Widespread issues with document fraud among Indian students have led to an increase in visa application rejections for the country, with around half being declined, said Immigration New Zealand.

According to the figures, 10,863 applications have been turned down out of the 20,887 received so far this year, with 9,190 of those submitted via unlicensed education agents.

The immigration body said that the Indian regions of Punjab, Andhra, and Pradesh have been listed as “high risk” due to the higher volumes of fraud coming from these areas.

Munish Sekhri, vice president of Licensed Immigration Advisers NZ, a group representing licensed agents in India, told the New Zealand Herald that fraud was a prevalent problem in the country, adding that it would be an “uphill challenge” for Immigration New Zealand to overcome.

“I would say one in three applicants from Punjab would have used some form of deception and up to 80 percent for those from Hyderabad,” he said. 

“The unlicensed agents they use do anything from arranging fake documents, providing fraudulent funding, and even an imposter service.”

Sekhri explained that unscrupulous agents would create fake email accounts and phone numbers and pretend to be their clients when Immigration officers make verification calls.

He added that private training establishments (PTEs) and institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) were actively encouraging the practice by working with unlicensed agents to increase their student intake.

In the end, it is the students who stand to lose the most, as many are now facing the threat of deportation as Immigration cracks down on falsified visa documents.

In most cases, it was financial documents that were forged, as students are required to prove they have enough money to support themselves during their studies.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont said that some of the students were not even aware that any fraud had been committed.

“They put their trust in the education agent to apply for a student visa on their behalf and they knew nothing about the documents that the agents were submitting to Immigration New Zealand,” he said.

McClymont added that it was a common occurrence in India and urged Immigration New Zealand to reconsider sending such students home.

“If they are deported they will not be able to finish their qualifications, they’re not going to get a refund of their money, the school gets to keep their money, the education agents keep their commission, and these students and their families have basically lost everything that they’ve been working for.”

Image via Flickr.

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