Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a Bangladeshi national, was an off-campus, full-time sophomore at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Mo., said school spokeswoman Ann Hayes. He took 12 credits during the spring semester, from Jan. 11 to May 11, she said.
In July, he asked to transfer to another school, Hayes said.
It was not immediately clear Wednesday night which school he wanted to go to, but federal and New York City law enforcement officials said Nafis was living in Queens as he planned to blow up the Reserve in Manhattan.
"He gets a student visa on the pretext of being a student in a college in Missouri, but he comes here with the avowed purpose of committing some sort of jihad here in the United States," said Ray Kelly, NYPD commissioner.
In early July, Nafis' visa appeared to be an obstacle to his jihad under his religion, as he, a fellow conspirator and an informant communicated through Facebook, court papers said.
"The three discussed certain Islamic legal rulings that advise that it is unlawful for a person who enters a country with a visa to wage jihad there," according to the complaint.
"Nafis stated that he had conferred with another individual in Bangladesh and was advised that he was not bound by such rulings," the complaint said.
Each year, more Bangladeshis are getting U.S. student visas, from 561 issued in fiscal year 2007 to 1,139 in fiscal year 2011, State Department figures show.
In Dhaka, the capital, it takes two days to get an interview for a student visa and another two days to process the application, according to the State Department website, which posts times for its foreign offices.
Getting a student visa requires fingerprints, an interview and financial records.
The visa costs $190 and a $200 fee supports a records system set up by State and Homeland Security departments, said the State Department.
First, prospective students must show they've been accepted at an established school that participates in the foreign student records system.
Students' families or sponsors must show financial records to prove they can pay for college. Also, the applicants must commit to leaving the United States after their studies end.
Hempstead-based immigration attorney Linda Nanos said more scrutiny and questions were added to non-immigration visas, such as student visas, after the 9/11 terrorism attacks. One asked applications if they had weapons training and another asked about their expertises, she said. "People are not likely to admit yes if they are intending to do anything wrong," she said, but then authorities can charge suspects with visa fraud later if they lied.
With Adam Playford
and Beth Holland