Police have arrested a group of con men they say arranged counterfeit tourist visas for dozens of Israeli youths currently in the United States illegally.
Police believe the men were working for a company that publicized online commercials to help Israelis secure tourist visas to the United States. Inspector Tsurin Bar, head of the Tel Aviv branch of the police anti-fraud taskforce said police believe young people contacted the company, after seeing these adverts. They said the company worked in collaboration with a US company that employs young, post-army Israelis to sell cosmetic supplies at kiosks at malls across America.
The company would ask the young people to produce a series of requirements for a tourist visa, typically a proof of enrollment in an institute of higher learning, in order to show that they do not intend to stay in the US indefinitely. Those who didn't have the requisite documents were told that the company could arrange counterfeit documents for them for a fee, Bar said.
The company procured the services of a graphic designer in the Negev, who forged the university enrollment documents or employment records, and would then invite the young people in for counseling on what to tell US Embassy officials in Tel Aviv during their visa interview, Bar said.
"These are young people who finished the army and are in the US looking to make some money to keep traveling. They stand to find themselves arrested, in jail for a few nights and deported from the country. They don't realize how much trouble this can get them in."
Bar said police believe that there are currently dozens of Israelis in the US with visas procured by the company illegally.
The investigation was launched a few months ago, Bar said, when an eagle-eyed employee of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv noticed something odd about one applicant's university documents. When the employee called the university to check the authenticity of the documents, the university told them that no such student was enrolled at their institution, Bar said.
Following a report about the case this morning on Israel Radio the US Embassy in Tel Aviv posted on its twitter account that "there are no shortcuts to receiving a visa."
Last June, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv uploaded a video to Youtube that detailed the legal issues Israelis could face for lying on visa applications to the US, or for working illegally in the country on a tourist visa.
The video included testimonies from Israelis caught illegally working in the states regarding the legal problems it caused them.
Andrew Parker, consul general of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv told The Jerusalem Post at the time that those who are caught illegally working can get banned from the US for life, and that embassy staff has been attending post-army job fairs in order to advise recently discharged soldiers about the consequences they could face for violating US immigration and labor laws.
In recent years young Israeli salespeople have become a fixture at shopping malls across the US, as well as to a lesser extent in Europe. They sell mainly cosmetic products, mostly from the Dead Sea, and typically work only for commission, saving the money they make to fund their post-army treks to South America or the Far East.