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防竊美機密?國安部擬入校園查外籍學者


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01/11/2020

防竊美機密?國安部擬入校園查外籍學者

(World Journal) 記者劉晨懿之、胡玉立


麻省理工學院提醒外籍研究學者,美國移民局可能進入校園查核外國人的簽證。圖為MIT校園。(美聯社)

麻省理工學院(MIT)日前發出備忘錄,提醒該校外籍博士後、研究人員和從事科學工作的訪問學者,聯邦移民及海關執法局(ICE)可能會到學校檢查他們的簽證狀態,還可能查看工作情況及詢問薪水等,以驗證他們的工作內容與學業直接相關。

這是繼包括賓州大學和杜克大學等校去年8月發布類似通知、警告學生移民官員可能造訪其工作場所後,又一所採取類似措施的知名高校。

這封兩頁的備忘錄,由MIT國際學者辦公室負責人潘妮‧羅瑟(Penny Rosser)於9日發給全體教職員工;備忘錄中指出,國土安全部一直在對科學、技術、工程和數學領域(STEM)的外籍學生雇主進行實地「考察」,學校將分別通知學生這種造訪的可能情況。

MIT發言人金伯利·艾倫(Kimberly Allen)說,這項備忘錄的發布,並不是因為移民當局造訪了該校。

移民官員去年宣布,移民及海關執法部門(ICE)將開始造訪一些參與聯邦「選擇性實習計畫」(Optional Practical Training,OPT)的工作場所。「選擇性實習計畫」允許持有學生簽證者在學成後從事與其學業有關的臨時工作;OPT有效期只有一年,但STEM領域學生可將OPT延期兩年。

國安部網站說,這項訪視是為了「減少濫用簽證延期的可能性」,核實學生是否從事「以工作為基礎的學習相關經驗」以及雇主是否擁有必要資源來監督他們。這些訪視除非是與投訴或其他違規證據有關,否則均會提前48小時向雇主發出造訪通知。

ICE發言人卡莉莎‧卡翠兒(Carissa Cutrell)拒絕說明政府是否曾在這些查訪中發現任何雇主或外籍人士違規行為。

川普政府為遏制中國和其他政府智慧產權盜竊案發生,已對外國研究人員進行更嚴格審查;司法部要求大學提防可疑行為,並指大學校園逐漸成為竊取技術和研究的目標。

ICE最新數據顯示,2017年有超過32萬8000名國際學生獲得授權參與「選擇性實習培訓計畫」工作,其中包括近9萬名被批准在STEM領域工作的學生。


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01/08/2020

为2000中国人非法延长留美 华女面临大麻烦


帮助2000多人非法延长留美时间,30岁华女面临监禁和遣返。(学生示意图/非本文图片/图片来源:Pixabay)

美国加州旧金山湾区一家华人公司30岁的女老板,因涉嫌向2600多名持学生签证的中国公民提供虚假文件,在2019年7月被起诉。2019年12月,该华人女子在芝加哥认罪,她可能面临37个月到46个月监禁和遣返。

据美国媒体报道,据2019年7月26日的拆封的联邦起诉书称,这位名叫黄薇云(音译,Weiyun Huang,英文名:Kelly),现年30岁。本来是一名持留学签证的留学生。

根据联邦检察官提交给法院的一份文件显示,黄薇云于2009年首次持学生签证入境美国,2014年,她获得配偶签证,允许她和持工作签证的丈夫生活在美国。后来她在美国创建多家公司。

根据法庭文档,中国公民身份的黄薇云,是Findream LLC和Sinocontech LLC两家公司的创始人、所有者和CEO,而这两家公司有多处地址,其中一处位于加州的山景城。记录还显示,黄薇云还列出了她的公司在纽约和芝加哥的地址,但其实这都只是“影子公司”,并不存在。

根据认罪协议,黄薇云创建这些公司的目的,是为了伪造F-1非移民签证的I-20、I-129和I-983文档。这些文档是为F-1的选择性实习训练项目(OPT)而提供,也包括非移民的H-1B签证。简单来说,就是帮助这些签证持有人在毕业后,可以非法延长在美停留时间。

据法庭记录显示,黄薇云明知这些客户既不在Findream,也不在Sinocontech工作。但她依然为这些人伪造工资记录,甚至还建立了直接存款记录,并发出欺诈性的录取通知书、就业通知书、工资表,以及1099-MISC税务表格等。

辩诉协议称,黄薇云从每名学生或客户处收取至少200美元的费用,为其提供虚假的Findream就业录取通知书。对于H-1B签证,收费即高达9000美元。

法庭记录显示,至少有2,685名不同的客户,向Findream或Sinocontech付款。黄薇云从中获利150多万美元。法庭记录显示,该计划从2013年9月6日持续到2019年4月1日。FBI调查发现,据黄薇云的信用卡消费显示,她有很多高额消费记录,包括购买LV、PRADA和CHANEL等奢侈品。

据美国全国广播公司湾区调查组获得的法庭记录文件显示,黄薇云的一名客户还曾于2018年被美国安全部门逮捕,并被指控为中共间谍。

据NBC报道,2019年12月20日,黄薇云在芝加哥美国地方法院认罪。法庭上,黄还代表她的公司Findream LLC和Sinocontech LLC认罪。

根据联邦量刑指南,她面临37个月到46个月的监禁。联邦法官定于今年3月对黄薇云做出判决,由于黄薇云不是美国公民,估计在服刑后将被驱逐出境。






01/03/2020

Thousands of foreign students in U.S. on student visas may have 'worked' for fake companies

F-1 visas let foreign students stay in the U.S. to work after graduating. Most use the program legally, but recent probes have revealed fraud.

