US varsity rapped for Indian teachers’ visa snafu

March 9th, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by admin  

New York, March 9 (IANS) Before their visas were eventually extended, a group of Indian teachers on an exchange programme in the US faced deportation because of an error by the sponsoring Florida University, which has also been rapped by the State Department for paying them low wages. The group of 16 teachers whose visas otherwise would have expired Feb 7 can now live and work in the country till mid 2008 when the school session gets over. They returned to their classes Feb 27 in St. Lucie County School District, where they are assigned to six public schools.

The teachers came to the US in August, sponsored under a programme by the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) to meet an acute shortage of teachers in mathematics and science in the state.

Because of an error in their visa applications, they would have been deported on March 9. They remained on unpaid leave from Feb 8 till the matter was resolved.

They received visa extensions after intervention by Florida Congressman Tim Mahoney. He has said on his website, “I am pleased that this situation has been resolved positively for all involved parties - teachers, students and community.

“Being part of an effort that makes a difference in the lives of our students is something that makes me proud.”

The Congressman and others are now working for the return of the Indian teachers for the next academic year.

But the public university has come under fire for not only the error in filing the teachers’ visa applications, but also from the US State Department for paying the experienced teachers ‘poverty’ wages, The Palm Beach Post has reported.

Stanley Colvin of the department’s Office of Exchange Designation and Coordination told FAU in a letter last month: “To pay the master’s level-educated teachers with three to five years’ experience a wage at or below poverty level may be interpreted by some as a form of peonage or servitude imposed upon foreign nationals by a State Department-designated sponsor.”

But according to FAU president Frank Brogan, the teachers were expected to be paid their regular salary of $36,000 (annual rate) only from January after their internship ended.

The teachers were hired as interns and, according to their contract, were to be paid as interns for half the year and as regular teachers for the rest of the year. However, the Post said, the schools sent part of the teachers’ salaries to FAU to cover the programme’s administration costs.

Brogan said the money given to FAU was partly used to hire mentors for the teachers, to help teachers find housing, and to hold orientation sessions in India, adding that the university had, in fact, lost money on the programme.

He also said that the Indian teachers were aware of the salary when they agreed to participate in the programme and were paid the same as US teaching interns.

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