AZTech, Integra Technologies, AndWill, and Wireclass Update VI: Operation Bad Apple.

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We have been able to review some of the government documents relating to the DHS investigation of these companies. Needless to say, the documents are eye-opening.  The government investigation into the OPT scandal is entitled Operation Bad Apple. But unfortunately, DHS considers not only the people behind AZTech, Integra, Wireclass and AndWill as the “bad apples,” but the F-1 students who were associated with them as well. Lest there be any doubt, the DHS documentation makes clear: these OPT sponsors were “shell companies”. These companies produced “fraudulent employment letters for F-1 students on OPT, STEM OPT, and CPT.” They used “virtual offices” and are not “legitimately operating businesses.”  In retrospect, we all know that. But the broad brush which DHS paints the students – as knowing participants in fraud – is alarming. There does not appear to be any gray area. Per DHS, the students did not work for these…

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AZTech, Integra Technologies, Wireclass and Andwill Update

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Thank you for your phone calls. After speaking with so many of you, it has become obvious that those who were associated with AZTech, Integra Technologies, Wireclass and Andwill did so with legitimate intentions and the goal of full compliance with the OPT requirements.  While the common thread binding most of you is a visa revocation, there are several categories of individuals who have been impacted, including: 1)      those in the US who are beneficiaries of a pending H-1B petition and USCIS has issued a Request for Evidence (“RFE”) or Notice of Intent to Deny (“NOID”) related to their prior OPT experience and/or visa revocation; 2)      those in the US who are applying for STEM OPT extensions and USCIS has issued a RFE or NOID related to their prior OPT experience and/or visa revocation; 3)      those who attempted to enter the US with a visa and Customs and Border Protection…

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Department of State Releases 2019 Visa Refusal Statistics – and They Ain’t Pretty

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Visa refusals continue to skyrocket under the Trump Administration – and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the applicants are from countries considered “friends” or “foes” of the United States.  While the refusal rates for some countries, such as Vietnam, Philippines and Pakistan, have remained relatively stable, other countries have seen a significant jump.  Brazil, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and China have each seen increases of more than 25% over the past two years, with India and Mexico not far behind.  Below are the visa refusal statistics for B visas for fiscal years 2017-2019. Country % of B Visa Applicants Refused in FY-2017 % of B Visa Applicants Refused in FY-2018 % of B Visa Applicants Refused in FY-2019 % Increase from FY-2017 to FY-2019 Brazil 12.34 12.73 18.48 49.75 China 14.57 17 18.22 25.05 India 23.29 26.07 27.75 19.14 Mexico 22.5 24.93 26.66 18.48 Nigeria 44.95 57.47 67.20 49.49…

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Part 4: (In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at the US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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So to summarize the first three articles in this series, under threat of immigration and criminal consequences, consular staff in India have compelled visa applicants to write and sign Voluntary Statements.  This staff have refused to turn over copies of the Voluntary Statements to the applicants;[1] used false pretenses to entice applicants to sign the Statements; and dictated the text of the Statements, which may contain material misstatements leading to decisions to bar the applicants. So if the Statements are “voluntary”, as consular staff insist, and the false statements therein subject the applicants to immigration and criminal consequences, what consequences should befall the initiators and overseers – consular staff and their managers – of the false statements? U.S. law has a number of criminal statutes dealing with false statements. 18 U.S.C. § 1621 is the perjury statute, providing for imprisonment up to five years and a fine.[2]  The perjury can…

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Part 3: (In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at the US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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So why don’t consular officers wish to give copies of these Voluntary Statements to visa applicants? Maybe because they are not so “voluntary” after all. As explained to me by several visa applicants from India, they do not voluntarily provide these statements. Rather, they are bullied, coerced, and compelled to write the statements. Worse, consular staff dictate the text of the statement under threat of permanent bar from the United States.  Even worse, the statements often contain materially erroneous information. One applicant said that US consular staff “threatened me that they will [b]an me from going back to USA if I don’t agree with their version of the story.”  Another stated: “At the end when she asked me to write down the statement, she especially [sic] dictated the whole thing to me.” Not only had this applicant been advised to indicate wrong information in her statement, but the officer attempted…

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Part 2: (In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at the US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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The first indicator of the questionable nature of these Voluntary Statements are the lengths to which consular officers go to obstruct their disclosure to the visa applicant. As a general rule and enshrined by Section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, visa records are considered confidential and not subject to disclosure. However, there is an exception for documentation submitted by the applicant; such documents are subject to disclosure. In the case of the Voluntary Statements in India, the consular officer does not give a copy to the applicant at the conclusion of the interview.  This, notwithstanding the draconian visa consequences and criminal liability that the applicant has been exposed to by signing the Voluntary Statement. The consular officer’s “Bible”, the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), makes it abundantly clear that these statements are releasable to the applicant: 2. d. (U) Documents Releasable to Applicant: The documents listed below are deemed…

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(In)Voluntary Statements of Visa Applicants at US Consular Posts in India – Are US Consular Officers Engaging in Unethical and Unlawful Conduct?

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Consular officers at the US Consulates and Embassy in India periodically require visa applicants to write “Voluntary Statements.”  These Statements are used as admissions of guilt to deny and permanently bar visa applicants. But what is little known are the circumstances under which these “Voluntary Statements” are written – and the legal aspects of these Statements, some of which may in fact implicate consular officers themselves in potentially unethical and unlawful conduct.  In this four-part series of articles, visa applicant and consular behavior, as well as the circumstances under which these Voluntary Statements are used, will be examined. As background, to the personal knowledge of the author, the Embassy in New Delhi, the Consulate General in Hyderabad, and the Consulate General in Mumbai (under Consular Section Chief Michael Evans) have all used these Voluntary Statements against visa applicants in India.  Peculiarly, it does not appear that consular officers at other…

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