UNNJ has hit many almost by surprise after the TVU saga. Unfortunately unlike TVU where the culprit was directly the school, here the culprits are hard to define. Are they the brokers or consultants? Or are they just the government which tried to trap the brokers? The question might never be answered unless the press or foreign governments questions the United States – why did this happen?
Nonetheless the UNNJ saga is now going t to affect the decision of thousands of students who hope to study in the United States. The biggest lesson is that “not everything that shines is gold.” Both UNNJ and TVU have taught applicants and students some other lessons:
1. Very low tuition fees from a school should be a warning.
If you see a school which is offering outrageously low fees and giving CPT (Curricular Practical Training) without even having any classes, it is your duty
as a student not to sign up for such a school. Remember that ignorance of the law is not an excuse. You will ultimately regret it.
2. Brokers, Consultants or even school officials are not lawyers, they cannot give legal advice!
Many are upset that they were told by school officials or administrators that the school (UNNJ) was “operating legally” and as such it must be legal. Note that neither school officials nor brokers/consultants are allowed to give legal advice. Only lawyers are allowed to do that. Relying on school officials and brokers to know if a school is legal is totally absurd and borderline illegal.
3. Relying on non-lawyer forums for legal advice.
For years, we have been discouraging people to rely on non-lawyer forums or blogs for legal advice. Many of the most famous non-lawyer forums are only there to sell products such as insurance services, relying on their content is not only foolish but makes you somehow a conspirator to the practice of law without a license. We recommend to make sure you use a lawyer before relying on a non-lawyer forum or website for your legal needs.
4. Abusing CPTs or OPTs will cost you.
For years we have been telling students not to abuse Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorizations. No matter who tells you it is legitimate to just use CPT for unlimited time or using CPTs without attending classes they are wrong. CPTs are not per se work permits. They are used only to help in internship and practice, using them as a regular Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will ultimately cost either your OPT, your H1B and even might end up getting you deported.
5. Do not be an accomplice to unscrupulous consulting companies.
Many consulting especially IT consulting companies will do anything to make money. Some will even have four five different companies to defraud students and those who want a real working visa to come to the United States. Their goal is just to make money and do not really care what happens to the students or other non-immigrant visa individuals. In case they ask you to do anything illegal like putting fake resumes, putting fake documents, writing fake leave of absence letter to put you on the “bench”, you need to refuse and report them to the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security. Failure to do so might actually make you an accomplice of defrauding the authorities.
6. Rely on recognized Universities
There are hundreds of universities and schools in the United States which are not only reputed but also which has been there for a number of years. Some of them are not highly graded schools, yet they have been able to maintain integrity, we recommend you talk to those schools before picking an “easy” school.
7. Just because some shortcuts worked in the past, it will not continue working.
Many have been used to the fact that some schools which limit the hours of school and put CPTs at the outset are acting legally. Although the law makes it permissible sometimes to do that, the school might still be under a “blacklist” for “selling” CPTs or student visas. As such CPTs at the outset is not recommended at all.
8. Taking student visas just to stay in the United States is not recommended.
Many who are on the verge of falling out of status on their employment visas will seek a student visa to stay in the United States just to be able to find another job and move their employment visa to this job. While nothing prevents you from getting a genuine education, if the school you are using is just a “pay to stay” scam, even a temporary move to the F1 student visa might cost you very dearly in the future.
9. Do not discuss your private status and business on open social networks.
I often see students discussing their private ‘business’ on social media such as Facebook, Linkedin, etc. While social media networks are good places to get information, it is not a good place to discuss your private information. The first place where investigators looks are on social media, as such we recommend not to discuss your matters openly on such platforms.
10. Picking your lawyer to defend you.
This is important. While most lawyers who advert themselves to be attorneys licensed by one state, not all lawyers knowledge and experience are equal. Most good lawyers will focus in one or two areas of expertise in order to better serve their clients. We recommend that you pick the lawyer who is actually known for his or her work but also who knows exactly about your issues. It is important especially because a single mistake can actually result in a deportation or a permanent bar preventing from entering the United States for a long time and even bar you permanently from entering.
The lessons or tips mentioned in this article are just a few of the ‘red flags’ which students and non-immigrants intending to be students should be aware of. Unfortunately, the way the UNNJ situation is unfolding, it seems that reliefs might come to late. Our law firm which have advised and advocated for hundreds on student visas especially after TVU and now UNNJ, is always keen to help. However, unless there are logical and legal remedies to help the students, it is practically impossible for any lawyer to really find a comprehensive solution to help all the students. We are trying our best to find a unique and case by case approach to each and every of the cases which we are encountering. Yet even with our expertise some will not be able to find the right solution. We recommend that you call us at 510 742 5887 to find a custom approach to your case and do not just seek answers on forums or non-lawyers who will actually hurt you. Remember what the notice from USCIS says “ The wrong help might actually hurt you”! In the case of TVU and UNNJ, this is exactly what happened.