US court allows ‘blacklisted’ Indians linked to OPT scam to re-enter the country

The US district court has approved an agreement to lift sanctions on over 90 foreign nationals, many of them from India. They were previously barred from re-entering the US or denied visas due to their association with an Optional Practical Training (OPT) fraud by their former employers.

US court has approved an agreement to lift sanctions on over 90 foreign nationals, many of them from Indians

These students, who were victims of fraudulent OPT employers, faced serious consequences, like being denied entry into the US or being ineligible for visas. One student from Chennai shared how he was turned away by US customs officials after a short trip, simply because he had briefly worked for a blacklisted OPT-certified company.

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Attorney Jesse Bless, representing the plaintiffs, explained that after negotiations, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed to review its records. It confirmed that these former students are not inadmissible to the US or ineligible for visas solely based on their employment with fraudulent OPT companies. “With the inadmissibility lifted, these plaintiffs have now regained another opportunity to live and work in the United States,” Bless said.

What is Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

OPT enables foreign students to acquire work experience in the US, with STEM students having the option for a two-year extension. Out of the 270,000 Indian students in the US during 2022-23, 69,000 were engaged in OPT, as per an Open Doors Report.

Attorney Jonathan Wasden informed Times of India that the fraudulent scheme involved companies certified by DHS through the E-Verify system. They aggressively promoted consulting roles to recent graduates, conducting interviews and offering employment for questionable training programs, often priced under $500. Despite being certified for years, DHS eventually raided these companies, seizing employee lists and cross-referencing names, resulting in findings of inadmissibility against students.

Wasden criticized DHS for not disclosing the issue earlier, which could have prevented numerous students from falling victim to the scam. He pointed out that students admitted to the US before the scam’s exposure were later rendered inadmissible, often without proper legal procedures, leaving them stranded with their belongings.

He advised students to safeguard themselves by avoiding companies charging for training and to promptly report suspicious activities to DHS through legal representation.

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