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Indians caught in OPT fraud get another shot to live & work in US – Times of India

WorldIndians caught in OPT fraud get another shot to live & work in US - Times of India

A ‘stipulated dismissal agreement’ recently approved in a US district court has given a shot in the arm to more than 90 foreign nationals, many of them Indians, who fell victim to an Optional Practical Training (OPT) fraud committed by their former OPT-employer company. These individuals had been denied re-entry to the US or were held ineligible for a visa, including a work visa.Now, all these sanctions have been lifted.
A few individuals, who had found themselves embroiled in such a fraud, had reached out to TOI explaining their predicament. For instance, one such individual, originally from Chennai who had enrolled in a company which was apparently blacklisted by the US department of homeland security (DHS), was denied entry by the border and customs officials when he landed at a US airport after a brief vacation at home. He points out that this company had been certified for conducting OPT. He had been in this company for some months, before realising he wasn’t given projects to work on under guidance as is required under OPT regulations and had shifted to another firm. Despite a short stint with this alleged blacklisted company, he suffered.
Jesse Bless, one of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs, told TOI, “After months of negotiations, the US DHS, agreed to review the govt’s internal records. DHS confirmed these plaintiffs (former students, undergoing OPT training and swindled by their OPT-employer company) are not inadmissible to the US or ineligible for a visa simply because they worked for a nefarious OPT-company. In other words, with the inadmissibility lifted, these plaintiffs have now regained another opportunity to live and work in the US.”
International students are eligible for a one-year OPT to gain work experience in the US. In addition, those in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field get an additional two-year tenure for their OPT. According to an Open Doors Report, for the academic year 2022-23, there were 2.7 lakh Indian students in the US of which 69,000 were undergoing OPT.
Scam’s modus operandi
Jonathan Wasden, who also represented these students, explained to TOI that these firms were certified by DHS under the e-Verify system as eligible to hire OPT students. “They began to aggressively market consulting jobs to recent graduates on social media platforms. After offering employment they would state that some more training was needed. While the companies did not ask for money in exchange for OPT job offers, they charged for the training – typically a charge of under $ 500 – that too of dubious quality, In addition, many of these students were not assigned any projects, so as to gain work experience,” he said.
DHS did not alert the public to the scam. Instead, it raided some of these firms and seized employee lists. It then began matching names in their system to names on the list. Some erstwhile OPT-students were holding H-1B visas and were gainfully employed for several years. On return from a vacation to India, they were told by the consulate that DHS had made them inadmissible to the US. Wasden said students should watch out for any company that asks them to pay for training or anything else. Through an attorney students should report this to the DHS, this would offer them some protection at a later date from being rendered inadmissible or ineligible for a visa, he added.

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