International students share horror stories of learning their documents to enter Canada were fake, years after the fact


Ravjeet Singh says he was floored when he learned what “clues” had revealed that the college acceptance letter he used to enter Canada was fake.

First, there were the wrong start and end dates for the international business management program he planned to take. Then there was the wrong information about the co-op terms. And there was a missing date under the school’s letterhead.

“The letter of admission provided did not match with any letters of admission that we had issued,” a Fanshawe College official wrote to the Canada Border Services Agency last April. “The letter had been doctored from our normal template.”

The discovery, as part of a larger investigation into alleged immigration fraud involving international students from India, came more than four years after Singh had been issued a study permit and arrived in Canada in 2018, and worked his way toward permanent residence.

Singh says he was as surprised as anyone.

Singh is among the first of the Indian students caught in the probe. They are now facing deportation from Canada to India over allegedly misrepresenting themselves to get into this country. Indian media reports have pegged the number of affected international students at 700. At least one woman has been deported to date.

Advocates say it’s the students who are the victims. Certainly, they share similar trajectories: applying for student visas through a consulting firm based in Jalandhar; being told upon arrival that their enrolled program was no longer available and advised to delay their studies or go to another school; receiving their post-graduate work permits and trying to pursue permanent residence, only to find out there was a problem with their original documentation.

“I’ve never seen this kind of fraud in the past. The clients have been duped. The immigration department has been duped,” says Mississauga immigration lawyer Jaswant Mangat, who’s representing almost 40 students flagged and interviewed by border officials.

Only licensed lawyers and consultants registered with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants can legally offer immigration advice and services at a fee. Education agents are not licensed in Canada. Neither the Law Society of Ontario nor the consultants’ college show any records on their websites that the consultant involved in the Indian students’ cases was as a licensed member. The consultant’s name did not appear in the students’ visa applications, as is required of an authorized representative.

Mangat says most students in the group already had post-secondary education credentials from India and would not have required a phony document to gain admission to a Canadian college or university, hence they had no reason to suspect the authenticity of the admission letter.

He says the fraudsters were copying the template of a real admission letter and that there aren’t unique features to determine visually if an admission letter is fake or not. The only way to verify the document, he says, is to send a copy to college administrations for validation.

And that’s what happened in Singh’s case — but not by immigration officials when he was applying back in India for a student visa, not by the border agent when he was issued a study permit at Toronto’s Pearson Airport in 2018 and not when he applied for a work permit in 2019.

The question over his admission letter was only flagged in 2021, when the 31-year-old was applying to the British Columbia’s provincial immigration program for permanent residence after qualifying as a food counter attendant.

Singh says he had a bachelor’s degree in international business and an MBA, both from Amity University in India, and he wanted to pursue a post-graduate education in digital marketing. A friend referred him to the consultant in Jalandhar.

With the Fanshawe admission letter and a subsequent study visa obtained through the consultant, he says, he arrived Canada in March 2018. As he was staying with relatives in Brampton waiting for the school term to start that May, he says, the consultant told him just that all the spots of his program were filled.

Singh says the consultant told him he would get Singh into the program in the fall, but then the September program was filled again. Singh says he decided not to waste his time further and moved to B.C. in early 2019 and enrolled himself in Pacific Link College.

However, feeling he already knew much of was being taught in class, he says, he decided to drop out of that program and applied for a work permit to work on a farm in Langley before landing a job at a restaurant.

He applied for permanent residence in January 2021 and received a procedural fairness letter from the border agency accusing him of misrepresentation to gain entry into Canada in relations to the alleged admission letter to Fanshawe.

Singh says he had never doubted the authenticity of the document and was surprised by the allegation.

“Everything is dependent on trust. That’s how things work in India. We didn’t know any rules and regulations for Canada. We don’t have any information (as to) where to rectify whether that’s a licensed consultant or not,” says Singh, who was issued an exclusion order after a removal hearing last May.

That kind of faith is also what Dimple Kumari says got her into trouble more than five years after she arrived in late 2017, to study computing and information technology at Fanshawe from India through the same agent.

The 33-year-old, with a master’s degree in computer science and IT from Lovely Professional University in India, was to enrol in the Evergreen College in Brampton. After learning she wouldn’t be able to qualify for a post-graduate work permit from a private college, she transferred to St. Lawrence College and graduated with a computing networking diploma there in April 2020.

She has worked as a food supervisor, first in Niagara, and now in Brampton, and applied for permanent residence in May 2021. She appeared before a tribunal hearing on Jan. 30 to challenge the border agency’s misrepresentation finding.

“I cannot express my feelings right now. How will I prove myself innocent? Is there any way? I believe (in the consultant), it is my fault. I got a visa. I follow all the rules, study (sic). Is that my fault?” Kumari pleaded at her hearing, according to the transcripts.

However, adjudicator Aminata Barry said the case law was clear that immigration applicants have to take responsibility for misrepresentation, even if a mistake is made by a third party.

“You never sign something, a document that you have not reviewed, because by signing it, you are accepting on your own behalf, not on somebody else’s behalf that the content of the document is either true and correct or you are accepting the content of the document, so you should always, always, always review a document before signing it,” said Barry, who dismissed Kumari’s appeal.

Mangat says so far about a dozen of his clients have had their hearings before the tribunal, with two decisions rendered, including Kumari’s, both in the government’s favour.

In his submission to the Federal Court for Kumari’s appeal, Mangat said his client’s purpose to come to Canada had remained the same throughout her time in the country even though she didn’t end up at Fanshawe, pointing out that the law does allow international students to transfer schools and programs.

“Whether she studied at Fanshawe College or Evergreen College or St. Lawrence College is immaterial and does not meet the test for misrepresentation,” Mangat contended in his submission filed in March.

“Kumari had a genuine intention of pursuing that program of study, and honestly and reasonably believed that she had in fact obtained admission into Fanshawe College.”

Another student Rajan Kaur, who had her misrepresentation hearing in January and is waiting for a decision, says it’s a travesty of justice that Canadian officials are only notifying students their admission letter was fake after they have invested in the hefty tuition fees, completed their studies, worked and paid taxes over the years.

“My parents have spent a lot of money for my future and my studies. My father is a truck driver. We are not rich,” says the 27-year-old, who came here in 2018 with an admission letter for a health management degree program at Seneca College but ended up studying office administration at Mohawk College.

“After four or five years, they just said now the letter was fake. We are all scared what’s going to happen to our future.”

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung


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