A new project to combat immigration fraud has found significant problems in study permit applications.
Almost 10 per cent of the admission letters used to apply for study permits were either fraudulent, altered or no longer valid, Harpreet Kochhar, assistant deputy minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, told delegates to the Canadian Bureau of International Education annual conference on Monday.
“This is a common fraud,” he said, adding that he has seen admission letters issued from the non-existent “University of Nova Scotia” and admission letters from Dalhousie University in which the word “Dalhousie” was misspelled.
“This is how fraudulent letters are created.”
The Letters of Acceptance Verification Project was launched in February, 2018, said Kochhar. So far, 3,848 letters have been examined. Of those, 361 letters were not genuine, he said.
“About 10 per cent are confirmed as either fraudulent, altered or no longer valid for the DLI (designated learning institution),” he said.
The sample is a small portion of the more than 200,000 study permit applications that were filed in that period, however the sample was representative, said Kochhar. The letters selected for verification were not suspected of being high risk, he said.
“To be truthful, some of what we found was absolutely shameless,” he said later.
He suggested Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada would prefer a system in which schools, colleges and universities can send the letter directly to the government. Under the current system, schools send the letter to applicants, who include it in their application. A student cannot apply for a Canadian study permit without an admission letter from a designated school, college or university.
“Our visa officers spend a lot of time making sure the letter of acceptance is not fraudulent, that it is not created in somebody’s garage or basement, that it is actually the genuine letter,” he said.
“For us, it would be much, much easier if we had the imagery and if the letter of acceptance is actually released by a DLI so that our visa officers can look at the authenticity of the acceptance letter…. and therefore don’t have to put more resources into determining if there are fraudulent activities.”
The Letters of Admission Verification Project is one of two projects designed to protect the integrity of the International Student Program, he said. The other project asks schools, colleges and universities to file regular enrolment reports so that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada can track whether international students are following the conditions of their study permits. This year, 90 per cent of all designated learning institutions filed the required compliance reports, he said.