Why Should Private, For-Profit Language Schools Authorize Visas?

By David North on March 5, 2010

Today's New York Times carries a story about a private-for-profit language school in Florida that "was a front for the sale of fraudulent applications for student visas."

A total of 80 people, including the managers of the Florida Language Institute in Miami, were arrested, the Times reported.

According to ICE, the agency in charge of the arrests, the students "rarely, if ever, attended classes".

The scheme reportedly allowed "residents of more than a dozen countries [to] enter the United States fraudulently."

The policy question, that the Times does not raise, is: why issue visas to people who want to study English in this country, something that can be studied anywhere in the world?

It is one thing to offer a genuine American education to foreign students at the university and grad school levels, at genuine institutions, but why offer visas to people who want to, or say they want to, study English, or learn to be beauticians?

The answer, of course, is the political power of the private for-profit technical schools; they have successfully urged Congress that they should have the same visa-issuing powers as Harvard and Stanford.

While these language and beauty and other vocational schools do not actually issue visas, as suggested above, what they do is to certify papers that are usually rubber-stamped by USCIS that create approved petitions that, in turn, lead a consular officer, all too often, to convert them to nonimmigrant visas. There are F and J visas for students at what I call serious academic institutions, and M visas for those attending vocational schools. Which visas were used in this case was not reported.

Needless to say, the proliferation of these private, sometimes fly-by-night, institutions is hard to regulate, and it should be no surprise that some of them abuse their powers. Many, in fact, run ads in overseas newspapers overseas that stress their powers to create visas well over their skills in education.

My sense is the government is too busy to do a good job of sorting out the genuine private vocational and language schools from the phony ones. It should simply stop allowing any of them to facilitate the entry of nonimmigrant students.