Special measures to help genuine international students who are part of a scandal involving fake letters of acceptance to Canadian universities have been announced by Canada’s Immigration Minister.
About 700 candidates faced deportation after it was discovered letters used to support their applications for Study Permit were fraudulent.
But a statement from Sean Fraser on Wednesday has given the group, who are mainly from the Punjab area of India, a reprieve – but only if they were genuine applicants.
“Many of these international students sincerely came to Canada to pursue their studies at some of our world-class institutions and were duped by bad actors who claimed to be helping them in their immigration application process,” Fraser said.
However, Fraser also said that Canadian authorities were aware that not all the applicants in the group were genuine.
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“Other foreign nationals had no intent of pursuing higher education, and used fraudulent acceptance letters to take advantage of Canada’s immigration system,” he said.
“Within this cohort of individuals, some have been involved in organized crime.”
Officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will work with the Canada Border Services Agency to identify those candidates who came to Canada to study and those who were looking to scam the system.
“I want to make it clear that international students who are not found to be involved in fraud will not face deportation,” Fraser said.
Those found to have come to Canada with “a genuine intent to study and without knowledge of the use of fraudulent documentation” will be issued with a Temporary Resident Permit using Fraser’s powers under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.
Those candidates will also avoid the five-year ban usually handed down in cases of misrepresentation. Interim TRPs will also be issued while individual cases are being reviewed.
Designated Learning Institution
Candidates need a letter of acceptance from a Designated Learning Institution to support their Study Permit application. A DLI is a college or university approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students.
Fraser says IRCC is working even more closely with DLIs and other officials “to better detect and combat fraud, and uphold the integrity of our immigration programs”.
“We are taking every opportunity to crack down on dishonest and fraudulent consultants who seek to abuse Canada’s immigration system,” he said.
He also called on candidates to play their part in the process.
“All applicants must continue to ensure that, before applying for a study permit, they do their research, have an acceptance letter from a DLI, and refer to the official website to get information about our programs,” he said.
“If you believe you have been deceived by an unscrupulous consultant, we urge you to come forward and report fraud.”
The immigration consultancy industry is self-regulated via the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants.
However, the system has frequently been found not to work, with unscrupulous “ghost” agents regularly falling through the cracks. This latest case is just one of many.
As far back as 2017, a parliamentary committee report urged the Canadian government to disband the self-regulatory body. If Ottawa had followed this advice, such cases could have been avoided.
Candidates are strongly advised to hire a lawyer to help them with their immigration application. The conduct of lawyers is regulated by provincial bodies in Canada, meaning any irregularities are brought to account.