Much before the Tri-Valley University scam that affected many Indians was exposed in the United States, the American Consulate in Mumbai had expressed concern over the steep jump in lesser qualified student visa applications, a leaked US diplomatic cable has said.
According to the cable dated December 29, 2009, over the past year, Mumbai noted a marked rise in the number of lesser qualified student visa applicants, many of whom tended to apply to the same universities.
A study of students' visa found that multiple transfers were not uncommon and 40 per cent of transfers were to a lower level degree programme.
"In a second random sample of applicants issued only for study at universities identified by adjudicators as attracting a higher number of unqualified applicants, the completion rate was lower, rate of terminations higher, and the number of transfers down was greater," it said.
Of the 18,682 F1 applications received in calendar year 2007, Mumbai's adjusted refusal rate for individuals was 21 per cent, the cable said. An extraordinary number of repeat refusals inflates the refusal rate per application to 33 per cent.
"Unqualified F1 visa applicants appear for third, fourth, and sometimes seventh interviews hoping for a different decision," it said.
"Mumbai's refused student applicants are characterised by difficulty communicating in English (with or without anticipated English training on their I-20s), few or single university applications submitted, poor standardised test scores, financing by extended family dependant on agricultural income, and a rehearsed script of the reasons they selected the particular university," the cable said.
"Many of these applicants state that they found the school on the internet, but when pressed during the interview acknowledged that they applied based on a local recruiting agent's presentation," the cable said.
"A second trend of concern is universities that fail to update Student and Exchange Visitor Information System status when students' residential addresses indicate they are not maintaining active status by registering for classes or working on authorised CPT/OPT," it said.
"These trends ensure that Mumbai adjudicators will continue to assess the intent of student applicants to complete their stated degree programme as a major factor in student visa adjudications," the cable said.
The US Consulate in Mumbai in fact conducted detailed investigations into the student visas issued by it and questioned as to how an Indian student admitted to a university in California was doing a job in suburb of Washington.
"Certain F1 students were reportedly studying at the University of Northern Virginia in Manassas, but residing in Edison, New Jersey, a center of migration for Gujarati speakers from the Mumbai consular district," the cable said.
"Mumbai (Consulate) will continue to adjudicate individual students, not schools, but is concerned by the widespread over-issuance of I-20s by universities that consistently see students transfer, become deactivated or cancelled," said the American cable issued by the US Consulate in Mumbai in December 2009.
The US Consulate had also expressed its concern over the manner in which the provision of practical training was being misused.
"Several SEVIS records reviewed from among the "schools of concern" list provide anecdotal evidence that student's activities upon entering the US appear to be inconsistent with the educational goals they had presented to the visa officer, and that I-20 issuing institutions appear to be exploiting the Practical Training exception in 9 FAM 41.61N13.4," it said.
Examples include a student initially admitted to International Technical University in Sunnyvale, CA, who within a semester was granted Curriculum Practical Training to work as a sales associate at 7-Eleven in Odenton, MD (Maryland), followed immediately by CPT to at Motel 8 in Kalamazoo, MI (Michigan), the cable said.
In another case, SEVIS ID N0004673956 was granted CPT to work as a 7-Eleven store manager on arrival to Silicon Valley University, another indication that certain institutions appear to be exploiting the Practical Training exception," it said.
According to the cable, another Indian student (SEVIS ID N0004297232) shows "ACTIVE" status at the University of Northern Virginia, with no mention of CPT authorisation in New Jersey, but does show a "DEACTIVATED" record at New York's
Bluedata International Institute without explanation in the previous month.
Noting that at the master's level, students are expected to maintain a course load of nine credit hours per term to maintain active status, the Mumbai Consulate said it is unclear how without performing off-site CPT work, this applicant managed to commute five and a half hours to attend classes."This pattern casts doubt on the accuracy of status reported by some institutions," the Mumbai Consulate said.