By Gabe Gutierrez and Rich Gardella

WASHINGTON — A federal visa program allowing international students to work at firms in the United States after graduation appears to have been exploited by fake companies providing false employment verifications, according to an NBC News/NBC Bay Area investigation.

The F-1 visa program includes a component that allows students to stay in the U.S. to get practical work experience after obtaining their professional degrees. Many students, schools and employers use the program legitimately, as intended. But a recent federal prosecution revealed the potential for fraud, with a defendant admitting in court papers she had provided false employment records for nearly 2,700 students.




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'It helps tremendously'

To understand the F-1 student visa program, it's helpful to see how it's supposed to work.

Fawaz Alshatti is a Kuwaiti national who came to the U.S. to study and has stayed to work as an architectural engineer.

"I decided to get some more experience and work in the U.S.," he said from his job at TK Architects in Kansas City, Missouri.

The company specializes in entertainment projects. Alshatti helps design systems for movie theaters, bowling alleys, restaurants and bars.

"It provided me with a great opportunity to work with people in this country and to gain such experience in a different work environment," he said.




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He legally entered the U.S. as an international student after obtaining an F-1 student visa. Once he graduated, he applied to the visa's "Optional Practical Training" program, or OPT. It allows international students to work in the U.S. after getting their degrees for a period of 12-36 months.

His employer said the program is invaluable.

"Having international staff is a big benefit for us — both in terms of language (and) culture," Jack Muffoletto, who runs TK Architects, said. "It helps tremendously."

Alshatti got his undergraduate and two master's degrees from the University of Kansas, where he applied for the OPT program in June 2018, 60 days before the end of his study. Government regulations allow a narrow window for applying: from 90 days before the end of a student's study program to 60 days after.


    
   
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Alshatti said the university was helpful throughout the application process. It has an office that provides support services to international students, advising them about immigration and study and work visa requirements.

He also said the university's advisers were strict about checking that students followed all the rules and requirements. "They will contact maybe your employer, behind your back basically, that you don't actually know," he said. "And then they'll make sure that you're actually doing what you're supposed to do. And you're actually doing something within your field, not even something outside your field."

The university is a big participant in the F-1 OPT program. As of last month, of the 2,040 KU students who have active F-1 visa records, 330 have requested or obtained OPT authorizations.



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The University of Kansas is a big participant in the F-1 OPT program, with 330 students having requested or obtained OPT authorizations. The university says the program is extremely important and beneficial to both employers and students. While a few students were found to have submitted spurious employment records, the vast majority used the program as intended.Nightly News

"It's extraordinarily important," Charles Bankart, KU's associate vice provost for international affairs, said. "One of the things that an institution — especially public institutions as a whole — really pride themselves on and focus upon is career readiness. And we do a lot on campus over the course of a student's time here to expose them to experiential learning opportunities."

Bankart said employers were struck by how OPT students bring a fresh cultural perspective into the workplace.

"It's one thing to train as an engineer or as an architect or a sociologist," he said. "It's another thing to have a deeply informed cultural context there."


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Signs of trouble

While the OPT program draws rave reviews from some employers and universities, a joint investigation by NBC News and KNTV — NBC's Bay Area station — found that some of the companies on the government's list of top OPT employers appear to be illegitimate.

The list of top employers, prepared and released by the Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), includes familiar names: Amazon, Google, Microsoft.

But then, there's one that's not so well-known: "Findream, LLC."

In fact, Findream's founder, a woman named Weiyun "Kelly" Huang, was charged with criminal fraud in federal court in Illinois.

According to court documents, Findream's alleged purpose was "false verifications of employment" for Chinese F-1 visa holders seeking work employment "via the OPT program."

An affidavit prepared by an FBI special agent alleges that a website associated with Findream described the OPT opportunity to prospective students as "pretend' work." If a document submission is "well-prepared," the website said, "it will look real" and the U.S. government "will think your status is legal."

The FBI visited the company's listed office in Chicago and found it was bogus. It was "a company on paper only," according to court documents.


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At a change of plea hearing Dec. 20, Huang, a Chinese national, changed her plea to guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

Court records show Huang also agreed to plead guilty on behalf of the two entities that were co-defendants in the case, Findream, LLC and Sinocontech, LLC.

Huang admitted she and/or her co-conspirators submitted government forms falsely stating students were employed by the two entities.

