Of late, many Indian students have been delayed and discouraged from pursuing a higher education abroad due to fraudulent documentation by unscrupulous student visa consultants. This has caused high commissions and embassies in the country to up their vigilance -- they have strict rules and regulations when it comes to issuing visas.
Following the racial attacks on Indian students in Australia, Canada is now making concerted efforts to attract more Indian students to its universities and colleges.
As a positive development, the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi is shortly coming up with a pilot project -- a new documentation process -- which will enable a student to procure the required visa within just seven to ten days.
"The idea is to check fraudulent visa documentation and give a boost to the Canadian economy in these times of recession," says Canadian student visa expert Jagdeep Singh of International Educational & Career (IEC) Consultants.
Presented here are excerpts from an interview:
After clearing the IELTS, most of the students in India are a confused lot. Do you have any good news for them in these times of economic slowdown?
Yes, of course. The Canadian High Commission is coming up with a lot of student visas this year. Since the rejection rate was quite high in the previous years, thanks to many cases of fraudulent documentation, especially in the Punjab area, the mission is soon coming up with a pilot project which has a rather very simplified visa process. Always remember, the mission never says no to genuine students. The objective of this project is to ascertain a student's correct financial status. Very few institutes have been chosen for the pilot project, including the Georgian College, which has the highest graduate employment rate in the Canadian city of Ontario -- 94 percent. Moreover, the mission believes that the banks in India have a better standing to ascertain the financial capability of students and the SPP (Special Pilot Project) will stress majorly on that.
So we can say Indian students are suffering thanks to fake student visa consultants in Punjab and elsewhere?
Yes. There is a lack of genuine consultants in Punjab, who can provide you the right kind of information. What they provide you is a lot of fake land records, fake education loan certificates and sometimes fake IELTS certificates, too. Consequently, if say five students are refused visa, the next five also come under the scanner of fraudulent documentation and suffer. The CHC also has to face the concerns of Canadian education institutes that are not receiving a good number of international student applications. Compared to other countries like the UK, US and Australia, the number of students from India is considerably lower.
Then what is the solution? Canada does not get as much exposure in the capacity of a foreign education destination for Indian students as Australia.
Yes, I do agree. Canada runs the CEC (Canadian Education Centre) in India, but it has not promoted itself as well as IDP Education for Australia. So if students want to get some genuine information about Canadian educational institutions, they can visit the CEC offices, or Canadian application centres also, but I think they should visit a few Websites before approaching the right consultants like us. The problem is, the students go through small-time agents who tend to misguide them. That's why their visas are rejected.
As compared to Australia and the USA, how would you rate Canadian universities?
Canadian universities are ranked very high in the world and their education system is also very good; the problem is how to get there. The reason why more students prefer US universities is because America has a very flexible visa system, especially since they have entry-level exams like the GRE, GMAT, TOEFL and IELTS. The American Embassy tends to give very relaxed visas to good students. On the other hand, the Canadian system is not that relaxed, but the quality of education in that country is very high -- it's one of the topmost in the world.
Could you throw some light on the requirement of the IELTS or the TOEFL for Canadian universities?
Canadian universities and colleges do accept the IELTS now, since the TOEFL is outdated. CHC recommends a 6 plus IELTS score (no less than 5.0 bands) for a student visa. There are lots of agents who say CHC grants visas without an IELTS score, but that is very rare when a student has studied in English medium institutions throughout.
How has the world recession affected Canadian education?
The recession has given a good boost to the Canadian education market in India. The reason CHC is launching a pilot project is because the Canadian Government has been pushing for investments from across the world. Canada makes a lot of money through the education programmes. A lot of students want to go to Canada. Their parents have the money and they want to spend it on their wards' overseas education. Since a lot of Canadian universities are looking for money from outside, this will definitely give the Canadian education system a boost.
Doesn't the recession have students across the world putting their study abroad plans on hold, till the job situation stabilises?
You are right. But when you compare the job situation in India with that of Canada or any other country, students won't finish their 10+2 in India and then go abroad to complete their education. They have to take a decision now -- they will see the recession dying down in the next couple of years. Students should go to a country which can give them good opportunities. International education offers a lot of exposure to students, which they won't get in India. Over there they get a chance to mold their personalities, the way they think etc. They have a better chance of employment all over the world.
Did America's tough stance on visas influence Canada?
As far as visas are concerned, both the countries have been very different right from the very beginning. About 80,000 students go to the US every year, as compared to 3,000-5,000 to Canada. Whereas the Americans are tightening student visa rules, the Canadians are relaxing them. I don't think strictness in one country is going to affect the situation in another.
Would you like to give any message to Indian students, especially in this part of the country, where they are a bit apprehensive of studying abroad?
The students need to be confident and take the right channels. They need to approach the right agent, find the right course of education for themselves and show genuine documents to secure a visa. If any agent is misguiding them with fraudulent documentation, the student is definitely going to land in trouble. Once a visa is refused on such grounds, it's very difficult to obtain it. The CHC's rejection-stamp won't allow such a student to apply for another two years. So my message is, a prospective student visa immigrant should do his/ her research well and make the right choice, because 80 to 90 percent of their cases are rejected due to fraudulent documentation.
RMS Atwal is a Ludhiana-based freelance journalist and can be reached at email@example.com