Canada is set to deport 700 Indian students after authorities identified fake college admission letters that were used to study and stay in the North-American country.
The Canadian Border Security Agency issued deportation notices to the students, most of whom arrived in Canada through a Punjab-based migration services company, local Indian media reported.
The forged documentation came to light when the students began to apply for permanent residency in Canada.
The immigration officials reviewed the authenticity of the college admission letters during the process and they were found to be fake.
Most of the students who are now facing deportation, reportedly finished their education, applied for and received a work permit, and gathered the work experience required to apply for a permanent residency.
How it happened
All 700 students who were issued the deportation notice had applied for a study visa after grade 12 through the Education Migration Services firm in Jalandhar, Punjab.
Headed by Brijesh Mishra, the consultancy service for migration through education, charged each student nearly $20,000 (INR 1,600,000) for expenses related to the migration, including admission to Humber College, The Indian Express (TIE) reported.
This cost did not include the flight fare, which on the lower end can cost $1,600 (INR 135,000) one way, and security deposits of unknown amounts.
The Canadian study visa was granted between 2018 and 2019 based on a now-identified forged college admission letter, according to the media reports.
The Times of India (TOI), citing the experiences of some of the duped students, reported that Mishra abruptly notified the students about a change in the college from Humber to a lesser-known institution after they landed in Canada.
The unsuspecting students, who trusted Mishra after he returned the pricier Humber fee tuition, took admission for a two-year diploma course in an alternate college.
The TOI report said that Mishra, who allegedly conducted the elaborate fraud, did not sign any documents, including the visa applications.
This meant that the students were implicated as having forged the document themselves, since the documents did not mention the presence of an agency-led application.
The report said that the notices were issued after granting the students an opportunity for a hearing. Apart from the deportation, no financial penalties have been issued on the students.
The students can reportedly appeal the deportation claim, although proceedings may take three to four years and involve hiring expensive lawyers, TOI reported.
A new report from TIE said that Mishra’s firm was raided by the police over 10 years ago. He was arrested in 2013 for forging documents to send students abroad.
At the time, he was running another immigration company called Easy Way Immigration Consultancy.
Mishra has reportedly not been seen at the firm in a few months, and the website linked to the company is no longer active.
The question of why the forged documents were initially not flagged by the immigration department at time of applying for the study visa remains.
Why are Indians moving out?
Many students from India are opting to relocate to Canada by means of education or to fill vacant job roles that cannot be filled by the local population adequately.
The move to the North American country is further being fueled by relatively lax migration policies, similar to Australia.
Middle-class Indians have for decades sought better prospects in other countries. However, worsening economic conditions are now driving families from poorer rural areas to make big investments to set up new lives overseas.
The move comes despite the initial elevated costs of studying and living in countries like Canada and Australia.
In 2021, a total of 163,370 Indians renounced their citizenship, according to information shared by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The highest number of applications to renounce Indian citizenship, the data revealed, came from the US with 78,284, followed by Australia with 23,533, and Canada with 21,597.