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“The U.S. should always be working – and I think does a fairly good job thus far, of working with their consular officers abroad to ensure that the people coming in have a legitimate reason to come in on the visas they’re asking for,” Joe Edlow, a Visiting Fellow for Homeland Security at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital. “We can always do a better job … to ensure that there is some sort of legitimacy to those visas, but there’s always going to be fraud.”
Zhongsan Liu, 59, of Fort Lee, helped fraudulently obtain J-1 research scholar visas for Chinese government employees, according to court documents and evidence present at trial. The visas helped these employees unlawfully work in the United States for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) without notifying the U.S. government.
Edlow argued that such cases are relatively few, and that there’s only so much that can be done to tighten up oversight on the process – a process that already catches many attempts to manipulate it as there are “no more hoops to jump through.”
“It’s important to maintain the integrity of our immigration system,” he added. “Our consular officers do that through their investigation and verification processes and they are always updating their techniques, especially after fraud schemes are uncovered.”
The J-1 research scholar program allows foreign nationals to come to the United States for the purpose of conducting research at a corporate research facility, museum, library, university, or other research institution.
Applicants need to declare their reason for entering the U.S., and the J program requires the applicant to provide rigorous details, making it one of the visa paths with the greatest oversight – unsurprising for one of the few such programs administered by the State Department rather than the Department of Homeland Security.
Any process will inevitably allow a few cases to pass through, but practicing immigrant lawyers learn to navigate the field and recognize potential fraud cases – as well as how to deal with them.
“There is a joke – half based on the truth – amongst immigration attorneys in the East Asian, Chinese community, that every so often the Feds will just sweep through and arrest a bunch of lawyers, which is to say that there is not substantial but not insubstantial amounts of immigration fraud that occurs,” explained Timothy Tan, an immigration lawyer, noting that the fraud usually relates to marriage or asylum fraud.
Tan outlined how immigrants from China face a number of pitfalls in their applications that make it easy for the government to reject them, such as having membership in the Communist Party or proving money has never come from the Communist Party.
Tan related how he once met back-to-back prospective clients who shared identical stories about escaping a Chinese government interrogation by jumping out a second-story window of the building and running away.
“That story apparently is one that the U.S. I.S. has heard many times,” he added. “There are absolutely cases where people will seek you for fraudulent benefits … those are the kinds of cases you turn away.”