An increasing number of Telugu students who leave for the US for higher studies have been caught taking up part-time jobs there without formal permission. In some cases, this has led to students being deported back to India.Around 45 students who left for the US since 19 December have been sent back. They all belong to two universities – Silicon Valley University (SUV) and Northwest Polytechnic University (NPU), both based in California.
A crisis like situation prevailed in Hyderabad ever since their deportation in two phases as the future of another 40 students who are supposed to join different courses in the two universities hangs in the balance. Hundreds of parents and students who have applied for F1 (student) visas from the US consulate here are frantically contacting officials to find out the status of their wards.
After a brief Christmas vacation, the US consulate will restart visa interviews from 4 January. Incidentally, the Hyderabad consulate ranks top in the country in issuing non-immigration student visas every year and this year the number is expected to touch 18,000, sources in the US consulate told The Sunday Guardian. Students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana apply for US visa from here.
As Telugu students who went to the US were sent back in two phases — the first batch of 19 students on 19 December and another 23 students on 22 December — there has been chaos and confusion among the rest who are busy with travel plans.
These students booked their tickets on Air India, Etihad Airlines and Singapore Airlines. While Air India charged for their return journey, the other two did not.
There are different versions doing the rounds for the reasons for the deportation and confinement of some of these students in the US, but no one is able to specify them.
The Andhra Pradesh government which took up the case with Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj earlier this week pointed to the blacklisting of these two universities, though their spokesmen denied it.
“I along with Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju called on Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Monday to take up the case of 19 Telugu students being deported back and we were told that the two universities where they took admissions were blacklisted,” AP government’s special representative in New Delhi Kambhampati Ramamohan Rao told this paper.
However, Northwest Polytechnic University president Peter Hsieh, in a statement issued in Hyderabad, denied that his university has been blacklisted by the US authorities.
“A small number of students from Hyderabad were deported because they failed to answer properly to all questions put to them by the homeland security officials at the airport,” Hsieh said.
Similarly, Jerry Shiao, academic dean of Silicon Valley University, sent a clarification to two Telugu TV channels which put stories on the deportation of students, stating that his university has nothing to do with the problem.
He blamed the poor communication skills or failure to produce proper papers by the students for their deportation.
He threatened the TV channels with legal action if they failed to take back their stories that the university has been blacklisted. Sources from the visa consultancy firms which processed the admissions to these two universities are in touch with parents of the students, promising to clear the mess at the earliest once the US embassy sorts out the issue.
Officials of the state councils of higher education of both Telangana and AP are in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs and the US embassy in Delhi to help out the students as there has been pressure from the parents to find a way out to the problem. “We spoke to US ambassador to India Richard Varma in New Delhi and he promised to solve this in two weeks,” said a senior official in the Telangana higher education department.
However, a quick survey by The Sunday Guardian with leading visa consultancy firms in Hyderabad revealed that the actual problem has something to do with the growing tendency of Telugu students using US education for part-time jobs and a possible immigration later. The collapse of higher education in both Telangana and AP is a major reason for this.
“Higher education in combined AP has been in a shambles since 2009 when separate and united statehood agitations affected the academic atmosphere and campus recruitments. Even after the bifurcation, the situation hasn’t improved yet. Parents are willing to shell out huge amounts on their wards to send them abroad,” said V.R. Srinivas, academic director with I20, a leading visa consultancy in the city.
The number of visa consultancy firms has gone up from 100 five years ago to over 400 currently. Most charge around Rs 8,000 per student apart from the five to 10% commission on tuition fees charged by the US universities. “Lesser the reputation of a university, higher our commission,” a consultant said on the condition of anonymity.
Both NPU, which was started in 1984, and SVU, set up since 2013, are relatively new institutions on the radar of visa consultancy agencies in Hyderabad. “Two years back, these two universities were not on our list of destination for students, but now we have added them as there is greater demand and pressure,” the consultant said.
One alarming tendency is that more students who got their i20 (admissions in US universities) are depending on part-time jobs once they go there. “Normally, an MS student needs educational loan to a tune of $40,000 plus around $1,000 for living expenses, but many students with less than half of it are leaving for abroad,” said Prof K.V. Chalam, vice-chairman of TS higher education council.
M. Lokesh, one of the deported students from San Jose, told this paper from his home town Vijayawada on Friday: “I want to go back to the US at any cost, as already my father fetched a loan of Rs 25 lakh from Axis Bank, but I don’t know when I will travel again.” Lokesh got an admission from NPU in MS computer sciences for the January 2016 session.