Parts of India have become a hotbed for unscrupulous immigration agents who are duping people by promising them fast track approvals for visas, officials from Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia are warning.
Representatives from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the UK Border Agency and the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship said that agents have travelled to villages in the Punjab and other parts of India promising to provide visa application services.
They are warning people not to believe agents who say that they can, in exchange for money, influence how fast applications are processed or the final decision.
They also said that applicants should be aware that legitimate immigration agents do not meet people outside their offices nor do they ask for money. There are also fake websites designed to look like official government sites. Other illegal activities include job offers overseas that do not exist.
Visa applicants are advised to stop and think before handing over money, passport and personal details. If the job offer sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam.
‘Crooked immigration agents often advise applicants to provide fake documentation or enter into marriages of convenience. Don’t be fooled. Your investment will be lost, you will be caught, and you will be denied entry to Canada,’ said Sidney Frank, Canada’s area director for immigration in South Asia.
‘We welcome genuine visitors, students and workers to the UK. However, we will not tolerate abuse of our immigration system and have a zero tolerance to fraud,’ said Thomas Greig, regional director, South Asia, UK Border Agency.
‘I strongly advise anyone who wants a visa for the UK not to listen to agents who offer to sell forged documents and say that they can guarantee a visa. We have very effective processes for detecting fraud and work with our international partners and Indian authorities to do so. When we uncover fraud, including false education and language certificates, the visa will be refused and the applicant will face a ten year ban on travelling to the UK, as well as possible action by the Indian authorities,’ he added.
Jose Alvarez, Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s regional director of South Asia pointed out that ultimately the responsibility for a visa application lies with the applicant.
‘Providing fraudulent documents or misleading information can result in severe consequences not just for the agent but also the applicant. Applicants need to protect themselves from immigration fraud by being aware of the ways people may try to take advantage of them and their situation,’ he explained.
The officials also pointed out that applying for a visa is a relatively simple and straight forward procedure and information and the visa application forms themselves are all available on official government websites, free of charge. If applicants decide to use agents, they should choose them very carefully and check to see if they are registered.