The plea agreement states that between 2013 and 2019, "defendant falsely and fraudulently represented" that almost 2,700 F-1 visa holders in the U.S. were employed by Findream or Sinocontech, and that Huang and the two firms got about $1.5 million from their customers, creating "a profit or gain of at least approximately $800,000."

Huang faces a maximum five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. She is scheduled to be sentenced March 20.

Along with many other schools, the University of Kansas was fooled by Findream. After learning of the federal indictment, the university found seven students who'd reported Findream LLC as an employer.

Charles Bankart, the KU official, said everything seemed legitimate — and that it was "impossible" for schools to police this.

"You look at the documentation (and) everything is there," he said. "All the boxes are checked. And the students acted in good faith. This was a registered organization…That's not the student's fault. That's not the institution's fault. That's not the government's fault. That's a crook."

Part of a pattern?

Over several months, NBC News and KNTV searched for some of the other companies on the list. Several were hard to find. For example: Tellon Trading had incorporation records in the state of Georgia. But NBC News visited five addresses listed in those documents and found no sign of Tellon.

In California, investigative reporter Stephen Stock of KNTV picked up the trail — and couldn't find the company either.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program recently revamped the methodology it uses to generate data on international students. It provided NBC News a preliminary look at the new data. In 2017, Tellon employed 877 OPT participants, compared to 647 in 2018. In 2017, Findream employed 500 OPT participants, compared to 312 in 2018.

NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez visiting one of several addresses linked to Findream, LLC in the Atlanta, Georgia area.Nightly News

According to government officials, the majority of OPT participants were only employed at Findream for a very short time, listing Findream as an employer for up to 14 days. It's likely, these officials say, that these students never worked for Findream, but may have initially listed it as their employer while they tried to obtain legitimate OPT employment.

Still, supporters of the OPT program argue that the number of students employed by questionable companies is a very small percentage of the total number of students participating in the program.

According to SEVP data, 204,633 students participated in OPT in 2017, and 200,162 did so in 2018.

"There's always people who want to exploit legal immigration," Rachel Canty, SEVP director, said.

SEVP, which is part of DHS' National Security Investigations Division, administratively oversees the international student visa programs, including the F-1 visa program and its OPT component. It uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to track and monitor students, schools and employers.

Canty insisted the agency's systems of checks were working and said there were criminal investigations and convictions.

"We do a lot of back-end data analytics once we have the list of companies where people are working. We work with our partners to identify those [where] there may be issues," Canty said.

"We have criminal investigations and convictions all the time," she added.

In November, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported that an undercover probe had resulted in the arrest of about 250 foreign students. Many had been studying in the U.S. on F-1 visas through a program called "Curricular Practical Training," or CPT. The students had enrolled at the University of Farmington near Detroit, despite knowing it was a fake school without classes or teachers. The students were unaware federal investigators had created the school as part of a sting operation.

Undercover video released by ICE in December shows several students agreeing to pay the University of Farmington to enroll after being told directly that "it’s not legal."

Canty also cited DHS' successful detection of three fictitious schools the U.S. Government Accountability Office had created and submitted fraudulent certification petitions for as part of a recent audit of SEVP's management of fraud risks.

But that same audit found other potential fraud risks, including a backlog of reviews of participating schools and no training about potential fraud risks for school officials the program relies on to report potential fraud. In September, ICE issued new guidance.

Officials at SEVP say they welcome scrutiny of potentially illegitimate companies, seeing it as a deterrent.

They note that the number of F-1 visa students participating in the OPT program through both Findream, LLC and Tellon Trading has decreased.

According to its new data: Tellon employed 877 OPT participants in 2017, and 647 OPT participants in 2018. Findream employed 500 OPT participants in 2017, and 312 OPT participants in 2018.

The OPT program is drawing scrutiny on multiple fronts. More than 100 colleges have signed on to an amicus brief opposing a lawsuit that's trying to end the program. The lawsuit was brought by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers. The labor union claims that the DHS overstepped its authority by creating OPT, which it argues essentially establishes a foreign guest-worker program without congressional approval. The colleges say ending OPT would hurt their ability to attract international students.

But even supporters of international student visa programs say more needs to be done to address their vulnerabilities, not only fraud risks but also potential national security risks.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, warns that student visa programs pose potential national security risks, and that nations engaging in active foreign espionage to try and steal U.S. intellectual property, such as China, may be exploiting their vulnerabilities.

"We need new tools to be able to figure out who are the individuals that control some of these phony companies, but we also need to make sure that we overall raise our game," Warner said. "I think [in] the Findream case, we need to sort through was this a one-off? Was this part of a pattern? One of the things that we've seen — from the FBI, which they've finally declassified — if you look at all the counterespionage cases that are currently open, over 90 percent of those cases involve China."

Warner said this type of fraud is increasingly on Congress' radar.

"We need the kind of anti-money-laundering, beneficial ownership legislation to become law so that we can penetrate to who actually owns these companies," he said.


Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/thousands-foreign-students-u-s-student-visas-may-have-worked-n1109286#anchor-Signsoftrouble











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