Reports have emerged of a scandal involving hundreds of Indian students studying in Canada who may face deportation due to the use of bogus admission letters procured by an overseas agency. Although officials have remained tight-lipped about the issue, Indian media outlets have reported that many international students are facing removal from Canada after their acceptance letters, procured through the same overseas agency, were found to be not genuine.
The issue of the fraudulent admission letters came to light when some of the students applied for permanent residency and their documents were flagged. Affected students, many of whom have been in Canada since 2017, have formed various social media groups, and the number of people facing removal is estimated at around 700, all involving the service of the same education agent.
This education fraud is one of its kind which came to the fore in Canada for the first time, and has caused outrage both in the communities in Canada and India. According to India’s media reports, the students had all applied for student visas through a consulting company based in Jalandhar that has since been closed down.
“The fraud came to light when these students applied for permanent residency (PR) in Canada for which the ‘admission offer letters’ came under scrutiny,” reported the Indian Express in an English edition of the story. Sarom Rho of Migrant Students United, a national advocacy group for international students, said the organization has been in touch with some of the alleged victims through a community contact, and about a dozen have filed a judicial review with the federal court to challenge the removal order.
“International students are the ones being punished for reasons that are totally out of their control,” said Rho. Investigative journalist Rajinder S. Taggar, who first broke the story on Indianarrative.com, said that the agent who provided the fraudulent documents has vanished, and his office in Jalandhar has been closed.
Although it is not yet clear how many students have been caught up in the situation, some media reports have estimated the number to be around 700. However, officials have remained tight-lipped about the matter, and the Canada Border Services Agency has refused to comment on the allegations against the Indian students.
Only licensed lawyers and consultants registered with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants can legally offer immigration advice and services at a fee. Education agents are not licensed in Canada. Both the Law Society of Ontario and the consultants’ college show no records on their websites that the consultant involved in the Indian students’ cases was a licensed member.
Investigative journalist Rajinder S. Taggar said he did not know how CBSA came to the realization that the admission letters were fake, but many in the community laid the blame on the officials who failed to examine the authenticity of the documents before issuing the students the visa in the first place. “They too have responsibility. These students were immature. They were ignorant about the process of visa application. They did not know that the agent was required to sign the file,” he said. “I’m very well convinced that these guys had been cheated. They had no fault because they were ignorant about the procedure and the process of documentation of their visa applications.”
On Friday, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said immigration and border enforcement officials, along with colleges and universities, have stepped up the effort to strengthen “the integrity measures” in place to deal with the authenticity of acceptance letters from institutions.
“Every once in a while, you do see bad actors, particularly from other parts of the world, who are difficult to police from Canada, who seek to take advantage of international students. It’s disgusting to see the behaviour of some of the promoters around the world,” Fraser told a community radio program.