After visa fraud, Canada to verify ‘acceptance letter’ of Indian students

New rule announced after 700 Indian students were found to be victims of visa fraud recently and are facing deportation

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Canada has unveiled a new verification process for foreign students following a visa fraud incident that emerged in June, jeopardizing the status of 700 Indian students. These new regulations will take effect from December 1 and primarily involve verifying the authenticity of the ‘letter of acceptance,’ a crucial document for obtaining a study permit in Canada.

Announcing this development, Marc Miller, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, emphasized that the aim is not to impose a cap on international student arrivals. Instead, the verification process will ensure that study permits are granted solely on the basis of genuine letters of acceptance.

Under the revised rules, educational institutions will be required to directly confirm each applicant’s letter of acceptance with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This enhanced verification procedure is designed to safeguard students from fraudulent ‘letter of acceptance’ documents, preventing them from encountering issues similar to those experienced by some students earlier this year.

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Over 700 Indian college students currently face the prospect of deportation from Canada due to the discovery that their college acceptance letters, used to apply for Canadian study visas nearly four years ago, were forged. The issue came to light in March when several students in Canada applied for permanent residency after completing their studies, and Canadian border authorities uncovered the fraudulent documents. Following India’s diplomatic intervention, the Canadian government temporarily halted the deportation proceedings.

In June, an IRCC task force was established to collaborate with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to review the cases of affected students and graduates, following investigations into the fraudulent admission letters. Subsequently, Indian citizen Brijesh Mishra, identified by victims as a key figure in the student fraud scheme, was charged by the CBSA with immigration-related offenses. Earlier this month, the CBSA reviewed 103 cases, of which only 63 were deemed genuine.

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This development brings relief amid India’s recent diplomatic tensions with Canada, arising from the killing of pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Canada had withdrawn visa and consular services from Chandigarh, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, creating significant challenges for students preparing to enroll in universities for the upcoming winter session starting in January.

Additionally, Canada has indicated that, out of the 38,000 visas anticipated to be processed by IRCC by December, the department will only be able to process 20,000. Earlier this week, Delhi took steps to ease tensions between the two nations by reinstating visa services in certain categories, including entry visas, business visas, medical visas, and conference visas.

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Furthermore, in preparation for the fall 2024 semester, IRCC will implement a “recognized institution” framework, enabling priority processing of study permits for applicants intending to attend their chosen institutions.

Canada will also undertake a comprehensive review of the popular Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), marking the first such evaluation in a decade, with upcoming reforms to be announced. The primary objective of these measures is to prevent genuine students from facing deportation, as Miller emphasized, “We will be able to better select and retain those students that are best suited to meet the needs of Canada’s economy and immigration goals.”

Indian students are increasingly seeking educational opportunities in 240 countries, as reported by the Ministry of External Affairs. However, Canada, Australia, the UK, and the US continue to be the preferred destinations for Indian students.

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