Several charged in US over Chinese student visa scheme

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Several California residents were arrested Tuesday in connection with a scheme to help Chinese nationals obtain student visas by hiring people to take English proficiency exams for the foreign students.

Federal authorities allege that those involved in the plot used counterfeit Chinese passports to impersonate 19 different students who were required to take the so-called TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam in order to get a US student visa.

The exams took place over a one-year period in 2015 and 2016 at various testing locations in and around Los Angeles.

Six people have been named in a 26-count indictment handed down in the case on Friday. They include the five arrested on Tuesday and a sixth who currently residing in Taiwan, authorities said.

California universities are a major draw for Chinese students and this is not the first time such a scheme has been uncovered.

Professors at various universities that have seen an influx of Chinese students have complained in recent years at being faced with an increasing number of such students unable to handle college-level work in English.

According to the University of California, which has 10 campuses across the state, there were 24,387 students from China enrolled at its schools in 2018, as opposed to 2,632 in 2008.

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