On Thursday, July 29, 2011, Immigration Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Agents raided offices of the University of Northern Virginia. The University of Northern Virginia is an unaccredited for-profit private university. According to news reports, the University calls itself “the most popular American University for students from India” and thousands of students are registered at three locations in Northern Virginia.
ICE Agents removed boxes of documents from one of the University’s campuses. Additionally, ICE served school officials with a Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOIW) its SEVIS certification. ICE’s Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) also terminated the school’s access to the SEVIS system. According to its regulations, in most instances, SEVP will not terminate SEVIS access until a school has had a chance to respond to an NOIW, a Withdraw on Notice, any subsequent appeals and is given a time frame to transition students who would like to be transferred to another SEVIS certified institution. However, in this case, SEVP terminated the school’s SEVIS access at the initial stages of attempting to withdraw the school’s SEVP certification. Upon terminating its access, SEVP sent a blast notice through the SEVIS system to other SEVIS certified institutions. In this notice, SEVP stated that the University of Northern Virginia’s students had two choices: 1) continue to attend classes and maintain active status in a manner required by the regulations; or 2) transfer to another SEVP certified institution. SEVP also stated that students who are not continuing to attend classes or transferring to another SEVP certified institution must immediately depart the United States. Because the school’s officials no longer have access to the SEVIS system, SEVP stated that students with questions about their options should contact the SEVP Response Center at (703) 603-3400.
This is the second school that has been raided and had its SEVIS access terminated upon issuance of an NOIW within the past nine months. In January 2011, ICE raided Tri-Valley University in California and upon serving the school with the NOIW, it withdrew the school’s SEVIS access. In the Tri-Valley case, the University President has been charged criminally and arrested for allegedly violating various F-1 regulations. ICE HSI has indicated that no charges has been filed nor individuals arrested yet in the University of Northern Virginia case. However, ICE HSI indicated that the school is still being investigated to confirm whether it has violated various federal regulations in the administration of the F-1 student visa process. ICE HSI is currently actively contacting University of Northern Virginia students to discuss the University and its F-1 program.