Hundreds of Indian students face deportation from Canada, as an elaborate education racket unfolds belatedly, revealing they had entered the country by illegitimate means despite previously being allowed to stay long enough to complete their studies.
Most of the students had already graduated from their respective programmes with legitimate diplomas or degrees, with some even obtaining work permits and jobs.
The scam came to light earlier in March when some of them attempted to apply for permanent residency, having studied then worked and lived in Canada for the stipulated number of years.
Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) investigations into their documents found that the applicants had arrived in the country on forged offer letters purportedly from Canadian educational institutions.
Around 700 students who first filed visa applications from 2018 to 2022 have reportedly been issued deportation notices.
Some students who spoke to Indian newspaper The Tribune said they received deportation notices from the CBSA as early as April 2021, but stayed silent over perceived discrimination of being suspected as illegal migrants. Others spent tens of thousands in attempted legal battles to stay in Canada, to little avail.
“We have now decided to speak out in the hope that our cases will receive more attention,” Mr Inderjit Singh, a student, told The Tribune. “Besides, with the intervention of the government, there are chances that the Canadian authorities could be held equally accountable, as they too failed to check the authenticity of the ‘acceptance letters’ when we applied for study permits.”
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The fraudulent admission letters have been linked to Mr Brijesh Mishra, who runs a company called Education Migration Services (EMS) in Jalandhar, a city in the north Indian state of Punjab.
He reportedly charged each student up to two million rupees (S$32,500) in return for offer letters to tertiary institutions now exposed as fake, as well as miscellaneous services such as “admission fees”.
Most victims of this scam have reported similar experiences of how they were taken on their costly rides. Having paid millions of rupees to EMS, they were given admission letters from Canadian colleges as well as certificates of proof that they were able to financially support themselves.
But after arriving in Canada, they would be informed of reasons concocted by EMS that disallowed them from attending the institution they had been “accepted” into. Some reported being told there were no more vacancies in the schools they had applied to, there were strikes at the colleges, or that their admission had simply been “cancelled” without explanation.
They were advised to apply to another school, with some waiting up to six months in the country, as it was too late to join colleges where semesters had started. Canadian regulations allow for students who have valid permits to make changes to their “school or study programme” without a fresh application.
Most students then completed their studies, with some successfully earning work permits to gain employment in Canada, before their residency applications saw their earlier documents exposed as forged.
Jalandhar authorities have summoned Mr Mishra, who has reportedly shut down his EMS office for months, to show up at the district deputy commissioner’s office on Monday for questioning.
Toronto’s Humber College, one of at least 11 institutions that were implicated in the fake offer letters to EMS students, said it has “no knowledge, nor have we worked with the agency and agent mentioned in the media articles”.
“(CBSA) has copies of our authentic letters of admission to verify against any students coming into the country. Any suspicious documentation that we may find out about is immediately reported,” a Humber College official told Indian media.
Consultants cited by Indian media said Mr Mishra might have thought that offer letters from reputable institutes were not subjected to much scrutiny and sought to exploit that fraudulently.
Indian media said Canadian authorities rejected the victims’ innocence in the matter and could not tie Mr Mishra to the forgeries, as the students had used their own signatures in the applications. The Straits Times has contacted CBSA for more information.
Students had sought to argue that Canadian visa and airport authorities bore some responsibility, by issuing the initial student visas on account of their supporting documents’ assumed authenticity.