One of the easiest ways for immigrants to remain in the United States is to acquire a so-called “student visa,” known officially as an F-1 non-immigrant visa. Such visas are granted to individuals who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or similar degree from a school in their native country to travel to and remain in the U.S. to complete a graduate degree program. Because the fields of study most often involve science, technology, engineering or mathematics, the visas are also called STEM visas.
The lure of an easy F-1 visa was the motivating factor behind the decision of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to set up a non-existent university to entrap immigrants whose original F-1 visa had expired and who were in fear of being deported.
The institution was named the University of Farmington, and it was supposedly located in Farmington, Michigan. Its webpage had photographs of supposed students in a college-like setting. But the school did not exist. It was run out of a shopping mall on the northwest edge of Detroit by eight individuals. It promised an F-1 visa in exchange for tuition payments. A number of individuals paid several thousand dollars for what they believed were valid student visas.
Most of the individuals who purchased fake student visas have left the United States voluntarily, without deportation proceedings. Seven of the eight individuals who operated the fake university and collected the bogus tuition payments have pleaded guilty to participating in the fraud and will leave the country as soon as they have finished serving their jail sentences.