fraud

  • Operation OPTical Illusion
    • Operation Started in Jan 2020
    • Focus – OPT Employers allegedly engaged in Fraud
    • The investigation identified a company and sent 168 leads
    • ICE spoke to those leads to identify
    • 22 – Left the Country
    • 11 – Returned to New Academic Program
    • 29 – Transferred to New Employer
    • 18 – Pending Immigration Benefit with USCIS
    • 7 –  Moved to New Valid Status
    • 18 – New Areas Of responsibility
    • 41 – Yet to be Located!

The Background 

OPT students and H-1B Visa holders have reported receiving emails that their Visas have been revoked from U.S. Consulates under the Department of State since June 2020. Some visa holders were also denied entry at the port of entry or denied boarding into flights.

Based on the official statistics, there could be ss much as 4000 students were employed – Wireclass, Integra, Andwill, and AzTech.

Between the lines:

There have been reports that DHS officials have been visiting the students who were associated with the four companies over the last few weeks.

But, from the F1 Visa Facebook Group and other communities, no one specifically said anything about arrests.

Most reports have been about the conversation with DHS officials, and some folks received Court Dates.

There is no official news if the Visa Revocations, Denied Entry at the Port of the Entry are specifically related to these four companies.

ICE New release did not specifically name if the 15 arrests are related to these companies.

Digging Deeper:

Watch the ICE conference below.

Diving Deeper: What is OPT?

F-1 Visa is issued for international students who wish to study in the USA.

Once the F-1 students complete the degree, they are eligible for 12 months for Optional Practical Training.

To remain in the USA, there’s a 90-day window after the OPT period starts to find an Employment (or Training).

This employment should be related to the students’ areas of education.

Employment could be paid or unpaid.

So, why did ICE arrest 15 international students?

Here’s what ICE stated in the press release:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Wednesday preliminary results from Operation OPTical Illusion, a law enforcement operation targeting nonimmigrant students who fraudulently used the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to remain in the United States. OPT enables nonimmigrant students to work in the United States in positions related to their field of study for up to one year, with an additional 24 months if the student participates in STEM optional practical training.

Looks like OPT was used as a way to stay without a real job.

Not Clear?

  • DSO’s need to see if OPT candidates have a job offer, so the SEVP portal can be updated
  • Students need to find a job within 90 days of OPT Period, else they will be out of status
  • I’m assuming, these folks paid a company, received a job offer letter (without a real job or training)
  • Submitted the job offer letter to the DSO
  • DSO added the employment details in the SEVP portal
  • This would have allowed the Students to buy time and status

Again, I don’t have any real info or ICE did not tell me 🙂

I’m assuming this is how the scheme works.

If you know how this works, care to comment below?

This is developing news. This post will be updated.

 

Additional Resources:

 

 

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