Why are the students facing deportation?
The root cause of the problem was the fraudulent Offer letters that the students unknowingly used to obtain their Canadian visas. The fake documents had been issued through an unregulated Indian-based consultant, some as far back as 2018, with the issue only coming to light after the students applied for permanent residency.
What are Offer Letters and Letters of acceptance?
An Offer letter or a pre-offer letter is a conditional offer from an institution. It means a spot is being saved for a student conditionally based on their ability to meet the program’s requirements. The institution will issue a Letter of Acceptance once it confirms that the student is eligible and meets the program’s requirements.
A Letter of acceptance proves that an international student has been accepted into a course or program in Canada. A letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) is mandatory when applying for a Canadian study permit.
It contains vital information that includes the applicant’s name, date of birth, mailing address, the school or institution and programs they are enrolled in, the academic year they will be entering etc. The complete format for such letters is available with the IRCC.
How the students fell for a predatory scam
According to a first-hand statement from one of the victims to India Narrative, he and most of the 700 students applied for Canadian student visas or permits through a consultancy service named Education Migration Services based in Jalandhar.
Their visas were granted based on offers from Humber College, but soon after landing in Canada, they were informed by the consultant that the offered courses were already filled.
Acting on advice from the consultant, the students sought admission to other colleges instead of waiting 6 months for the start of a new semester.
The irregularities were only detected on applying for permanent residency when the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) discovered that the Offer letters against which their visas were issued were faked.
The consultant also ensured that the visa applications were signed by each student as a self-applicant, formally removing himself from any involvement in the application process. This left no evidence of the consultant’s involvement in the eyes of the Canadian authorities, and deportation notices for the victims followed soon after.
What’s next for the students?
There has been an outpouring of sympathy for the students, many of whom have already completed their studies, with some even possessing work permits.
The prevailing sentiment is that the Canadian government has displayed a lack of understanding, given that the students were victims of elaborate fraud.
The Canadian government’s response
Initially, an independent tribunal upheld the CBSA’s deportation notice.
In May, the then Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, tweeted that they were actively investigating the reports of fraudulent acceptance letters while clarifying that the government was focused on identifying the culprits, not penalizing the victims.
Addressing a question during Question Hour, the minister reaffirmed his commitment to helping the innocent students. He stated that a process was underway to ensure any innocent victims had the opportunity to remain in Canada.
On June 7th, the government halted the deportation of the students through a unanimous vote by an all-party immigration committee. The committee urged the CBSA to waive the student’s inadmissibility and explore alternate paths for the victims to obtain permanent residency in Canada, either on humanitarian grounds or a regularization program.
The committee also unanimously condemned the fraudulent’ ghost consultants’ responsible for the student’s predicament.
What are Ghost Consultants?
The term’ ghost consultant’ is derived from the act of ‘ghosting’ or abruptly cutting off communication without explanation.
These unlicensed consultants lure desperate students with exaggerated promises, flaunting connections with top Canadian universities and colleges and typically ‘ghost’ their clients once a fee has been exchanged or, in the case of the 700 Indian students, fake their offer letters and disappear once the fraud has been exposed years down the line.
Ghost consultants and similar scams are rampant in many parts of the world with high immigration rates, including India.
What does Canada say about Consultants providing immigration advice and services
According to Canadian law, only an authorized consultant licensed by the following institutions can charge for immigration advice as a service:
- College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants
- a Canadian law society or
- the Chambre des notaires du Quebec
The IRCC explicitly warns against representatives who:
- Advertise their services as free and later ask for a fee
- Advise students to lie on their applications.
Providing false or misleading information on an application is against Canadian law and can lead to future complications or deportation.
What leads to students falling for Immigration scams?
A leading factor seems to be the desperation for Canadian degrees and a chance to immigrate to a developed country with a seemingly better quality of life.
The rise in rejection rates for Canadian study permits also seems to be a contributing factor, driving many students into the arms of fraudsters who indulge in illegal practices to secure visas for their clients. Between 2019 and 2021, India had a 64% approval rate, with 110,049 approved permits and 62,976 refused.