How Foreign Students with Little English Enter U.S. Universities

David North, Spero, March 12, 2018

I have often wondered about how many Chinese students, who seem to have only the slightest knowledge of English, get admitted to U.S. colleges and universities. {snip}

A series of pleadings in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia offers a partial answer: Some of them cheat on their pre-admission language examinations.

It is a multi-step process. First, the would-be student obtains a legitimate passport from the Chinese government; second, the student (often through an intermediary) finds and pays a resident of China (of the right sex and about the right age) who speaks passable English; third, a photograph of the substitute is inserted into a phony Chinese passport, containing the substitute’s photo and the name of the would-be student.

Then, fourth, the substitute appears with the phony passport for the (in-China) Test of English as a Second Language (TOEFL) and takes the test in the name of the would-be student; finally, that test score from the Educational Testing Service is passed on to the U.S. college, which then admits the would-be student.


The Philadelphia case involved six Chinese students, all of whom pleaded guilty and agreed to self-deportation, according to a press release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). More information can be secured on these pleadings in PACER file 2:17-cr-00648-AB.

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